Small town living has many advantages – little to no traffic, a slower pace of life than a big city and strong community connections. But living in rural, less-populated areas can also mean fewer amenities and a lack of goods and services typically found in larger towns and cities.
Most small towns cover the basics: a grocery store, a couple of gas stations, a café or two, but for specialty items or even basic necessities like clothing and health care, residents often must drive long distances to the nearest “big town” to get what they need, or must hire professionals well outside of their area. But smart entrepreneurs don’t see this as a negative. Instead, they see rural areas ripe with lucrative opportunities for many kinds of businesses.
Often, small town businesses require little to no overhead and can be based in your home. But if you want or require a store front, you will most likely find a few older, vacant buildings to choose from. Renovating empty spaces will not only attract attention for your new business, it will add life to your town. Check out these eight business ideas you might consider launching in your area:
- Florist – Flowers are the favorite go-to gift for numerous special occasions throughout the year, including birthdays, anniversaries, house warming parties, proms, weddings and funerals. Your community will enjoy a well-stocked floral and gift shop where they can stop in and browse, instead of paying hefty delivery charges for out-of-town orders. To add additional revenue streams, promote other artisans by offering local specialty items, such as locally-made jewelry, postcards, gourmet food items or art, and hold floral arranging workshops throughout the year, such as a holiday wreath making workshop or a beginner’s class in flower arranging.
- Elder Care Service – Rural areas often include a large percentage of seniors, and as the population ages, the need for in-home care increases. If you enjoy caring for others and understand the challenges of working with the elderly, a non-medical senior care business may work well for you. You can decide what services to offer, which could include cooking, light cleaning, reminders to take medication, feeding pets, transportation to appointments and events and companionship. Permits, licensing and insurance are a few of the important details to research before launching this type of business.
- Photographer – The demand for capturing memories with printed photographs hasn’t slowed down, no matter where you live. Think of the many important times in life that are commemorated with professional photos: new babies, yearly school photos, high school graduation, newlyweds and family portraits, to name a few. Offer framing services and even photography workshops as additional revenue streams. To keep overhead low, set up your studio in your home.
- Computer Repair – Most people, regardless of the area where they live, own a computer. And computers break, get viruses and simply need regular maintenance. Those who aren’t computer savvy usually need professional help, and that’s where your business comes in. Provide a convenient computer repair and tech support service for your community so your neighbors don’t have to schlep their laptops to the nearest city. Connect with schools, other businesses and churches to capture larger accounts. If you work from your home, offer a pick-up and drop-off service, or offer mobile service – anything extra to highlight your outstanding hometown guest service and separate yourself from the bigger, corporate services in the city.
- Clothing Store – Many small towns lack clothing stores, which means residents either buy clothes out of town or shop online. A clothing store that offers the basics for the family, in addition to choices and styles that fit your specific market, would be convenient and welcomed in a small town. This business requires some overhead and inventory but may be worth checking out. If you have several small town towns close by, your clothing store could be the place to shop for your county.
- Renovation/Carpentry Business – Talented, professional carpenters seem to be in high demand everywhere these days, and that includes small towns where the workload may exceed the few carpentry professionals working in an area. If you have the skills and experience to provide renovation and general carpentry services, this could be a lucrative option. Tools and equipment are necessary, but since you can easily set up shop in your garage or basement, other overhead costs could be low. Gain clients by networking with friends and family and asking for referrals for any work you’ve done for them.
- Wedding/Event Planner – If you enjoy organizing weddings, events and parties, launch a home-based wedding planner business. Your neighbors will appreciate hiring someone they know and trust to handle their most important life events, rather than searching for a planning professional online, based in another city. Partner with the local florist or photographer to develop a referral network.
- Food Truck – If you have the resources to start this type of business, consider a specialty food truck that offers pizza, Mexican cuisine or any popular food that many small towns don’t have easy access to. Depending upon your location, this may be a seasonal business; the advantages include mobility and flexibility. Make sure to thoroughly research the licensing, permits and insurance requirements for this type of business.
More Ideas – If you’ve developed a business idea for your small town, consider launching a “pop-up” business to test your concept, get feedback from your community and fine-tune your product or service. You could take advantage of the holiday shopping season or summer weather, for example, and set up a temporary store, café or art gallery. Partner with an existing storefront business, set up shop in one of those empty downtown buildings on main street, or try a small product stand or food truck.
The important takeaway here is to view your small town not as a liability, but as an opportunity. Take advantage of what small town living has to offer: relationships, connections and shared community, which can all contribute to your business’ success.
Have you started a business in your small town? Tell us about your successes and challenges in the comments below.