09 August 2023 • 5 min read
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Small towns have seen a resurgence in recent years. The high costs of living in big cities and the rise of remote work opportunities have driven many people across the US to move to small towns for a more comfortable or affordable lifestyle.
This shift has also created many business opportunities for small-town businesses and entrepreneurship.
As remote workers flock to small towns from the "big city," the culture of working out of a coffee shop is becoming increasingly popular. A neighborhood spot with good coffee, a relaxed ambiance, and fast Wi-Fi can draw a loyal clientele. It can become the new village cafe.
More adventurous entrepreneurs can also double up the space as a sports bar at night. Hosting local events and attracting customers who want to unwind after a day at work could be a great way to build a lucrative business.
The changing demographic in small towns has created a unique opportunity for aspiring food entrepreneurs.
Social media has exposed a whole generation to global cuisines and increased curiosity. There's also an influx of people from big cities who are used to various culinary options. It all adds up to a tremendous potential market for new cuisines and innovative food concepts.
A food truck business is the perfect idea to maximize this opportunity. It's also a much lower financial risk and requires much less investment than a restaurant.
Small towns offer a respite to many people looking for a break from hectic urban centers. A bed and breakfast could be a great business idea if your town has something to offer regarding cultural experiences or nature and ecology.
A bed and breakfast allows you to curate a customized and one-of-a-kind experience for visitors and tourists. It offers a home-away-from-home experience for tourists, which sets it apart from hotels.
Bed and breakfast owners bear lower financial risk. They also have lesser expenses than more prominent hotels. This makes a BnB a solid business idea for anyone looking to build a profitable business.
The global specialty food ingredients market is valued at $162.64 billion in 2023 and is expected to grow to $217.18 billion in 2027.
That's why setting up a specialty food shop in a small town can be a great business opportunity. Most towns have a local grocery store or a supermarket with a loyal customer base. But specialty food stores can fill the gaps in their product ranges.
A specialty food or health food store can cater to a niche market. Specifically, consider small-town residents looking for healthy food options (or who happen to be on a diet) but with limited access. This kind of small-town shop can also create an opportunity to work with local businesses.
You can work with suppliers, vendors, and food producers and boost the local community and economy.
Ironically, "work-from-home" has left most people with less time to "work for home." Most remote workers end up in meetings all day with little time left for household chores.
This has put cleaning services in great demand. According to the US Department of Commerce, 10% of all US households hired cleaning services in 2021. And 80% of American households with two incomes are expected to use one in the coming years.
But there are too few services to cater to this demand in more rural areas and small towns. This gap in the market translates to a unique small-town business opportunity.
And a cleaning service is a relatively inexpensive business idea because you don't spend on things like retail space. Eventually, you could expand the service to include a handyman business or lawn and gardening services.
According to the APPA National Pet Owners Survey (2023-2024), 66% of US households (86.9 million) own pets. Furthermore, the pet industry estimates sales of $143.6 billion in the US in 2023.
People are more willing than ever to splurge on their furry friends. This makes pet care services an attractive business idea. Especially in small towns, people would be willing to spend on making sure their pets are well cared for while they travel or work.
Based on your investment capacity, you could offer services like:
Small towns have limited options when it comes to shopping. Residents often have to drive miles to shopping malls for basic clothing necessities.
Offering a destination for trendy and accessible fashion is a solid business plan for a small-town entrepreneur. Especially if you can keep up-to-date on industry trends and provide convenient payment options, you'll build a shopping destination and a strong local brand.
This one might need a bit more expertise than the other business ideas, but it's well worth it. The US has 9,552 craft breweries, accounting for 13.2% of the beer market.
Especially in small towns, a craft brewery is a popular destination for locals and visitors. You can also offer engaging services such as tastings, tours, and hosting events. These activities make craft breweries fun places for locals to gather. You could also partner with local restaurants or food trucks for pop-ups and special menus.
Parents of infants and young children often have to work long hours, even if it is from home. They may need help to look after their children after school, on weekends, or during school holidays.
This is where childcare services can bridge the gap. You could offer babysitting services, or run a daycare, even out of your home. The most significant advantage of such a business in a small town is that you won't have to spend money on advertising your business.
If parents feel they can trust you with their children, word-of-mouth will be all the advertising you need in a small community. This is a business idea guaranteed to help you start turning a profit almost immediately.
If you have college-level training in any subject and enjoy sharpening young minds, then tutoring is the right entrepreneurship idea for you. Though there are plenty of online tutoring services, the benefits of having an in-person teacher are undeniable.
Tutoring is a great business idea for small towns for several reasons. It requires no initial investment if you intend to do the teaching part yourself. In addition, since most children will be at school during the day, tutoring is an optimal part-time gig or small business.
Especially if you’re already working elsewhere, you can do tutoring in your free time for an additional income.
Small towns are home to vibrant communities that are also great potential markets. And they are a great starting point for someone looking to start their own business.
The first steps are to do your market research, choose your perfect business idea, and build a business model.
After this, we recommend seeking the help of professionals. Attorneys and accountants can help you decide on the ownership structure, register your trademarks, and lay the foundation for a successful small-town business.
Most small towns have a distinct character, and their needs will differ accordingly. There are some basics, such as healthcare and personal care and child care services, food businesses, and local retail, that all small towns need. But you should do market research to understand the need gaps in your town and decide on a business idea accordingly.
Small businesses have some significant advantages over big brands and businesses. One is flexibility since they can quickly adapt and pivot according to the market's needs. The other is a first-hand understanding of the local market.
For a small-town business owner, the market is not just reports and statistics but neighbors and friends. This gives you a much better idea of what your customers want. You can use these to your advantage and create a loyal customer following. These customers will prefer your personalized, quality offerings over mass-minded big brands.
The best way to build a strong community presence in a small town is to tap into the local ecosystems. You can advertise in your town's local paper and news channels. You can also reach out to customers on social media through local pages and culture leaders.
Make sure to network with small-town residents as well. You can attend local events and engage with local communities that can help promote your business.
The US Small Business Administration offers special loans for small businesses. In addition, many banks and private lenders also provide loans to small businesses. You could also apply to government agencies and private organizations that offer business grants.
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Amrusha is a versatile professional with over 12 years of experience in journalism, broadcast news production, and media consulting. Her impressive career includes collaborating extensively with prominent global enterprises. She garnered recognition for her exceptional work in producing acclaimed shows for Bloomberg, a renowned business news network. Notably, these shows have been incorporated into the esteemed curriculum of Harvard Business School. Amrusha's expertise also encompassed a 4-year tenure as a consultant at Omidyar Network, a leading global impact investing firm. In addition, she played a pivotal role in the launch and content strategy management of the startup Live History India.
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