Small towns have a lot to love about them such as community, character and just enough people. The other good thing for you is that they have plenty of unfilled needs.
In this article, you will find our list of small town business ideas that you can use to help figure out just what your small town needs. Don’t forget to checkout our small scale business ideas and low investment business ideas too.
How to Think of a Good Business for Small Towns
When trying to think of a good business idea for a small town you want to think of the things that the town is missing. What services do you hear other people complaining about? What places do residents have to drive long distances to commonly?
These things will give you a good place to start. Next, think of your interests and passions. Do any of the towns needs intersect with your interests? If so, awesome! If not, I’ve got a list of ideas here that just might be helpful. Just don’t get too hung up on passion. Mike Rowe has some advice about “following your passion.”
Business Ideas for Small Towns
Food Related Business Ideas
Everyone needs to eat, and food is one of the first things to come to mind when thinking of business ideas. Below are some food related business ideas for small towns that I thought would work well. I tried to be a lot more creative than saying “start a restaurant.”
Coffee and Tea
Bring a new level of sophistication to the coffee and teas that your small town friends are drinking. Introduce them to whole leaf teas rather than the bags of saw dust everyone is currently steeping. Once they taste the difference, they’ll have trouble justifying what they’ve been consuming. When it comes to coffee, consider roasting your own beans. The smell alone would probably have people pounding at your door.
What is the most popular cuisine in Great Britain?
Would you guess Indian? I personally love Indian food myself and find that really cool. Do you bring any flavors to your food at home that your small town has never experienced? Don’t hide it, share it! Sure, there’s the risk that your small town might not be into the new flavors, but I would doubt it. I love small towns and have lived in them almost my whole life, and I know that they are starved for new, different experiences- they just might not know it yet. You can start small by having some people over to test it out, or by bringing things to a market for people to taste test for free.
People are now rediscovering the health benefits of fermented foods. This style of food is regaining its forgotten luster. It’s about as close to food magic as you can get without being put on trial for wizardry. Here’s a cool video of some guys making fermented sodas and loving life:
If you don’t have the money to start a restaurant, but you have the passion for good food, then food trucks are a natural first step. Without the headaches of high rent, you can focus on creating great food and getting it to where the crowds are! Check out this great video about the food truck revolution!
Jams, Jellies and Sauces
If your small town is known for its produce, then perhaps jams, jellies and sauces are a good idea. Coming up with your own twists on flavors will help set you apart from the junk they sell in grocery stores (oh yeah! I’m taking my gloves off!). Don’t be shy either, go for interesting things that might rock your town’s world like pepper jellies (those are amazing!) and crazy hot sauces.
You can sell them at local farmer’s markets to get started. Use ingredients that your area is famous for. For example, I went on a vacation to St. Augustine Florida once and learned that they produce the Datil pepper. There were tons of locally made “Datil” products. Very cool. Here’s one happy customer proudly showing off his purchase:
Pizza Parlor (Every small town needs a good one)
This might be a more obvious idea, but if your town doesn’t have a good pizza place then you have the moral obligation to fix this detrimental problem. No town in this country deserves to be without a great pizza place.
Life is a collection of experiences. Why not start a business that helps people enjoy the moments of their lives? Wouldn’t it be cool to know that your business is responsible for memorable moments in your customers’ lives?
If I know anything about small towns, it’s that they usually don’t have theme parks. That doesn’t mean you can’t setup your own successful attraction. Many small towns have attractions that embrace their natural surroundings like rafting, treetop zip lines and numerous other attractions that you can bring to your area.
Nothing says “small town nostalgia” like a drive-in theater. Keep the nostalgia alive by bringing back something that most towns now miss.
Every town needs entertainment for their various festivals and night time activities. If you have any talents that others enjoy seeing (or hearing), then consider entertainment as your business. I remember when I was younger there was a local band that appeared at every small and mid-size town function. They had a great following which made them all the more important to book for events because followers meant customers.
Event Organizer (Be the person who brings the excitement!)
I’ve lived most of my life in small towns and they all have a lot of the same issues. One common issue is that most only have 1 or 2 major events each year and everyone goes to them. They end up crowded, there’s never enough parking. What if you could capitalize on that kind of excitement and turn out? By organizing your own events you can! In addition to sales of tickets and vendor slot rentals, you can raise money from businesses to help “sponsor” the event!
Factory That Sells Experiences
Producing a product is inherently interesting. If it weren’t, shows like “How It’s Made” wouldn’t be so successful. If you live in an area that is visited by tourists at all, perhaps you could create a product and let visitors see how it’s made, or build an experience around it (Hershey park anyone?). But you don’t have to build a theme park! Here’s a great example of how a maple syrup producer turned production into an experience that people pay for:
This idea is nice because you can go into people’s homes to host a relaxing social gathering. Your customer gets a group of people together, you put on the music, bring the art supplies and someone opens a bottle of wine. While everyone is having a good time, they try to follow along as you paint a picture and offer them pointers as they go. At the end of the evening, everyone gets to leave with a masterpiece.
No, not like school! Instead, hold a class that teaches people how to do a small project. One time, I took a woodworking class where I made a pen. It was really cool, and to this day is the most expensive pen I’ve ever owned (the class was pretty expensive). Do you have a skill that people wish they could learn? Would you believe that there are numerous independent businesses in the country that teach blacksmithing still? Alec Steele, in the UK, charges about $1,800 dollars for a 6-day private tool forging class and about $125 for 1 day classes with a maximum of 4 students.
Wine Tasting Parties
Do you have a superb palate? Why not host wine tasting parties at peoples’ houses to teach them the differences between the different types of wine, what they pair well with and how to spot a good wine versus a mediocre one.
Interest Based Ideas
We can’t ignore the fact that you and other people in your small town have interests. Here are some ideas to help you think of a business that can tap into your neighbors’ and your interests!
Clubs and Organizations
If there is a big enough interest in your area surrounding a cause or interest, then perhaps you can establish a club or organization to foster it in your town. You could organize a meetups and other events to help keep everyone up-to-date and spread the information about your cause. By getting enough members and sponsor organizations, you would be able to capitalize this organization and draw a salary.
Everyone needs to have some fun time. Game stores are great for teens and adults alike. Selling their favorite card games like Magic the Gathering and miniatures games like WarHammer and providing a place for them to play sounds like a fun way to make a living.
Hobby Meets Business
Do you have a hobby that you might be able to turn into a business? One way to set yourself apart is by using locally sourced materials. For example, a woodworker might use a tree native to their area to make their creations. Not only are you selling a product, but you’re selling the story and history of your area. Make your products special by telling a story.
Paintball and Paintball Accessories
If you have an open field, then you can certainly turn it into an awesome paintball course. If you have a building and an open field, then you can also sell products too. Rentals would also be big business. Sure, most hardcore paintballers have their own gear, but they have friends that they want to hurt, and those friend need your rental gear to make it look like they stand a chance. Now, here’s a video of a guy pranking other people with his paintball gun, I’m kind of surprised he survived.
Businesses About the Town
Is your small town or area known for something? Vermont is known for maple syrup and cheese, Idaho has potatoes down pat and Florida has its oranges. What might your little corner of the world be known for? Is there a product you could make? If that business is already crowded in your town, is there a twist you can add to make it uniquely yours?
I touched on this a little bit in the food section, but all areas of the country are known for their foods. Some small towns even have their own specialty themselves. The example I used is how St. Augustine has the datil pepper and they sell many of their own “datil pepper” based sauces. Is there anything that your town, area or region is known for? If so, make it and sell it!
Does your town of an interesting or cool history? Nearly every town I’ve been to has some kind of interesting history, especially relating to their role in iconic wars like the Civil War. What are some of the gems of your small town’s history? How did your town go from forest or open prairie to what it is today? Is your town known for a specific industry? For example, I’ve been to towns that have very interesting train museums.
If your small town depends on tourism at all, then souvenirs might be great business for you. People want keepsakes of their adventures. Making something locally, or selling something that allows people to remember their trip to your corner of the world is great business for many people, and you might be one of them. Not loving this idea? What about manufacturing souvenirs for the other shops in the area to sell?
Every school has a sports team. Even middle and high schools. See if you can strike up a deal with the school to manufacture their merchandise and capitalize on the town’s school spirit. Of course, it would be proper to donate to the school or pay licensing fees so you’re contributing to the school as well.
Offer up tours of the local area to inform your guests of the rich history in your small town. You can team up with other local businesses to create experience packages like a wine tasting or tours of other businesses. If your town is particularly small, then walking tours might be doable. If your area is really old, then perhaps ghost tours might be a fun way to bring in some extra cash.
Seasonal Business Ideas
Many small communities are built around the industry that they primarily thrive on. One of these things is very often agriculture, but perhaps it is tourism. Below are some ideas you can use to make money when your small town is in season.
Farmer’s markets are a great way to inexpensively obtain retail space that has some foot-traffic. They usually pop up on weekends and provide a great environment to sell hand made items along with food products. If you don’t have a farmer’s market near you, why not try starting one? You may have just found your next market.
While this might be one of my more normal ideas on this list, I like the idea of selling locally grown flowers. If you have farms in your area that grow flowers then perhaps you can get a great deal by partnering up with them rather than buying from some of the regional wholesalers who buy from auction houses that sell flowers from all over the world. Ever wonder how the floral industry works? Check this out:
Produce Stand With A Twist
My sister lived in a small town that had a small building in front of a huge apple orchard. Every year, the locals and passers-by would wait for the stand to open. They served apple cider, fresh made apple juice, apple fritters, apple doughnuts and just about anything else you could make with apples. The owner of the building was not the owner of the orchard, he would buy the apples from the orchard each year. Not a bad way to make a local living.
I love this idea because my family frequents u-pick farms throughout the year. Basically, you grow the produce and let your customers pick it for you. They pay by the pound, you get a good price (sans labor costs) and the family gets a great price on the produce while spending some quality time together. Sounds like a win to me!
Those are my small town business ideas. If you want something a bit more futuristic, then check out my article on future business ideas.