The 38 Top Small Business Ideas You Need to Know in 2017

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood

Editor-in-Chief at Fundera
Meredith is Editor-in-Chief at Fundera. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.
Meredith Wood

Latest posts by Meredith Wood (see all)

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder—and as it turns out, the same can be said for the best small business ideas. While the options for small business ownership seem endless, what defines a “best” idea largely depends on the personality of the entrepreneur.

What are your skills and interests?

Who is your ideal client?

What is your ideal work environment?

Your answers to these questions should direct what will be the best small business idea for you. But to get your wheels turning, we’re diving into several different industries, markets, and personalities to identify some of the best small business ideas out there for that entrepreneurial spirit in everyone.

Best Small Business Ideas for: B2B Thinkers

Out of the various industries and target markets out there, one of the most popular customer bases for entrepreneurs are—other businesses! If you’ve spent your life to this point working in business, you likely know the kinds of outside services and offerings that businesses often need. Instead of continuing to work as an employee, use your same skills to strike out on your own by starting one of these B2B businesses.

1. Accounting & Bookkeeping

Are you a licensed CPA, or just a Quickbooks wizard?

Your fellow entrepreneurs—the ones who aren’t quite such fans of math—want you to help them keep their personal and small business finances in order. As a bookkeeper, you can process invoices and payroll, compile expense reports, and more. If you have a CPA license, you can help business owners file taxes, generate balance sheets and other accounting documents, and make your professional recommendations about your client’s bottom line. 

If you have the skills to make your own accounting or bookkeeping service happen, then this is the best (and most lucrative) small business idea for you.

2. Consulting

If you’ve been in the business world for a long time, folks might be clamoring for your knowledge and expertise within your industry. Why not turn all that know-how into a new career as an independent consultant? You can get paid to speak at industry conferences or events, serve on a board of advisors for a fledgling business, or lend your expertise to shape the strategy of an existing business on a contract basis. Whatever your skill set, starting your own consulting firm is a great way to make the income of your dreams while working on your own terms.

3. Marketing Services

Every business has some idea of a marketing plan. Executing that plan, on the other hand, can be a whole other ballgame—especially for new business owners who have never entered the realm of small business marketing.

Work with small businesses who don’t have the in-house bandwidth to execute their marketing plans by writing their blog, managing search engine optimization, generating advertising campaigns, and more.

4. Social Media Management

Within the realm of marketing services, social media is another specialty that most business owners know they need, but few are capable of doing well. If you’re always glued to your phone, a graduate of Hootsuite University, and have most of your conversations in 140 characters or less, consider cultivating a client base of business owners who need help managing their brand’s social media platforms.

5. Virtual Assistant Service

Do you love being able to work from anywhere?

Are you the most organized person you know?

If so, you’d be surprised how many opportunities exist for freelance virtual assistants. Choose your clients and create your own schedule managing emails, scheduling meetings, booking travel, and completing other basic tasks to make your clients’ lives run more smoothly. All you need is a laptop and an internet connection!

6. Website Development & Design

Almost every business needs at least a basic website to succeed, and most business owners don’t have the first clue how to set one up for themselves. That means if you know how to code, the opportunities are endless for custom web development and design work. Use a platform like Upwork or Envato to gain your first clients, then use your portfolio and word-of-mouth recommendations to grow your client base (and eventually raise your prices!).

7. Business Planning Service

If you’re the serial business owner type—and have successfully launched and run a few businesses now—you’ve probably crafted a couple business plans in your time.

Writing a business plan is a crucial start to any business—but it’s a process that not all entrepreneurs have down.

One of the best small business ideas for seasoned business owners ready for their next venture is a business planning service. Take any entrepreneurs’ business ideas and help them put them into writing.

If you know how to see the whole process of writing a business plan through—including business funding plans, market analysis, competitor research, and so on—clients will be lining up for your services.

8. Copywriting & Content Marketing Service

Got a knack for words?

Know how to nudge people in the right direction?

Starting a copywriting or content marketing business could be one of the best small business ideas for you.

You might have heard it before—”content is king.” And with more businesses trying to produce high-quality resources and assets to bring in more business, you might have your own business providing those services.

Best Small Business Ideas for: Creative Entrepreneurs

Some of the best small business ideas are born out of entrepreneurs’ passions. And those with a creative-edge might find they have an easy time coming up with a business for them to start.

For those with a passion and talent for art, design, and creative pursuits, consider these in-demand small business opportunities for creatives:

9. Custom Photography

Do you love sharing your unique view of the world through a camera’s lens? Custom photographers are in demand across the country for everything from wedding and corporate event photography to family and business portrait sessions. And because you can build this business out of your home (with the right tools), it has relatively low startup costs and can grow at a slow pace if you’re continuing to work a full-time job elsewhere.

10. Event Planning

From corporate events to nonprofit fundraisers, to weddings, birthdays, and retirement events, more and more individuals and companies are hiring freelance event planners to deal with the design, logistics, and coordination of pulling off a major event. If you loved every little detail of coordinating your four-year-old’s birthday or your dad’s retirement party, maybe event planning is the right small business for you?

11. Event Space

In a related small business idea, starting your own event space could be a partner to your event planning business.

Starting up a venue of some kind could be an especially good small business idea if there’s a need in your local market. If there’s a demand for weddings, birthdays, corporate events, and so on but no location to host it in your immediate area, seize the opportunity and open up a venue yourself! You could offer planning services along with the venue, or partner up with another local event planning business for the ultimate party duo.

12. Interior Decorating

Before you decide to redecorate your living room for the 14th time (we know, there are just so many beautiful options!), why not apply your love of design to your own interior decorating business? Leverage your personal network to offer help designing and decorating residential and commercial spaces. You can charge an hourly fee to clients for your work, partner with your favorite furniture stores or manufacturers to work on commission, or a combination of the two.

13. Woodworking or Furniture Building

Do you love working with your hands to build beautiful custom furniture pieces? Take a page from Harp Design Company in Waco, Texas (of Fixer Upper fame), and start your own custom woodworking business! You might start working weekends out of your garage, but as business takes off, you’ll be well on your way to your own shop and a brand new full-time career!

Best Small Business Ideas for: Foodies

Is your TV permanently tuned to the Food Network? Do you wake up every morning thinking of recipes you want to try? If the kitchen is your favorite place to be, consider one of these food-related business ideas for your next entrepreneurial venture.

14. Bed & Breakfast

Do you live in an interesting tourist destination? Does your home have a guest house, mother-in-law suite, or even just a spare bedroom? Do you love to cook and entertain guests? If so, you might be the perfect candidate for turning your home into your own quaint little B&B! Sites like VRBO and AirBnB have made it easier than ever to market your own private oasis to travelers in need, and you may even make new friends along the way!

15. Catering

If you love to cook but are tired of flipping burgers at the neighborhood diner, offering a catering service for private and corporate events could be a great opportunity to strike out into the world of self-employment. You’ll need access to a commercial kitchen and a part-time staff to help you serve the events, but compared to opening your own restaurant, the overhead costs of a catering company are a much more manageable stepping stone.

16. Custom Baking

Similarly, you can apply your love of food to baking custom cakes, pies, and other delectables for special orders. Unlike caterers, bakers are often allowed to work out of a non-commercial home kitchen as long as they meet health department requirements. Check your state and local regulations to confirm exactly what you’ll need to get started.

17. Food Truck

To give your restaurant dreams a trendy modern twist, consider opening your own hometown food truck! These mobile to-go cafes have become hugely popular in recent years, offering unique specialty foods that often wouldn’t sell as easily in a brick and mortar location. Take your mom’s famous dumpling recipe or your off-the-wall dessert idea and hit the road to local events, farmer’s markets, the local town square—wherever you’re likely to draw a crowd. Keep in mind that food trucks usually have to meet a special set of ordinances and safety compliance standards, so contact your local health department to determine what will be required.

18. Restaurant or Cafe

For the truly ambitious, your ultimate dream might be to open your own deli, diner, cafe, or full-service upscale restaurant! While opening a restaurant is one of the most challenging, risky, and expensive business ideas on our list, the reward can be great for those willing to put in the work. If you’d like a safer bet than starting your own restaurant from scratch, consider opening a franchise of an established restaurant chain in order to reap the benefit of an already-popular brand.

19. Craft Brewery

Got a love for local, craft beers and microbrews? Why not take a stab at making your own?

Or, if you’re less exciting about making your own beer but you’re still a craft beer enthusiasts, a great small business idea is starting a brewery.

Craft breweries are booming in the United States—and there’s still room to enter this market if your community doesn’t have a craft brewery. Plus, if you’re already brewing, this is an easy and appealing way to put revenue towards a hobby of yours.

Best Small Business Ideas for: Outdoor Enthusiasts

For some people, the idea of spending their lives in a cubicle or behind a desk is a recipe for lifelong depression. If you’d prefer to move around all day and feel the sun on your face, check out these business ideas that will have you spending most of your days outside.

20. Landscape Services

Have a green thumb? Do you love spending time outside? Apply your skills to build your own landscape service: mowing lawns, planting flowers, and even designing elaborate landscape plans for homes and office complexes. Feeling uncertain about the administration side of the landscape business? Check out software options like Arborgold to help you out with the back-end management so that you can focus on your happy customers!

21. Private Lifeguarding Service

Do you have experience as a lifeguard or CPR training? Consider launching a service to provide lifeguards for private pool parties and other aquatic events! This highly seasonal business would pair well with a private swimming lessons service for children.

22. Moving Company

Did you know that the average American will move 11.7 times in his or her lifetime? That accounts for a lot of boxes, sofas, refrigerators, and dining room tables that need to be hauled from place and place each and every day. If you hate spending time behind a desk and don’t mind lifting heavy stuff, consider grabbing a few strong friends and starting your own moving company!

23. Pet Grooming

If you love spending time with furry friends, consider starting your own pet grooming service! While it might take you some time to build up the funding and client-base for your own facility, you can keep overhead low in the beginning by offering a mobile service.

24. Guide Service

If you’re an outdoor adventurer, or live near a tourist attraction, you could start your own tour or speciality guide service. This is the perfect small business idea for those who love to hike, mountain climb, bike, walk, and explore the outdoors. Help other tourists experience your local area by starting your own private guide service.

Best Small Business Ideas for: Personal Care Professionals

Do you love helping people and taking care of others? Consider these small business opportunities that involve helping others in various walks and stages of life.

25. Doula Service

If you love tiny babies and are in awe of the miracle of birth, consider a career as a professional doula. Doulas help mothers through all the non-medical aspects of the labor and delivery process, operating either in a home setting, at a hospital, or both. And because doulas primarily travel to mother and baby to perform their work, you won’t need the overhead of your own space for your business. While training and certification is available for professional doulas, in most cases these steps aren’t a requirement in order to set up shop.

26. Massage Therapist

Is your partner constantly asking for another foot rub or back massage? Maybe you have the healing touch that would make you a perfect massage therapist! You’ll likely need some special training and licensing to operate legally in your area, so check your state requirements to make sure you’re operating within local laws. But once you’ve jumped through the licensing hoops, you’ll be free to open an in-home studio, travel to your clients, or eventually open your own facility!

27. Nutritionist

Are you a gluten-free, vegan, clean-eating, whole foods health junkie? Do you love making healthy recipes and encouraging friends and family toward a healthier lifestyle? Consider starting your own business as a nutritionist, helping others achieve their health goals through better eating practices. Check licensing requirements in your state, as you may need training as a registered dietician in order to operate. But if you have the education and the passion, you could be well on your way to your own business!

28. Personal Trainer

Maybe you’re the first one at the gym every morning, or even working for a large corporate gym as a personal trainer. The next step might be to take your skills and knowledge and put them towards starting your own business! You can offer personal training sessions in your own home or in clients’ homes, lead group sessions in local parks, and eventually even open your own independent gym or personal training location! Overhead requirements will depend on how you decide to scale your business, but if you start small, it’ll likely take very little financing to get your business off the ground.

29. Salon or Spa

Whether you’ve already graduated from cosmetology school or you’re still just doing hair and makeup for family and friends, owning your own salon or spa doesn’t have to be out of reach. All you need is a license from your state board of cosmetology and a small client base to get started toward your dream. While working out of your house or traveling to clients might be sufficient at first, you may eventually need funding to expand to your own commercial location. It’s an ambitious goal that could take time to achieve, but once you do, owning a successful salon or spa can have huge long-term rewards!

30. Senior Care Service

As the baby boomer population ages, more and more senior citizens are in need of at-home care. These needs range from medically-specific requirements to simple companionship or help with cooking, tidying up, or transportation to appointments. This is a great option for anyone with nursing experience who would like to move into owning their own business.

Best Small Business Ideas for: The Young at Heart

Is your ideal customer too young to vote? Here are some great business ideas for entrepreneurs who love working with toddlers, teens, and all ages in-between!

31. College Application Consultant

As more and more high schools nationwide continue to see their funding dwindle, the availability of college counselors within the school setting is becoming close to nonexistent. And yet, the process of choosing colleges, taking entrance exams, completing applications, and navigating the financial process is more complicated than ever before! If you’re organized, knowledgeable about the higher education process, and enjoy working with adolescents and their parents, consider starting a side business as an independent college application consultant to make this process easier for students and their parents.

32. Daycare Facility

Do you love working with young children? Consider starting childcare facility! This can be a great option for parents or those who want to start a home-based business, as licensing for at-home daycares is relatively simple. Not sure you have the space at home? Consider working with your place of worship to share facilities in order to mitigate the costs of having your own space.

33. Music Lessons

Don’t let that degree in classical piano go unused! Apply your musical talents and expertise to offer music lessons in your local community. You can start offering lessons out of your home, or even follow the lead of Notasium in Durham, North Carolina, combining instrument instruction for all ages with a themed playspace for kids.

34. Tutoring Service

Did you breeze through the SATs? Are you fluent in a foreign language, or do you excel in math, science, or writing? Gather a few friends and set up a tutoring service for students of all ages in your local community. By offering a variety of subject areas and marketing to parents in your neighborhood, you’ll quickly build a client base eager to pay you for your help in achieving the best possible academic results.

Best Small Business Ideas for: Service-Oriented Entrepreneurs

Do you enjoy fixing things and working with your hands? Check out these business ideas providing maintenance and repair services!

35. Alterations Services

Have you been designing your own clothes for as long as you can remember? Put those sewing skills to use to build your own in-home alterations service! From custom-fitted clothing to repairs of well-worn favorites, you can develop a client base by helping out those of us who just barely passed home economics.

36. Automotive Repair

If you love everything about cars and constantly tinker in your own garage, why not turn that passion into your own business? From oil changes and engine repairs to tire services and body work, you can choose a specialty or even focus on a certain brand of vehicle. Whatever niche you choose for your business, watch out for state licensing or insurance requirements to make sure your venture complies with local laws.

37. Handyman Services

Are you the neighborhood’s personal Mr. Fix-It? Are neighbors constantly calling with questions about minor household repairs? Turn those endless favors into your own small business doing odd repair jobs for individuals in your community. All you need is your handy tool set, so this low-overhead business idea offers a big profit opportunity!

38. Housecleaning

As the economy bounces back, more Americans have a little extra disposable income—and since we’re all busier than ever, the market is ripe with opportunity for professional house cleaners. If you’re willing to get your hands dirty, you can keep your business small and strike out on your own. Or, if you have dreams of a larger level enterprise, hire a few employees or contractors and you can have several cleaning teams. Overhead might include equipment, marketing costs, and wages for personnel, but otherwise a cleaning service is a relatively low-cost enterprise to start up.

***

While we rounded this list out at 38, the options for starting your own business are truly endless! You’re limited only by your own skills and imagination. So decide what you’re good at, what you love to do, and turn that into your own career.

What are you waiting for? Your entrepreneurial dream can start today!

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood

Editor-in-Chief at Fundera
Meredith is Editor-in-Chief at Fundera. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.
Meredith Wood

Latest posts by Meredith Wood (see all)

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