How to Find the Best Small Business Opportunities

(Your first step to getting your very own ‘World’s Best Boss’ mug)
Written by Maggie Tiede
Written by Maggie Tiede

Maggie Tiede is a writer and blogger based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Maggie has worked as a freelance writer since 2013, when she began reporting on politics, local events, health, and human interest for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review.

Reviewed by Len Briskman
Reviewed by Len Briskman

Len Briskman is a small business mentor with decades of experience in retail, franchising and management.

Small business owner packing product in boxes, preparing it for delivery.

So you’re tired of taking orders and ready to be your own boss, huh? Awesome. But what kinda business do you want? Haven’t thought that far ahead yet? No problem, let’s see if we can’t help you narrow things down a bit and get you started off on the right foot.

We've teamed up with small business expert Len Briskman to put together this guide to finding the best small business opportunities for entrepreneurs.

What Is the Best Small Business to Start?

If there were only one good business idea that could make you rich quick, everyone would be doing it! That means a truly good small business idea is one where you have an edge. Something that’ll let you really stand out. It doesn’t have to be a  unique idea, but it does have to be one you’re fully qualified to make shine.

A good small business idea combines both your most passionate interests and  your most battle-tested experiences with a need that your customers have. It’s not enough to want to open a bookstore—your town needs to need a bookstore, or at least needs to need your bookstore.

Where to Find Customers

And where do you find all these customers? According to Briskman, the very best business ideas are ones where you’ll have ready-made customers. Are you a consultant or salesperson currently working for another business? If so, “There’s nothing wrong with stealing customers,” says Briskman. “It accelerates your success ratio.”

Establishing a good professional reputation and making lots of contacts while working a 9-to-5 job is a great first step toward starting your own business. You’ll learn the ins and outs of the biz and get a feel for the competition, all while drawing a steady paycheck. Most importantly, you can scope out the competition. 

“The customer is the most important element of your business."

Len Briskman

Your business needs to serve customers better than your competition does in order to succeed. You should also figure out how to market yourself and draw in new customers.

Lastly, a good business idea is one that results in a good work environment for you. Would you rather work at a desk or in the field? With a team of employees or alone? In a bustling kitchen or a pristine conference room?

Many people want to start a business because they’re unhappy with their current job, so be sure that the workplace you’re creating is one where you’ll actually enjoy coming in every day.


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What Business Ideas Are Profitable?

In short, the ones where there’s strong demand and not a lot of competition. More customers equal more profit. Unfortunately, it can take years to build up a steady customer base, says Briskman.

While you can’t magically create income or customer loyalty, you can control your expenses. Picking a business with low start-up costs over high ones boosts your chances of becoming profitable because you’ll have less debt to deal with before you’re in the green.

Here are examples of businesses with generally low start-up costs:

  • Consulting: Do you have a special skill set that other businesses, nonprofits or governments could use? New consulting businesses don’t require a fancy storefront or suite of employees. All you need are potential customers and an expert—you!
  • Freelance writing and design: Like consultants, freelance creatives just need sufficient skill, the tools of their trade, and an internet connection to thrive. Overhead is low and demand can be high: The more niche your experience, the better.
  • Resale with eBay, Poshmark and other online sites: Selling stuff online is old-school, but the business model ain’t broke yet. Depending on what you sell, snapping up inventory at thrift stores and yard sales is cheap, and you don’t need much more than inventory, time and postage to start selling.

So, What Business Ideas Are Less Profitable?

On the other hand, there are quite a few industries out there on the other side of the coin, with notoriously high start-up costs, like:

  • Real estate: There’s quite a bit of money in the world of real estate, but you have to put lots in to get what you may want back out. The up-front costs of buying property can be enormous. Whether you’re renting out or flipping, buying real estate also opens you up to the risk of natural disasters, market swings and more.
  • Restaurants: Briskman says that restaurants have some of the worst failure rates of any business type. That’s because expensive storefronts, staff and perishable inventory put businesses deep in the red right away. You’ll have an uphill battle right off the bat.

Now, starting a business with high start-up costs isn’t automatically a bad idea. It just means there’s a higher bar to reach to become profitable, so you need to take extra care in doing your research and writing your business plan.

Time to Open the Doors

Look, starting up your own business is no easy task. It takes a lot of grind, research and an enormous leap of faith. But hopefully we were able to give you some guidance toward the right path. 

Just remember, the best business to start is the one you’re qualified to start. Trendy markets and the latest tech are only profitable if you’re knowledgeable and passionate about them. So take some time discovering exactly what it is you love, weigh your options, and go get ‘em, boss.

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