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Small town business: barista

19 Profitable Small Town Business Ideas

When it comes to talking business, big cities tend to get all the recognition and glory. But it’s often the small towns that need entrepreneurial spirit the most. If you’re an entrepreneur in a small community – or are planning to move to one – you’re probably looking for small town business ideas.

Well, look no further. You’ve just discovered a list of 19 ideas for profitable small town businesses that thrive.

Many of these ideas are easy to get up and running, are low in start-up costs, and still have the potential to make great money. Some of them need special skills or licensing, but not all.

I’ve pulled ideas for everything from technology and baking, to community gathering spots and eco-friendly ventures. So whether you’re looking to revamp your town’s infrastructure or simply provide a valuable service to your small community, this article is for you.

What Business Does Every Small Town Need?

When looking for business ideas for a village or small town, it’s tempting to focus on the size of the population when questioning its needs. When in fact, people in small towns just need the same things that are needed everywhere:

  • education
  • health care
  • groceries
  • gas and auto care
  • post office
  • banking
  • personal services and pet care
  • churches and spiritual care
  • food, clothing and home goods
  • real estate
  • law offices
  • government resources
  • home maintenance and repair
  • and many others

The question shouldn’t be “what business does every small town need.” But rather, what business does every town need – and which one is yours lacking? And beyond that, what can its population support?

For example, we all want the convenience of having our bank, realtor and dentist right around the corner.

But in reality, of course, businesses must choose locations according to the number of clients they need for success. And also whether they’ll be sharing those clients with a competitor.

Choosing your new business will need the same considerations.

Let’s say your small town has a population of 2,500. We can agree that a grocery store is definitely something every town needs! But if your town already has five of them, it may not be a great idea for your new business.

On the other hand, if you draw customers from a huge surrounding area and yours is the only store that offers fresh organic food, your new business might do very well.

The most profitable, small town businesses that thrive are the ones that meet the specific needs of that specific community.

Listen to what people are saying, what they wish for. And then give it to them.

Small Town Business Ideas for Retail & Shopping

Grocery Store

Starting a grocery store in a small town is always a great idea. After all, it’s one of the most important places for people to get their food. And even if a family does their major shopping at a larger chain store, we all need fill-in groceries and the convenience of a local market.

And face it, we love supporting our hometown businesses! #ShopLocalLiveLocal

You’d want your store to offer a good variety of local produce, meat, dairy products, and dry goods. And how about having an awesome deli counter and bakery with tasty treats?

Also, make sure to tailor your products according to the needs of your community. For example, if you know there’ll be lots of families with young kids, have plenty of diapers and baby food available. In a summer vacation spot? Stock up on bug spray, tanning lotion and charcoal.

Vintage Clothing Boutique

Small town business: Vintage clothing boutique

If you’re like me, you wore second-had clothing before it was cool. But today, buying vintage is the “in thing,” as more people are turning to sustainability.

Boutiques specializing in vintage clothes give a unique shopping vibe while also supporting the local economy. Customers searching for stylish and one-of-a-kind pieces will be able to find them in a vintage boutique.

The store could also be a great opportunity for local artisans to sell their works. And offering great clothes at affordable prices – with the possibility of finding some really unique pieces! – could draw in customers from near and far.

Thrift Store

Opening a thrift store in a small town could be a fantastic business opportunity! Not only would it offer families great bargains on clothing, furniture, and other home goodies, but it would also give the community a place to donate things that they don’t need anymore.

(Word of advice: Be selective with donations, or you’ll become a dumping ground for long forgotten, unwanted junk.)

By starting a thrift store, your small town could have access to unique, secondhand treasures that might otherwise not be found in your area. This could attract shoppers from nearby towns and beyond.

Opening a curated, quality thrift store could be a fun way to bring the community together – while putting money in your pocket, helping your local business economy and reducing landfill waste, too. Big wins all around!

Farmers Market / Flea Market

Small Town Business: Farmers Market

A Farmers Market or Indoor Flea Market in a small town? What awesome prospect for both locals and tourists!

Create a space with rented booths for vendors to sell their specialties. Offer a variety of fresh, locally-grown produce, artisan crafts, baked goods, vintage items, plants, furniture… whatever your area has on tap.

This business could draw in people from all over, bringing life and energy to your small town. (I think of our own Country Lane Farmer’s Market as a perfect example!)

A local farmers market/flea market would be community building – a recurring event for locals to anticipate, collaborate on and grow. And this small town business venture would be a great way to plug into the local community, making it a real asset for the town.

Small Town Business Ideas for Home Services

Cabin Open/Cabin Close Seasonal Service

A cabin open/close seasonal service would be a great business opportunity for a small town (if you live in a resort community like we do). This business would provide a much needed service that makes living in a small town easier and more enjoyable for residents.

The service could include the seasonal opening and closing of lake cabins and cottages, as well as providing services to winterize the structures. This would involve making sure all windows and doors are locked, that all winter accessories are connected properly and that all fuel tanks and gas lines are connected.

It could even include setting up and monitoring pest control.

Being able to depend on this service would bring peace of mind to the people living in the area, who could be sure that their properties would be safe and secure during all four seasons.

Cleaning Service

Small town business: Cleaning service

Starting a cleaning service is a great way to plug into your community and make a good living. It’s a low-cost business to start, and there is always a demand for cleaning services.

Here are a few more reasons why starting a cleaning service is a great idea:

  1. It’s a proven business model: There are tons of successful cleaning businesses out there, so you know it’s a viable option.
  2. It’s a recession-proof business: People will always need cleaning services, no matter what the economy is like.
  3. It’s a flexible business: You can start small and grow at your own pace. Set your own schedule and work when you want.
  4. You can be your own boss: Running your own business is a great way to achieve financial and lifestyle freedom.

So if you’re considering starting a small business, a cleaning service could be a great option to pursue.

Handyman/Contractor Services

As a handyman or contractor, there’s always plenty of work to be done – from plumbing repairs and building decks, to painting jobs and limbing trees. But many big service providers won’t drive all the way to a little town, unless it’s a major job.

What an opportunity! Start this business in a small town, and the sky’s the limit with where you can take it.

Consider this: Many residents in small towns – just like everywhere else – don’t have the skills or tools needed for major projects, so this could be an incredible service for your community.

And especially if your small town caters to seasonal residents – like vacationing cabin owners – they: 1) won’t have their own home repair tools on hand; 2) they won’t know where to find home services in your area; and 3) they’re on vacation; they don’t WANT a bunch of work to do!

Go the extra mile and offer seasonal lawn mowing and snow removal, too. Cha-ching!

Home Decorating

Do you have an eye for design and like to help people spruce up their homes? A home decorating service could be the business. for you.

Small town business: home decorator

Not only is it easy and inexpensive to get started, but it pays well and is rewarding, too.

Plus, in a small town where word travels fast, referrals and word of mouth could make your new business really take off. And you’re always in control of how big or small you want it to be.

Don’t forget that clients love a professional touch, so having a favorite designer adds some special flair. And best of all? You’ll be able to indulge your creativity and produce something gorgeous – on someone else’s dime. And get paid for it!

So if you’ve been considering taking the plunge into running a small town business – this may just be right up your alley!

Small Town Business Ideas for Health & Personal Care

Fitness Center

Opening a fitness center in a small town could be a fantastic idea. Most small towns don’t have a fitness center, so we residents are forced to either 1) drive a long distance to work out; 2) work out at home; or 3) skip exercise altogether.

Plus, if others are like me, working out alone at home can be hard! It takes space, equipment and motivation – all which are lacking for many at-home exercisers.

Working out alone at home can be hard! It takes space, equipment and motivation – all which are lacking for many at-home exercisers.

This business idea would be perfect for people who want to stay healthy but don’t want expensive gym memberships or the inconvenience of a long trek just to work out.

Also, a fitness center could encourage a healthy lifestyle in the community. Small towns are often looking for more activities and places for people to get together. This could be a great way for people to build relationships and friendships, while still getting fit.

You could offer classes, memberships and even personal training and nutrition. Even better – offer child care during workouts. Think big!

Chiropractic Office

Chiropractors help people with pain management, injury treatment and overall wellness. A good chiropractor could be immensely helpful for small town locals, because there might not be other forms of medical care nearby.

Not only that, but chiropractic could also help to bring more money into the local community. People outside of town would visit the chiropractic office, which could then lead to spending in other local businesses, too.

Adding massage therapy services to the chiropractic office would make it even better! Not only is massage a-m-a-z-i-n-g for relief of muscle tension and pain, it can be great for people who’ve just had chiropractic adjustments.

Offering both chiropractic and massage therapy services in one place could be incredibly convenient for patients, and local patients would be both loyal and long-standing. 

Small Town Business: Hair Salon

Barbershop/Salon

Starting a barbershop or salon in a small town is a really good move. It could be a neighborhood hangout for people to get their cuts, relax and share a little neighborhood gab.

You could provide cuts, styles, color or whatever is hiding in your special bag of tricks! Plus, you could keep your prices affordable and create some loyal customers who come back all the time. And word-of-mouth advertising would really help boost business. (Everyone loves talking about getting their hair done.)

Finally, with a little marketing and love from the community, you can be THE destination for style in town!

Medical clinic

It’s sad but true: most really small towns have no medical services, even though they’re sorely needed. For that reason, a medical clinic in a small town could be a great business idea.

Having a clinic in town would allow locals to get convenient care without long wait times. The clinic could offer a variety of services, including primary care, preventative care, and specialty services. The clinic could also be a place for community education and access to healthcare resources.

In our own small community (population 405), Dr. Kristin Dall-Winther recently established the Birchwood Family Medicine using the Direct Primary Care model. It is an absolute boon to our community! And Dr. DW is already expanding and adding new services.

My own take on this? I think DPC care is the way of the future. If you’re a medical professional and this care model appeals to you, consider helping your community with this small business idea. Not only is it affordable and accessible, it’s how the doctor-patient relationship used to be.

Small Town Business Ideas for Pet Care

Pet Grooming Service

How I wish someone would offer this service in our area! What I wouldn’t give for a professional to visit my home and regularly clip our kitties’ nails. They won’t have it from me, and a ride to the groomer’s doesn’t warrant the traumatic car ride.

And other pet parents feel the same!

Small Town Business: Pet Groomer

A mobile pet groomer would provide a much-needed service that caters to our beloved furry friends. Grooming services typically include brushing, clipping, and nail trimming, and in some cases, bathing.

Having a local pet groomer would give pet owners a convenient option and save them a long drive to the nearest big-city groomer.

And because you would go right to the client’s house, you could charge premium prices – for your high quality work, of course!

Veterinary Services

Starting a small town veterinary practice is a great business idea for lots of reasons. For one, small towns typically lack veterinary services that are found in bigger cities. By setting up a practice in a small town, you would provide much needed services and become a major resource in the local area.

Also, small towns tend to have loyal customers who are willing to pay for quality service – meaning you could build a successful practice pretty quickly. Plus, the cost of doing business in a small town can be lower than in a larger city. So you could make a profit faster, without having to invest as much money upfront.

Finally, a small town veterinarian would build strong strong relationships with local clients. We all love our fur babies, and we value good doctors who help keep them healthy. To have a reliable veterinarian within a local area would be heaven for most pet parents.

All in all, starting a small town veterinary practice is a great business idea that could really be rewarding.

Small Town Business Ideas for Other Services

Day Care

Small town business: day care center

Establishing a day care business could be a rewarding way to invest in your community. Imagine giving families a safe environment, where kids can learn and play while parents are at work or running errands.

Just look at these statistics: According to Zippia.com, 58% of parents with kids under five years old use day care. And in 2020, more than half of those families spent at least $10,000 on child care!

Obviously, good day care is a huge need.

If your small town doesn’t have a day care center, it’s a business idea you could consider.

Plus, the cost of running a day care in a small town is typically far lower than in larger cities. This would allow you to invest more of your resources into a quality facility and the best equipment.

Make sure to check with your state and local agencies for all the right regulations, licenses and insurances.

Don’t like the idea of a separate day care facility? If you have the extra space, an at-home day care is a great option.

In Wisconsin, the average hourly rate per child is about $13, and you can have up to three children under age seven before you need to be licensed. That’s $39 an hour, friends! Or $1,560 for a 40-hour week; $81,120 per year.

Again, be completely legit with all state and local authorities. When dealing with children, follow every protection possible – both for their safety and yours.

If you love kids, this could be your dream business.

Food Delivery Service

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at home feeling snacky – but not “cooky” – and wished that I could get a pizza or burger delivered from a local Birchwood restaurant.

A food delivery service could offer this much-needed convenience.

If this sounds like Door Dash, you’re right! But the problem is that Door Dash doesn’t service most small towns. (I checked our area and – nope – no Door Dash.) There just aren’t enough people to make Door Dash feasible.

Disappointing? Yes. But it leaves the door wide open for you!

You could start a food delivery service only on certain days or times (like Friday and Saturday evenings) or include other delivery items like groceries, drinks and ice. (Again, grocery delivery service usually skips small towns that are far from large grocery chains.)

If you have a good vehicle and like to drive, this could be a great business. Consider it!

Computer service

Small town business: computer repair

If you’re a computer geek, we’ve found your business idea. Why? Because there’s a good chance that your local community needs help with their technology.

A computer service business could help them set up and maintain their systems, provide support, troubleshoot, and offer repairs.

Also, there are always people who aren’t familiar with technology. A computer service business could offer beginner classes to those who are just getting started. You could even offer instruction in blogging, social media, and online selling – to name just a few!

Boutique Coffee Shop

A boutique coffee shop could be an inviting place for locals to meet up and enjoy a tasty beverage. People could come in for a quick pick-me-up in the morning, or relax over a cup of coffee with friends late in the afternoon.

The shop could also feature specialty drinks, snacks, and even sandwiches or light meals. This could add to the local economy, draw in people from nearby towns, and provide a boost to retail shopping downtown.

Plus, because it’s a small-town business, customers could expect warm, personalized service and a friendly smile.

Auto Repair

Are you a skilled and qualified mechanic? Auto repair would bring a much-needed service to the community and make you good money while doing it. There are several advantages to setting up shop in a small town.

Small town business: auto repair

First, there is likely less competition than in larger cities. This means you could set your own prices and not have to worry about competitors undercutting you. You could also build relationships with local customers and create a loyal customer base.

Second, small towns usually don’t have as many mechanics as larger cities, so your services would be in high demand. And since most people in small towns know each other, word of mouth would go a long way in getting your business off the ground.

Finally, the cost of living in a small town is usually lower than in larger cities, so you could save money on rent and other expenses. This would help keep your overhead costs down and make your business more profitable.

Overall, starting an auto repair service in a small town is a great business idea. Plus, you would be your own boss and have the freedom to run your business the way you want.

Final Thoughts on Your New Small Town Business

Regardless of which business you ultimately choose, you can absolutely make your small town business take off and thrive.

Here are some final thoughts for success:

  • Choose a business without competition in your area;
  • Provide a service that most people need and are happy to pay for;
  • Over-deliver every chance you get;
  • Market your new business with ads, fliers, signs and word-of-mouth;
  • Offer new customer incentives and loyalty programs;
  • Network with other business owners; and
  • Always show your customers appreciation for their patronage.

Small business is the heart of our economy and our communities. If you’re thinking of starting a small town business, go make it happen. You can do it!

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    13 Comments

    1. This is such a helpful article on starting your own small town business. My husband is from a small town in Austria and started his own computer service business and did very well!

    2. Am always looking for new business ideas, glad to have come across this article with some useful recommendations. Thanks Dana for putting all these together!

    3. This was very informative and inspiring. It’s great to see that there are still plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurship in small towns, even in today’s global economy.

      1. So true, Dee! When possible, I love to shop local, live local. #shoplocallivelocal Every business has its time and place, right? Thanks for your kind words!