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Big business can happen in small towns. Small towns offer the unique opportunity of a concentrated market as well as the challenge of a limited population. Finding small town business ideas that will stick is meeting current demand with a great product or service.
Retail Store Ideas For Small Towns
To start a business in a small town, you need to do background research on the local market as well as the specific geography of the physical location. In a small town, you are much more dependent on a small group for business, so choosing the right location is critical to optimizing store traffic. Even if your business plan is service-based, it’s still a good idea to have a solid understanding of how big your market is.
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Once you have an idea of the consumer market in your town, you can start looking at different small town business ideas and finally decide on the one that you think will work best. After you learn more about the resources and other businesses in your area, you can talk to other business owners and assess the costs and requirements of starting a small town business. For inspiration, we’ve put together this list of 35 small town business ideas that every community needs. You can use this list as a starting point for research, or maybe find the right idea for a business in your small town.
Starting a business in a small town requires careful research and understanding of your community. Once you get a feel for the businesses in your area and the local demand (more on that below), you’re ready to decide which venture is right for you—and the community.
Try to find an industry or service where a profitable small business, community needs, and your interests intersect. Here are some small town business ideas you might consider:
Diner, fine dining or somewhere in between, a successful small town restaurant is all about giving people what they want but don’t already have. When opening a restaurant, it can be tempting to copy a popular spot in town, but consider a need — or want — that locals can’t find nearby and an attraction worth traveling from the next town over.
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For example, a farm-to-table restaurant is a great business idea in a small town, but if you’re not in an agriculturally rich area, or one that already exists in your town, consider an alternative. Think about what your family will expect when you leave town. Maybe it’s an elegant dining experience, or maybe it’s a slice of New York-style pizza, but chances are there’s a new restaurant market. You just have to find out what people want – and eat.
Make up for slow business traffic by serving the drinks people want all day long. If coffee shops aren’t the “thing” in your town, serving coffee all day in a place where people go – like a bar – can slowly start to normalize the activity and encourage crossover business. A local small town bar may be your dream business, but a coffee shop can start bringing in money at sunrise; There’s no need to compromise if you create an environment that works both day and night.
Depending on county laws and state taxes, opening a liquor store can be one of the most profitable small town business ideas. Especially in areas where grocery stores are not allowed to sell alcohol, liquor stores control the alcohol market in small towns. Be sure to read up on how to start a liquor store, as securing the necessary documentation (such as a liquor license) can be difficult.
A good craftsman will always be in demand, even in small towns. If you often get calls from friends, family, and neighbors to come check out a leaky pipe or wobble board, you may be well on your way to starting a small town business that works.
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Starting a contractor service will be relatively easy if you already work odd jobs and have an idea of who will hire you. If people in the area are not familiar with your work, try contacting a general contractor who is willing to offer a small project and hopefully get your name out there for future clients. In word-of-mouth businesses such as service work, repair and construction, people you already know and know your work are your strongest salespeople.
You’ll almost certainly have to own a car if you live in a rural area or small town, but being far from a dealership can make routine service difficult. Auto repair services fill an obvious need for small towns and make life more convenient for locals, so you may want to consider opening a shop in your town.
Likewise, cars break down everywhere and most tow trucks charge per mile. So if your town is a significant distance between major cities, there may be an opportunity to start towing cars – even if you don’t have a proper repair shop.
Some people just don’t like cleaning, and there’s a good chance that a few of them live in your town. Why not start a cleaning business for them? This is another service that benefits from a word-of-mouth referral system and can be paired with other services like babysitting or yard work. Expert cleaning is a valuable skill, but not one that requires you to spend a ton of money on courses or certifications, so it’s a great option if you’re looking for a low-cost side hustle.
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All businesses and individuals need technology support wherever they are. No matter how big or small a city, there will always be people using technology – and struggling to connect to WiFi.
This service will require a bit more advertising to get the word out, as it is less visible than a storefront business and less regular than a service such as house cleaning. But if you don’t plan on doing major repairs, it doesn’t require much in terms of equipment, so you’ll also keep costs low.
Opening a pet store in your town is one of the great small town business ideas if there isn’t already a local supply store or a large chain like PetSmart or PetCo. Depending on the pet population in your area, there may be a demand for pet grooming and boarding services.
If you’re interested in opening a pet store or pet service business in a small town, ask local pet owners where they currently get their food and grooming. An existing pet store owner in your town can also be a good resource if you are interested in offering grooming, walking or boarding services.
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Chances are your town has at least one barber shop or salon, but it really helps if you want to open a successful hair salon. If one demographic is missing – ie there’s only a barbershop that caters mainly to men – find out whose hair needs aren’t currently being met on the high street.
If your city is already served by full-service hair salons and barbershops, you may want to consider a more niche hair care business, such as a hairdressing bar or salon that offers makeup, lashes, and tanning along with hair services.
They may not be the most glamorous business, but gas stations are absolutely necessary in communities where most people rely on cars and trucks for transportation. Small towns on or near major highways can get significant traffic, and unlike most businesses, a gas station can actually benefit from being located between towns. Lottery and tobacco sales can also generate significant income, especially if you are the only seller in the area.
When a town that wants to keep a grocery store doesn’t, there’s probably a good reason: Maybe most people commute every day and use other stores, or the population isn’t large enough to support a large chain.
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If you want to go the independent route (ie don’t open a franchise store), try to find a way to specialize your store so you don’t spend a lot of inventory. Use local products, trends and tastes to inform this decision.
In agricultural areas, farmers market-style shops that carry local produce and seasonal goods are usually popular with locals and tourists alike. A city that already has a major chain grocery store but few affordable options for organic, local, gluten-free, or vegan options is a perfect candidate for a specialty food store.
A pharmacy or dispensary takes more work—from hiring a pharmacist to buying insurance to setting up security measures—but if your town isn’t served by a local pharmacy, this could be a great opportunity to open a long-term business in your community. .
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