Small-Town Business Ideas That Every Community Needs

Big business can happen in small towns. Small towns offer a unique opportunity of a concentrated market, as well as the challenge of a limited population. Finding small-town business ideas that will stick is all about meeting a current demand with a great product or service.

In order to start a business in a small town, you’ll need to perform background research into the local market, as well as the specific geography of the physical location. In a small town, you’re much more dependent on a smaller group for business, so choosing the right location is crucial to optimize store traffic. Even if your business plan is service-based, it’s still a good idea to have a firm grasp on how big your market is.

Once you have an idea of the consumer marketplace in your town, you can lay the groundwork for different small-town business ideas, ultimately deciding on the one that you think will work best. Once you find out more about the resources available and other businesses in your area, you can talk to other business owners and evaluate the costs and requirements of starting a business in a small town. For inspiration, we’ve gathered this list of 35 small-town business ideas that every community needs. You can use this list as a starting point for research, or perhaps, find just the right idea for a business in your small town.

Small-town business ideas

Starting a small-town business requires careful research and understanding of your community. Once you have a sense of the existing businesses in your area and local demand (more on that below), you’re ready to decide which enterprise is right for you — and the community.

Try to find an industry or service where profitable small businesses, the community’s needs and your own interests intersect. Here are a few small-town business ideas you might consider:

1. Restaurants

Diner, fine dining or somewhere in between, a successful small-town restaurant is all about providing people what they want, but don’t already have. When starting a restaurant, it might be tempting to copy a popular place in town, but consider catering to a need — or desire — that locals can’t find nearby, and an attraction worth traveling over from the next town.

For example, a farm-to-table restaurant is a great small-town business idea, but if you’re not in an agriculturally rich area, or that already exists in your town, consider an alternative. Think about what your family looks forward to when leaving town. Maybe it’s the experience of an elegant meal, or maybe it’s a slice of New York-style pizza, but there’s a good chance there’s a market for a new restaurant. You just have to figure out what people want — and will eat.

2. Hybrid bar/coffee shop

Make up for slower business traffic by serving the beverages people want all day. If coffee shops aren’t a “thing” in your town, serving coffee all day at a place where people do go — like a bar — can slowly start to normalize the activity and encourage crossover business. A local small-town bar might be your dream business, but a coffee shop can start bringing in money at sunrise; there’s no need to compromise, as long as you create an environment that works for both day and night.

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3. Liquor store

Depending on county laws and state taxes, opening a liquor store can be one of the most lucrative small-town business ideas. Particularly in areas where grocery stores aren’t permitted to sell alcohol, liquor stores control the alcohol market in small towns. Be sure to read up on how to start a liquor store, because securing the documentation you need (like a liquor license) can be tricky.

4. Handyman or contractor

A good handyman will always be in demand, even in small towns. If you’re frequently getting calls from friends, family and neighbors to come and take a look at a leaky pipe or wobbly board, you might be well on your way to starting a small-town business that works.

Starting a contractor service will be relatively straightforward if you already work odd jobs, and have an idea of who will hire you. If people in the area are unfamiliar with your work, try to get in touch with a general contractor who’s willing to offer a small project, and hopefully pass on your name to future clients. In a word-of-mouth business like service work, repairs and construction, the people you already know, and who know your work, are your strongest salespeople.

5. Automotive repairs

You’re pretty much required to have a car if you live in a rural area or a small town, but being far away from a dealership can make routine servicing a hassle. Auto repair services fill an obvious need for small towns and make life more convenient for locals, so you might consider whether there’s an opportunity in your town to open up shop.

Likewise, cars break down everywhere, and most tow trucks charge per mile. So, if your town is a significant distance between major cities, there might be an opportunity for you to start towing cars — even if you don’t have a proper repair shop.

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