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30 Small Town Business Ideas: What Does Your Community Need?

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Content was accurate at the time of publication.

There are many advantages to being an entrepreneur in a small town, such as lower costs of living and real estate, as well as less competition from big-name corporations. When researching small-town business ideas, it’s essential to make sure there’s enough demand in your area for your business model to succeed.

Here are 30 small businesses to start in small communities, as well as resources to help support your new company along the way.

While not every small business idea is right for all towns, certain business types tend to do well in smaller towns. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit but aren’t sure how best to channel it, consider these ideas to start a small business.

1. Coffee shop

A hot cup of coffee never goes out of style, and in some towns, the local coffee shop serves as a community hub and meeting place. Coffee is a multibillion-dollar industry, with research showing that nearly three in four Americans drink coffee every day, and 51% purchase coffee from a shop at least once a week.

The beauty of a locally owned coffee shop is that each one is different, so it’s easy to add offerings that set you apart from other nearby businesses. For example, you can host an open mic night to support local writers and musicians, or a board-game night to attract families.

2. Food truck

Food trucks are a $2 billion-plus industry, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Some park permanently in food-truck parks, while others rotate locations. Food trucks require less financial overhead and fewer ongoing costs than restaurants, and their mobility makes it easy to sell at events or move as foot traffic varies. Some entrepreneurs use food trucks to build their brand’s popularity before venturing into a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Just be aware that increased competition and regulatory barriers are causing the industry to slow, so it’s important to find ways to set your business apart. Make sure you can navigate the process of obtaining required business permits and licenses in your area.

3. Restaurant

If you have the financial resources, you could open a cafe or restaurant — especially if you can set it apart by offering a type of food no other local eatery serves. For example, if your small town doesn’t have a good breakfast spot, or it lacks an Italian restaurant, you could fill a gap.

Restaurateurs can also find revenue in hosting events on-site or catering local events.

4. Pet shop and services

Opening a pet shop or starting your own pet care service could help fill a need in your town, especially if there aren’t any big-name pet stores nearby. You could offer services like dog walking, pet sitting, grooming and selling upscale pet accessories and food.

If funds are limited, you don’t necessarily need to create a doggie day care center or brick-and-mortar boutique — you could provide pet sitting in your home or run a mobile dog grooming business.

5. Child care

Child care is a necessity for many parents. If your small town doesn’t offer a certain type of child care or doesn’t serve a certain age group, that could be an opportunity for you. Furthermore, demand often exceeds offerings, even in rural areas.

One option is to open a small day care in your home, though some states require a license and may limit how many children you can watch. You could also start off as a nanny, working in other people’s homes. Eventually, you could open a larger day care center, which could also serve as an aftercare center for school-aged children.

6. Home health care

As an increasing number of baby boomers choose to age in place, there’s high demand for home health care services. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes home health care as one of the fastest growing industries in the country. If your small town has an older population, you could find success by either running your own home health care agency or providing in-home health care services yourself.

7. Cleaning services

If your small town doesn’t have many cleaning companies, you could provide either residential maid services or janitorial services for local businesses — or both if you have the staff. You could also use environmentally friendly products and brand yourself as a green business. Some large cleaning companies even offer franchise opportunities, which could be easier than starting from scratch.

8. Bar

Every small town needs a bar — it’s a gathering place to talk about the day’s news or catch up with an old friend. The longer a customer stays, the more money they generally spend. Find out what’s missing from your local bars and incorporate the gaps into your business plan. You could also open a brewery and supply your beers to local bars.

For example, maybe the small town lacks a bar with an outdoor playground that kids can use while parents enjoy beer and food. Or maybe there’s a local watering hole, but nowhere that offers televised sports, billiard games or trivia nights.

9. Handyman or contractor

Repair services are generally needed in towns of all sizes. Plus, this industry is expected to continue growing steadily — potentially reaching a value of $1.8 billion by 2033. You could see if your town lacks repair services, or if the existing services don’t cover certain needs. For example, perhaps someone local specializes in electrical work, but doesn’t offer painting or fence repairs. There are also handyman service franchise opportunities available.

You could also start a contractor service in your local area, such as doing construction work, renovations and more. Over time, word-of-mouth referrals could help you gain more jobs.

10. IT/computer repair services

If you’re skilled at repairing computers or phones, or setting up electronics, you could provide these services in a small town. While this industry is expected to slowly decrease in demand as consumers become more likely to replace devices than get them repaired, you could still generate business for those needing general tech support.

11. Grocery store

If you live in a small town that doesn’t have an established grocery store, you could help fill this need. According to the Center for Rural Affairs, a grocery store is among the most important businesses in a small town.

Alternatively, you could start a speciality food store to fill demands in your area. For example, if there’s only one standard grocery store in town, you could stand out by opening an organic store and selling specialty items.

12. Liquor store

Since some states don’t allow grocery stores to sell alcohol, there could be a demand for a liquor store in your small town. Starting a liquor store can take some work, such as getting a liquor license. But once you’re up and running, you have the opportunity to turn a decent profit.

13. Drugstore

Opening a drugstore or pharmacy can be quite involved since you’ll need to hire a pharmacist, buy insurance and follow legal requirements. That said, this could be a great opportunity if your local community doesn’t have a nearby pharmacy.

Just be aware that you’ll be competing against the larger chain drug stores, some of which now offer free delivery to rural areas. Offering niche services can help you stand out, such as same-day home delivery, medication therapy management, immunizations and compounding custom medications. A range of pharmacy business loans are available to help get your business off the ground.

14. Beauty or hair salon

Every town needs a place where locals can get their hair cut or nails done, which can also serve as a social hub. If a local salon or barbershop already exists, you could open a salon featuring unique services, such as waxing, tanning, event makeup or products with eco-friendly ingredients.

As repeat customers enjoy your services, they’ll help spread the word. You could also list your services on wedding planning sites, like The Knot or WeddingWire.

15. Gas station or auto repair shop

There’s no denying that every small town needs a gas station and an auto mechanic. If you’re thinking about opening an auto shop, you could expand your concept to include one or two gas pumps. Even if there is a gas station in your town, being able to offer additional services, such as car washing, can increase your return on investment.

16. Tutoring

If you have a teaching background or expertise in a certain subject, you could establish a tutoring business for your town’s students. Find out if any tutoring services exist and what subjects or age groups your competitors focus on. If a subject isn’t included, that means there could be demand for more.

Whether you’re an expert in coaching kids through math problems or enjoy helping high schoolers write papers or study for the SATs, you could establish yourself as an expert tutor. You could also provide online tutoring to connect with students across the country — or the globe.

17. Bed and breakfast

Many tourists enjoy visiting quaint small towns and staying in comfy bed-and-breakfasts. If your area doesn’t have many accommodation options, you could open a B&B. This can come with significant overhead and zoning permits, plus other permits for serving food. But it could pay off if you’re near a desirable town or tourist destination, or if there aren’t enough local hotels to support when residents have out-of-town guests visiting.

Alternatively, you can consider listing your home or part of your home on Airbnb. This is a platform that allows you to set the price per night and offers customer support if any problems arise. In return, Airbnb takes a small fee for their services. Starting on Airbnb can be a great way to see if you like hosting without investing in the overhead of opening an official B&B.

18. Thrift or consignment store

If you have a knack for finding high-quality secondhand goods, you could consider opening a thrift or consignment shop in your small town. Even if a similar shop already exists, you can find ways to market yours to draw in customers. For example, you could have one day of the week where clients can fill a paper bag with items for a set dollar amount.

Adding in antique and artwork from local artists can help make your little shop shine even more.

19. Fitness studio

Encouraging people to get in shape can help boost your community’s health while potentially earning you a profit. You can open a regular gym or a boutique fitness center that focuses on specialty classes, like barre, yoga, pilates, boot-camp workouts and more. Alternatively, you could open up a movement studio that caters to kids, such as martial arts or dance.

The downside is that gyms and fitness studios tend to have a lot of overhead, especially if you need to invest in a significant amount of equipment. While there are options to finance gym equipment, you want to ensure there’s enough demand in your area to make the startup costs with it.

Another idea is to become a personal trainer, which is on our list of the most profitable small businesses to start. Offering sessions in your home or traveling to clients’ homes could help reduce your overhead expenses, making this a more lucrative option for starting out.

20. Ice cream shop

If you like the idea of starting a food-related business but don’t want the responsibility of running a full restaurant, opening a quaint ice cream shop might be a better fit. An ice cream shop can be a thriving meet-up spot for locals, as well as an attraction for tourists, especially during the summer months.

For towns that already have ice cream shops, you can try offering unique products to stand out. For example, your ice cream shop could be the only place in town that offers a wide range of dairy-free flavors or gluten-free cones. In addition, you could have video games or an in-door playground to make it a one-stop shop for families.

21. Floral shop

Flowers make a great gift for practically any holiday or event, such as weddings, proms, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries and more. If you have an eye for flower arranging, this could be the perfect small business idea for you.

The overhead expenses can be relatively low, especially if you find a small space from which to run your operation. You just need to source local flowers and purchase ribbons, vases and packaging materials.

22. Tour guide

Even if your town is small, it likely has some landmarks or attractions, or a rich history behind it. Research what could draw in tourists and start marketing yourself as a local expert. You could offer tours of local beekeepers or artist studios, or lead nature hikes or bike adventures.

See if you can connect with local hotels and B&Bs to start a referral program. For example, you could provide a coupon for local stays after guests complete your tour, while the local accommodations can leave out brochures advertising your tours.

23. Event planner

Event planning is another local business idea that requires little overhead costs. You can help coordinate a wide range of events, from small birthday parties to destination weddings to corporate networking events. By partnering with local rental companies, caterers, DJs and florists, you can provide everything your client needs to make their big day go as smoothly as possible.

If you want to focus on one specific area, such as starting a wedding planning business, you could advertise your services in neighboring towns or as far as you’re willing to drive to meet with clients.

24. Art gallery

If your town has a lot of artists, you could open a small-town art gallery to help attract more tourists. Each artist could have an area of the store to showcase their latest designs and products, with you taking a percentage of all sales. You could also include handmade or local goods, such as handmade jams, all-natural soaps, crocheted scarves, wooden toys and pottery to appeal to the local market.

25. Photographer

Chances are, people in your small town celebrate major milestones that need to be preserved. You could market yourself as a general photographer, doing everything from commercial photoshoots to school pictures. Or you can narrow in on a niche, such as a newborn photographer or a wedding photographer. You can also sell stock photos online via platforms like iStock and Shutterstock.

While you need to invest in high-quality cameras and some basic supplies, starting a photography business shouldn’t incur that many overhead expenses.

26. Web designer

If you have web design skills, you can help create or redesign websites for other local businesses. Since you’re tapped into the local market, you can help optimize their websites for search engine optimization (SEO). While you can get clients from anywhere, having a local presence can help for those who prefer in-person meetings. Furthermore, attending your community’s networking events can help you promote your services even more.

27. Dry cleaning service

By opening a dry-cleaning business in your small town, you can help other professionals put their best image forward. If there’s already a dry cleaner in town, you can consider starting an eco-friendly dry-cleaning service that uses less harsh chemicals.

28. Real estate agency

Even small towns need a real estate agent to help them buy and sell property. This business venture makes sense if you have a strong connection to your community and know the area well. Once you’re well established, you can branch out to show houses in neighboring towns and areas.

29. Tattoo and piercing shop

Creative folks looking for a unique business idea could consider opening a tattoo and piercing shop in their small community. Of course, you’ll need time and money to find a storefront, get the appropriate permits and equipment and hire experienced employees. That said, you’ll likely drum up interest if you’re the only one in town offering these services. And who knows, your reputation might skyrocket, drawing in clients from surrounding areas.

30. Bakery

Opening a small-town bakery can be a great family business idea to explore. You can use your grandmother’s famous cookie recipe and hire your teens to sweep the floors. And nothing beats the charm of tourists discovering a hidden small bakery with melt-in-your-mouth treats.

You can boost revenue by offering custom-made cakes for weddings, birthday parties, reunions and more. Adding in specialty treats, such as vegan and gluten-free cupcakes, can potentially attract customers from further away. Or, you can even offer a mail-delivery option for your amazing goodies.

Before you settle on a small-town business, it’s important to confirm it’s the right fit for the area and that you’re financially, logistically and legally prepared. Here are questions to consider as you weigh your small-business opportunities:

  • What is the demand like in your town? Consider what problems in your town your business could solve. If you want to open a business that’s similar to an already existing one, plan how you’ll set yours apart with different services or a niche target audience. For example, if your town already has a hair salon, using all organic products could help set you apart.
  • What are your location requirements? The requirements for starting a retail business or restaurant differ greatly from starting a home or online business. Factor in parking, foot traffic and any equipment you’ll need when choosing a space.
  • What are the legal requirements? Depending on the business idea, you may require a combination of local and state permits and licenses. You may also need certain types of training or certifications, or to register your business as a corporation versus an LLC.
  • Can you afford to fund the business? Research to find the typical startup costs of your chosen business and assess whether you’ll need financing to get it started.

How can I fund my small-town business?

Coming up with a great small-town business idea is only the first step. To succeed, you will likely need to secure some startup financing for your new business.

  • Business lines of credit: This is a flexible form of funding that allows you to borrow up to a set credit limit as often as needed. You typically only pay interest on the withdrawn amounts, although some lenders charge additional maintenance or draw fees.
  • Business credit cards: Getting a business credit card is often easier than qualifying for other types of small business loans. However, interest rates tend to run high so it’s best to pay off the balance in full each month.
  • Crowdfunding: If you have a strong social media following, you can raise funds from family, friends and the general public via a crowdfund platform like GoFundMe or Kickstarter. While it’s free to launch a campaign, the platform will deduct a small fee for its service.
  • Bootstrapping: You always have the option to pour your own savings into your startup, which can reduce your overall debt. However, there’s the risk that you’ll run out of funds or that your business will grow too slowly.


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The thought of starting a new business may feel overwhelming, but there are plenty of resources for new entrepreneurs. In addition to connecting with your area’s chamber of commerce, here are some resources to utilize as you consider small business ideas for small towns:

  • SCORE: A national nonprofit, SCORE provides business education and access to a free mentorship network. Small-business owners can often work with mentors in their area and participate in events and training sessions to help develop their businesses.
  • Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs): Located nationwide, SBDCs offer free business consulting in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. SBDCs also offer free or low-cost training, plus guidance on accessing capital, navigating regulations and more.
  • Networking events: It may be helpful to connect with other small-business owners in your industry or area. If you’re not able to find any through the above organizations, look for relevant networking opportunities on events sites, such as Meetup or Eventbrite. You can also search for local professional connections via LinkedIn.

Starting any type of business will take some time, effort and financial resources, no matter how small the venture. That said, if you want an easy start to launching your business, you can consider a home business since you won’t need to find and pay for a separate brick-and-mortar space.

Some quick-start business examples include child care, becoming a personal trainer, selling homemade arts and crafts on Etsy, event planning, tutoring and cleaning others’ homes and businesses.

If you have limited funds, here are some small business ideas that typically take less than $10,000 to get up and running:

  • Digital marketing consultant
  • Tour guide
  • Dog walking business
  • Green business consultant
  • Local delivery service
  • Freelance writer
  • Meal prep service
  • Mobile car wash

As a small business owner, you have more say and flexibility in how you operate your business compared to big-brand companies. Pay attention to what customers are saying and what they wish could be improved. If you’re able to implement those changes, it could help you stand out from the more established, but less personal, corporations.

Above all else, get involved with the local community. If your neighbors know you as that handy guy who can fix their broken toilet in a pinch, the word is bound to spread about your handyman skills and your up-and-coming business.