Best Business Ideas to Start in a Small Town

Tony Wright

Editor At Large

These are best and most profitable small town businesses that can succeed just about anywhere!

October 22, 2022

If you don’t have millions of people in your small town, you MUST follow the golden-rule of small-town business success. See it below, after the list of small town business ideas.

Good Small Town Business Ideas

Meal Prep business

Literally everyone eats food, and most people want to eat more healthy food than they eat now, AND people typically are willing to spend more money on convenience. This makes starting a meal prep business a solid idea for a small town.

Car detailing business

Starting a car detailing business that serves a small town can give you a great income. Rather than having to drive to a larger town, your customers will appreciate that you’re local, and you can come to them regularly. 

Bookkeeping business

If there are enough small businesses in your town, starting a bookkeeping business could fill a need that isn’t being met. Most business owners like to have face-to-face interactions with their bookkeeper, and if you’re the only local bookkeeper who can do this, you’ll automatically win new business just by being local and available in your area.

Lawn care business

Starting a lawn care business can be a good idea in many small towns. Depending on your climate, you might combine lawn care with gardening, junk removal, snow removal, and other similar services including landscaping. The lawn care business probably has the lowest entry cost of any business you could start. And in most areas there are far more customers than service providers, making it a good bet. 

Home services business

Any type of business where you’re helping your customers to either maintain or improve their home is usually a good idea for a small town business. A few examples of these types of businesses can include carpet cleaning, painting, pressure washing, handyman business, etc. In most cases, your customer value will be quite high, and you can expect repeat work and referrals if you’re delivering a high quality service. And repeat work and referrals are exactly what you need in a small town.

Hair salon or barber shop

One of the non-negotiables in life is having a haircut. Everyone, in every small town right across the world, still needs to have their hair cut. Providing a friendly local option rather than having to drive far will be a welcome addition to most small towns. The startup options can range from a cheap and fast haircut shop, to a mid or high end salon, providing a full range of services for both men and women.

Nail salon

Women who visit a nail salon usually do so once every two or three weeks, meaning they’re likely to spend at least $1,000 or more each year having their nails done. A local nail salon doesn’t need a huge market – just a few hundred regular clients, coming back month after can be enough to have a very profitable nail salon business.

Cleaning and janitorial service

Starting a cleaning and janitorial service can be a very low-cost way to start a business in a small town. Even an area with just a few thousand homes should provide you with a large enough customer base that you can make a good income from your business. Including a janitorial service to provide commercial cleaning services to a wider area can multiply your income even more. 


As pointed out above in the meal prep section, literally everyone needs to eat. And we don’t always want to eat at home, so we go to restaurants. A local restaurant can become the heart of any small town or rural area, so starting a restaurant can be a good option for an area with an under-served community. 

Clothing shop

People buy clothes regularly, so a business selling clothes is guaranteed to have some customers. In a very small town, you might need to add additional services like clothing alterations and dry cleaning to earn more income than you would from just selling clothes. 

Event planning

Planning events for the community is a job that someone needs to do. This could include weddings, corporate events, or small town get-togethers.   

The small-town business Golden Rule

There is one rule that you CANNOT break if you’re starting a business in a small town – your business MUST be the type of business where customers spend money with you regularly, rather than once-off or infrequently. 

A good small town business idea is something where you have customers who spend $10-$100+ with you in each transaction, and they come back over and over again. 

The less they spend, the more often they’ll need to come back to make your business a success. If you’re starting a coffee shop, for example, you’ll need to have the same customers come back several times each week to make your business successful. 

A nail salon, however, will have customers who spend more in each transaction, but come back only once or twice each month.

An example of a bad idea for a small town business, because of infrequent spending, would be a photography business that does school portraits.  

Your customers are going to spend money with you once a year, at most. And you’ve probably only got a few schools in your area. To make a business like this profitable, you need a much larger market

How to know if your small town business idea can be profitable

Here’s a simple exercise you can do to figure out if your town is large enough to support your business idea. 

Step 1) Figure out what your top-line revenue needs to be in order to make your business viable, and to provide you the income you need. 

Step 2) Take that amount, and divide it by the number of people in your market area. This will give you the average amount that each and every person in that area will need to spend with you each year to bring in enough money

Step 3) Ask yourself – is that a fair number? Could it happen? If people in your market earn $40k a year on average, and you want them to spend $500 a year with you on average, then that seems fair. But if your target market earns $20k a year on average, and you need $2k a year from each of them on average, then your business might not work out the way you need it to.

Remember that you’ll never have 100% of the market as your customer. If you start a business like a restaurant or coffee shop, you could expect to have most people spend a little money with you at some point over the year. But if you’re starting something like a carpet cleaning business, you might only get 10-20% of people in that area to be your customer eventually, over time.

Small town vs big town business

The key difference between running a profitable business in a small town and a large town boils down to one thing: discretionary vs non discretionary spending. 

In a large market area, you can start just about any type of business, and find enough customers to make a good income. 

In a small town, your best bet is to start a business involving something that people area already spending money on. 

That way, you don’t need to try to introduce something ‘new’, you’re just giving them a better local option for something they’re already doing. 

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