So you’re probably here to get some small business ideas.
Remember, you’re either building your own dream or you’re building someone else’s. #truth
First, you’ll wanna watch this quick video. It breaks it down better than my post:
To save you from mindlessly wandering the internet for ideas, I’ve only packed gems on this list.
I’ve handpicked the darlings based on a few things:
1) Projected industry growth
2) Barriers to entry
3) Potential earnings
4) Time wealth (the ability for the idea to be automated/passive)
You could say I’m “digitally-biased”, but I give love to the ideas that can be scaled/automated infinitely.
Knowing that time is our most precious currency, building a digital business gives you a crack at building a “system” that generates wealth for you 24/7.
You’ll see many of those ideas show up in the top spots of this list.
The short story? There’s never been a better time to start a small business.
So down to business. This guide comes in two parts:
Part 1: Ranking the best small business ideas of 2016
Part 2: Covers 2 actionable take-aways for small businesses
So, without further ado, here are the top small business ideas of 2016:
Microbreweries and craft beer remain wildly popular, particularly in the U.S.
The industry was worth more than $22 billion in 2015, up about $4 billion for the year (1).
If you’re a craft beer hobbyist, it might be time to take your recipes to the next level. Fair warning: this idea does come in at number 25 because it is capital-intense during start-up.
21. Food truck
The food truck industry is growing. Fast. In 2015, the industry’s total revenue was $1.2 billion, a five-year increase of 12.4% (2). Projections say growth over the next five years will slow but continue at 3.7% to $1.7 billion (3).
For those with big culinary dreams but small risk tolerance, food trucks are a winning alternative to restaurants. Food trucks are much less expensive to start and operate, and the failure rate of food trucks is much lower.
(The failure rate for food trucks is just 10% to 20% as opposed to 60% to 90% for restaurants.)
You should know this idea comes in at 24 because the food truck industry as a whole is characterized by stiff competition and unfavorable municipal regulations in most cities.
Also, get familiar with Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. The best food trucks are crushing social media.
20. Remote employee monitoring
There’s no doubt the workforce is becoming more and more remote, so it follows reason that industries serving the phenomenon would profit.
By 2020, the U.S. remote worker population is expected to grow to 105.4 million (4). But bosses are still gonna want to stand over their employees’ shoulders, even if they have to do it virtually. As a result, the “remote employee monitoring” business is booming.
Look into remote programs or consider check out some online MBA options as well.
With Tesla being the posterboy of all-things electric, the industry is in good hands.
E-bike sales, for example, are expected to hit close to 50 million units by 2018.
A smart business could sell e-bikes and kits to “electrify” traditional bicycles.
(You replace the front or back wheel hub with one containing a small electric motor and add a battery and cabling.)
18. Translation and language services
All that cross-lingual communication has generated an insane opportunity for translators.
The hiring of interpreters and translators is projected to grow by 46% over the next 15 years. To put that in perspective, it’s much faster growth than the average for all occupations combined (5).
If you have a gift for languages, or if you can build a business that brings together foreign-language speakers with clients in need, you can pull some profit. EspressoEnglish (6) and FluentIn3Months (7) are leveraging the online language education market expertly.
WARNING: Google or some other tech giant will probably abolish this industry in 15 years. Language recognition technology will exponentially get better.
(I read that in Alec Ross’ The Industries of the Future)
Still, you got 15 years. Go hard.
17. Virtual reality
VR technology has finally arrived. Folks are expected to buy over 12 million VR headsets in 2016 (8).
But how do you build a business around VR? Take a cue from these guys:
1) LiveKnot (9) targets the wedding market. Offering to shoot the entire service in VR, they already have a few hundred requests from $2K to $10K a pop. Not bad.
2) Immersive VR Education (10) is a company that’s using VR to reimagine the training and education industry.
So where to start?
Either 1) sell headsets (SEO/FB ads required) or 2) Service a particular niche in VR, like the 2 companies above.
16. Healthy vending machines
Google “healthy vending machines” and you get a bunch of ads.
That’s a good sign.
The biggest reason? Corporations want their employees to eat healthier.
The industry is a whopping $42 billion, and for about $30K to $225K, you can become the operator of a healthy vending machine franchise (11).
The industry has strong social and political backing and is primed only to grow. Plus, the income is almost entirely passive.
15. Software school
Final Cut, QuickBooks, Photoshop, whatever. If you can shred any specialized software, you can build a business around teaching people how to use it.
Teach private lessons by the hour, and grow into small group sessions and charge by the complete tutorial. You can always hire on other specialists and diversify.
Don’t limit yourself geographically, either. Think ebooks, online courses, consulting, etc.
14. Green/off-grid living
Building materials made to reduce pollution and waste are gaining traction (12).
Green living, off-grid living, shipping containers, tiny homes, etc..
Off-grid living has really bounced the last few years:
Rising consumer interest in energy-efficient products is fueling explosive growth in this sector.
Sustainable building materials currently amount to a $36.1 billion industry—one that’s expected to grow by 10.6% annually until 2020 (13).
13. Kid-friendly apps
Tens of millions of kids are using smartphones and tablets these days, and there’s money to be made.
In fact, three-quarters of children have access to a mobile device.
That’s big business if you know how to develop apps—or if you’re creative and know how to hire people who do. Focus on health and wellness-driven apps first to get the parents on your side. Big opportunity.
12. Drone rentals
Recreational drones are all the rage (16) and the applications of drones—scientific research, surveillance, delivery—are on the rise.
Now that the Federal Aviation Administration finalized regulations set to integrate drones into national airspace, the industry will take off (17).
Drone rentals are one space to consider a new business. Companies like Blue Skies (18) are making a killing renting drones under the same model as the old Netflix—rent it online, mail it back. Shipping’s free.
Drone flight instruction and certification are also strong contenders. Just don’t call them drones around pilots. They’ll punch you.
They’re UASs (unmanned aircraft systems).
11. Dating consultant
Perhaps no activity has been more disrupted by technology in recent years than dating.
Dating has changed, but the advice segment of the dating market remains mostly the same, stuck in the days of newspaper columns and flaccid Cosmo lists.
Suggestions: build an info-product or start a matchmaking service if you’re in a big market.
1) Have the Relationship You Want (19) is a business that specifically targets women and sells “programs” that promise to teach the secrets of “making him fall deeply in love forever”
2) Mark Manson (20) teaches guys how to connect better with women
10. Smartphone repair
Super high-demand, but ripe for disruption.
Like 24-hour turnaround repair? Same-day shipping?
It’s getting crowded, but at minimum, you could offer services in your local city or state.
Smartphone repair businesses like iDropped (21) are going national, but there’s room for more players. If you have a knack for smartphones and like the idea of running a business that fixes things, this is a solid route.
Gluten-free product sales are growing 34% year-over-year, and total sales will breach $2.34 billion in the U.S. alone by 2019 (22).
They’ve trended well the last few years:
Of course, there’s the built-in customer base of those who suffer from Celiac Disease. But loads of people are hopping on the bandwagon, too.
Pizza Hut even recently debuted its first gluten-free pizza.
Bakeries do well, but there’s an opportunity for specialized eateries that serve the hard-to-come-by gluten-free fresh foods like soup, salads, and so on.
And as with most businesses on my lists, there’re potential revenue opportunities with “selling your expertise”: Gluten-free has nebulous meaning to most people. Online courses in gluten-free dieting, food preparation, and certifications are hot, too.
Over 75 million Americans were born between 1946 and 1964 (the baby-boomers), and now they’re retiring or headed that way.
Ninety percent of them want to continue living at home (23). The comparative affluence of the boomers creates a wealth of opportunity for senior-serving businesses.
From driving and delivery services, catering, cleaning, pet care, landscaping, and home care, to unlimited franchise opportunities (24), the market is ripe.
Be different. Like, consider a mobile beauty salon that travels to senior customers. Beauticians on the Go (25) is one company exploiting this.
What other “on the go” services could serve Eldercare? Start there.
Become the “Dollar Shave Club of _____”.
Think about it.
Dollar Shave Club made its $ by getting people on a monthly subscription for razors. What else do people want/need on the monthly? Bi-monthly?
There’s plenty of consumer niches that haven’t been hit with this model.
Two tips: focus on niches and keep prices low. Offering less expensive, highly niche products will help you stand out from the competition as you grow.
Sites like Crate Joy (26) can take care of everything for your box subscription business, and they’re killer for competition research, too.
6. Niche pet services
The pet industry is straight flame right now.
By 2019, the market is expected to hit $92 billion, and a variety of recent start-ups have proven that with a little innovation and niche targeting, you can blow up (27).
Here’s some niche pet companies making big moves:
1) Bird Tricks (28) teaches customers how to train their parrots. Revenue comes primarily from courses, bird equipment, and bird food.
2) Susan Garrett at Dog Agility (29) teaches agility training for dogs. She makes the bulk of her money through workshops and courses.
3) ToiletTrainedCat (30) trains cats to use the toilet and generates a bundle via training system books and DVDs.
What’s your pet niche? Digitalize it and sell it online.
5. Post-production video services
There were over 6 trillion cross-platform video views in the last year, a whopping 71% increase year-on-year. By 2020, video will account for 90% of all internet traffic (31).
That’s just the internet.
There’s also businesses who want videos made for training, events, special occasions, or just because.
Bottom line: the video business is booming.
Post-production is everything that happens to a video after the footage has been shot. This includes editing, motion graphics, music, titles, effects, compressions and distribution, and so on.
And as a bonus, you could monetize your post-production expertise, too: Izzy Video (32) is an example of how to build out revenue streams through online tutorials and coaching.
4. Social media consultant
DJ Skee (featured image) went from laying down mixtapes to becoming a social media consultant for large brands like T Mobile.
Now be real for a sec.
We all have that friend that probably smokes too much weed who comes up with outlandish/wild ideas.
But they’re borderline genius, too.
Boring, bloated corporations are now desperately looking for “that guy”.
As the Internet landscape broadens, businesses are looking for more highly specialized advice. That’s why I’m recommending niche social media consulting. If you have particular expertise in specific platforms—Vine, Snapchat, Facebook Live — then you can pull down decent bucks.
Think about it: These companies are too busy selling car insurance or selling mattresses or whatever.
They’re looking for someone who can connect with their audiences. Absurd amounts of creativity and digital savviness required.
3. Corporate wellness
Oh yeah: Mix bloated corporate budgets with politics and sprinkle some health trends on top.
It’s a beautiful thing for the opportunity-seeker.
Companies have finally realized that investing in employee health—particularly mental health—saves millions in lost productivity and missed work days in the long run.
In fact, 2015 was a banner year for the industry, and now more than 70% of employers offer some wellness program, up from 58% in 2008 (33).
Now, companies are hiring outside firms to provide massage, yoga, healthy food, exercise coaching, meditation, and more. And businesses are hiring outside firms to manage these programs, too.
Companies are spending an average of up to $900 per year per employee on wellness programs. If you can land a corporate client with just 1,000 employees, you’re already setting well.
Sure, there might be some corporate red tape, but get that money lol.
Check out Snack Nation‘s list of the top corporate wellness companies to help you trigger some ideas (34).
Become the “Airbnb of ____”
Renting is the craze. People realize it’s not fun owning a bunch of stuff when you can lease it. Tools, boats, RVs, cars—the list will only grow (35).
Step 1) build a platform where people can list their stuff to be rented
Step 2) get that platform in front of the ideal audience (Facebook ads is prime for this)
Step 3) keep a small cut on each transaction
1. SEO for local businesses
A few of my brothers (I have 5 lol) have asked me what’s the best small business to start?
I tell em, with little hesitation, to provide leads for local businesses.
(This is done by building out optimized websites that generate leads for businesses)
It checks off all the requirements that I talked about:
1) Projected growth (local businesses aren’t going anywhere: dentists, personal injury lawyers, landscapers, pest control, etc)
2) Barriers of entry (local businesses are usually competing against fewer than 15 other companies…super low competition)
3) Potential earnings (this business can be scaled infinitely…you could have 100+ websites generating leads for 100 different businesses)
4) Time wealth (this business can be 100% automated/passive after sites are ranking…)
As long as people are using their laptops or smartphones to find their next solar company, landscape architect, locksmith, real estate agent, etc…this business will thrive.
How does it work?
Step 1) build out a website that targets an industry + city (ex: pest control services in Austin, TX)
Step 2) optimize site to show up on first page of Google for business keywords
Step 3) send leads to a business that provides services
Step 4) get paid for each lead (referral) that leads to a sale
Rinse and repeat with as many markets as you want.
The secret to this business model is you serve leads up on a platter for businesses. That way, they can’t lose. They’ll only pay you when your lead gives them a sale. They’ll always say yes to more leads, and you’ll get paid.
That’s the beauty of the business. I’ve seen dozens of people quit their 9-5 jobs using this method.
(we offer local lead generation coaching to 1/3 people who apply)
If there is a more scalable, higher-earning small business idea that has a higher probability of success and can eventually be 100% automated, please let me know.
I’ll Paypal anyone $500 who can show me a better way.
Part 2: Small business trends
The short story?
There isn’t a better time to start a small business.
Nowadays, you can test an idea using Facebook ads to get feedback in days to validate your idea. You don’t have to pour thousands into a storefront shop somewhere.
These are exciting times.
Some final reminders:
1) Go digital
“What’s that really mean?”, you’re still wondering.
It means your business can be operated from your smartphone or laptop.
It means your customers can find you from anywhere in the world.
It means your customers can find you anytime.
It means you’ll make money while you’re sleeping.
It means you’ll be able to replicate yourself/your product infinitely by way of video or writing (like this blog post that gets read over and over)
It means your company costs/overhead will usually be much cheaper than traditional brick-and-mortar businesses
There’s a reason why my online business ideas post did so well. People are drawn to digital-centric businesses.
No-brainer if you’re a small business “newbie”.
2) Get noticed
When you have a small business (hopefully a digitalized one), you’ll need to get in front of your audience.
These are the best ways to do this:
1) provide content that is helpful on your website or blog
(like this blog…I usually spend 20+ hours for each post, but people also get considerable value from them and many choose to eventually partner with me…very lucrative)
2) advertise in front of your audience
(Facebook ads are the best for this because of how targeted your ads can be…ex: female yoga enthusiasts in Austin, TX…uber targeted…this is also the best/quickest way to validate your business idea)
3) provide content where your audience hangs out
(Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, niche forums, etc) and utilize crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and ProductHunt to launch/validate your business idea
This concludes our small business ideas guide.
Don’t glaze these ideas and then watch Netflix.
We got 100 years on this earth (if we’re lucky), and you’re living in the glorious informational age. Take action.
I wasn’t shy about my #1 recommendation, but the most important decision will be your decision to take action.
Do something. Right now. -Jeremy
I’ll Paypal you $500 if you show me a better small business idea than our method.