12 Small Business Ideas with Less Investment

Starting your own business can be a risky venture, especially when it requires a large investment. The ideal scenario is to establish a lucrative company with very little start-up costs, keeping your risks low and the payoff high. But finding low-investment opportunities is easier said than done, right?

In reality, the digital age has provided budding entrepreneurs more access to low-investment business ideas than ever before. It’s now easy to start a home-based business and keep those overhead costs in check, at least until your company expands. The following ideas should help inspire you to move forward with your dreams of starting a business with less investment.


Are you an expert in a particular field? Do you have a skill set you can share? Freelancing allows you to provide your experience and skills from your laptop or mobile device. For instance, if you have a marketing background, you can establish your own business helping others build their brands and reach a wider audience. With more business being conducted online, the opportunities for freelancers are always increasing. You could find your niche in social media marketing, blogging, copywriting, interpreting, teaching, tutoring, translating, graphic design, programming or any number of careers. Your only start-up investment costs are your internet connection, computer equipment and a box of business cards.

Online Retailer

Opening a brick-and-mortar store is a huge investment. Not only do you need to pay the lease, but you’re responsible for purchasing inventory and hiring employees, so the start-up costs are high. With an online shop, however, your costs are minimal. Online retailers sell just about everything nowadays, so find your niche product and learn how to stand out. Whether you choose to flip thrift-store finds, buy wholesale items, find a drop-ship supplier or make your own products to sell, focus on building a streamlined virtual storefront that’s easy to navigate. Take decent photos and catalog your items to draw in customers. If you do make your own products, having an online presence can also serve as an advertisement to area businesses. For example, if you make handmade skincare products, share your online catalog and product samples with local boutiques that might be interested in carrying your products.

Food Delivery Service

Consumers will always demand convenient services that bring what they need right to their door. This is especially the case with food. While most restaurants offer a takeout option, few have an in-house delivery service. You can take advantage of this fact by filling a much-needed service role that’s effectively making you the middleman between the restaurant and the customer.

Starting a food delivery service has little overhead because you’re based in your vehicle. Simply decide on the area you’re willing to serve, contact the restaurants within that vicinity and develop your delivery menu. Just be sure to include a surcharge for delivery on top of the restaurant’s prices. You can choose either a flat rate or a percentage, but it’s a good idea to build in a minimum delivery fee so you’re not wasting time driving cheap fast-food orders all around town. You should also consider negotiating with each restaurant to receive a payment from them for each order. Also, consider printing your delivery menus and leaving them with each participating restaurant. Market your delivery service with fliers and postcards. Keep in mind, however, that you will need a business license and possibly a sales privilege license, but check with your local Chamber of Commerce for specifics. While there is little overhead with this business, you will need to expand and hire employees as it grows, which is something to keep in mind.

Travel Agency

Travel is booming, so why not take advantage of it? Despite the fact that travelers can plan their own trips through discounted websites, many prefer to leave the details to an experienced travel agent. The most cost-effective way of becoming a travel agent is to partner with a host agency. Most of these agencies provide training to help you secure your certification. They also perform back-end functions to let you focus on the fun part of the job.

By partnering with a host agency, you keep costs low and earn commissions through the company itself. If you want to branch out on your own, however, you will need to get your own certification and do the training in your own time, then build your agency from the ground up. There’s more money involved in starting your own travel agency because you need to conduct market research, deal with the legalities and market your services, but if you operate the agency from home, you can still keep investment costs low.

Pet-Based Services

If you love animals and want to set your own work schedule, there are many pet-based services to consider. Dog walking is a great way to earn extra income, especially if you live in an urban or suburban area with neighborhood parks. You can start small by advertising your services online or with fliers posted around town. Make sure you can handle the workload of several dogs at once to keep both your human and canine clients happy.

Pet sitting is another great option. Many people prefer to leave their pets at home instead of a kennel when they travel, and you could be the one stopping by their homes every day to feed and play with those pets. Just be sure to specify which animals you’re willing and not willing to work with.

If you have the grooming equipment, you can start your own grooming service from home. And if you’re able to secure a small business loan, you could even go mobile with a grooming van. Having a mobile grooming van is a smart move for several reasons. For starters, you come to the customer, which is an attractive benefit for your clients. Secondly, you can park the van around town just like a food truck and offer quick grooming sessions as a form of advertisement. Imagine how many customers you’ll attract by parking at the local dog park once a week!

Personal Assistant Business

Are you outgoing with a can-do attitude? Do you work best when performing a variety of tasks? Becoming a personal assistant might be the job for you. Personal assistants, also called personal concierges, offer their services to clients who are otherwise too busy to perform everyday activities themselves. As such, you might spend your day making appointments, picking up the dry cleaning, meeting the cable guy at your client’s home, preparing meals, shopping or organizing files.

Being a personal assistant requires a flexible schedule and the ability to run errands around town, so you need your own vehicle. Once you build a website, you should market your personal concierge services on social networking sites, Craigslist and a weekly blog. Some personal assistants work with a single client who keeps them busy all day long, but you’ll probably need to start with a few part-time clients to establish your reputation and build the business.

Catering Business

If you’re good at cooking or baking and want to build a business around your talents, consider starting a home-based catering business. You can choose the type of foods or events you want to focus on and whether you cook at the client’s selected venue or from your own home.

Since you’ll be handling food, however, you will need to get the appropriate licenses required by your state. In some cases, your state may not allow home-based catering without a special permit, so be sure to contact your local health department for more information. Aside from the permits and licenses, equipment and marketing materials, a home-based catering business allows you to generate income right away with little investment.

Transcription Service

Thanks to online videos gaining ground, transcription services are in high demand. Many business owners need their videos and other audio material transcribed for people with hearing impairments. Doctors, lawyers and other professionals also rely on transcribers to record material for their permanent records.

If you can transcribe quickly and accurately, typing at least 65 words per minute, and can use correct spelling and grammar, you can offer your services to local businesses. There are some investments involved, however, as you will need a computer word processing program, transcription software, a foot pedal to control audio playback and a headset.

You should also consider specializing in a particular field. Medical transcribers, for example, need to know medical terminology and understand the industry’s technicalities. While there’s a bigger learning curve involved, these transcribers tend to earn more money because of their specialization.

Aquarium Maintenance

How many times have you seen an aquarium at the doctor’s office or a local restaurant? Somebody needs to keep those aquariums clean, so why not you? Most businesses hire aquarium cleaning services to maintain their fish tanks because it’s easier than doing it themselves.

The basic startup costs for an aquarium maintenance service are relatively low and you can work as much or as little as you’d like. You can also expand the business into aquarium setup and supply retail, which helps clients meet additional needs.

You will, however, need to purchase liability insurance since you’re handling live animals. You may also need to be available around the clock in case of emergencies. Despite these drawbacks, if you love exotic fish and have an extensive knowledge of aquatic life and plants, starting an aquarium cleaning business could be just what you’re looking for.

Event Planning

Do you love parties and have a knack for organizing? Event planning might be right up your alley. Planning events is a low-cost business that’s both fun and rewarding, but you need to pay attention to detail and be able to work with demanding clients, oftentimes in high-stress settings.

Before starting your event planning business, research the certifications you’ll need in your state. You may need to take an online course that culminates in a certificate to prove you have the know-how to get the job done. When you’re ready, identify your target market. You may want to work solely on wedding receptions, corporate events, parades and fairs or family reunions and parties. You should also network with area resources such as caterers, bridal shops, technology suppliers and marketers, depending on your focus.

The great thing about event planning is you can conduct business from home, but you won’t feel cooped up because you’re always on the go meeting with clients and checking out venues. It’s the perfect option for the social butterfly who wants to help others achieve their dream event.

Moving Service

Do you have a pickup truck and trailer? You can start earning money right now by offering to move items for area residents. For larger jobs, you can even rent a moving truck and build that rental into the price of your services, which keeps your investment costs down.

Advertise your services on social media and online swap forums. For example, you can keep an eye on Facebook Marketplace for people purchasing secondhand furniture, then offer to move the furniture for a set fee. Once you’ve gotten a few clients to help spread the word, you’d be surprised at how in demand your moving services can be.

Personal Training

Those who have a love of fitness and a willingness to motivate others can succeed as personal trainers. Starting a career as a personal trainer has virtually no overhead costs aside from your certifications. You can meet clients at a local gym to teach them the proper techniques or meet them in their homes with some basic equipment. One of the best ways to build your client list is to partner with a few area gyms. In most cases, you will need the facility’s permission to act as a trainer anyway, since most keep their own trainers on staff.

Starting a new business doesn’t have to be expensive, but if you need startup funding for your venture, consider a small business loan from an online lender. Online resources offer competitive rates to help you stay ahead in your industry.


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