15 Best Small Business Ideas: 2015 and Beyond

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

You can take a small business and turn it into money making enterprises if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and put some elbow grease behind it.  Many have low capital requirements and don’t demand expensive and time-consuming training. After exhaustive research, let’s explore the top 15 small low cost businesses for 2013 and beyond:

1. Auctioneer

Auctioneers whip people up to a frenzy so they buy trash they don’t need and pay way more than they should. Auctioneers can really make some serious cabbage but before you  jump into this bag you should check with your state government. You might need to be licensed or bonded. And you might consider going to auctioneer school. It only takes about a week and costs about $1,500. What I love about this business is it’s super easy to grow. You can:

  1. Run auctions at fairs and charity events.
  2. Turn a garage sale into an auction. This will make the seller (and you) more money.
  3. Run a school fundraising auction.
  4. Manage liquidation and closeout sales for commercial businesses.

Tip: Volunteer at a radio or television station to help on their pet charity auction. This will give you free advertising. “I have $1,500…do I hear $1,550?”


2. Chimney Sweep

Be honest – you loved the movie Mary Poppins as much as I did. I just loved seeing Burt and his pals dance up there on the rooftops of London. Well, now it’s your chance.

Step 1: Get Trained – The Chimney Safety Institute has regular training programs. Grab your broom and get going.

Step 2: Get Certified – At the end of your training, you must take a certification exam for chimney sweeps. The exam covers inspecting chimney systems, maintenance of residential heating appliances, sweeping the chimney and clearing out debris. Stop wasting time making those sidewalk drawings…study and pass the exam the Chimney Safety Institute gives and get to work, mate.

Step 3: Join The Club – Join the National Chimney Sweep Guild. This will allow you to attend trade shows, get updates on chimney codes and receive discounts on insurance you’ll need to run your business. You’ll also be registered in the database. This way, Mr. Banks and other customers can find and hire you.

Step 4: Hang Out Your Shingle (Get It?) – Start your own chimney sweep business or go to work for an established company. Build your customer base by advertising. Do you know the last time anyone ever sent me a letter suggesting I have my chimney cleaned? Never. If you send me such a letter, you’ll have your first customer.


3. Garage Sale Organizer

If you love garage sales, why not share the love? Organize and run other people’s sales. Start by deciding how you are going to get paid and be clear on your value proposition. You are going to get clients who don’t want the hassle of running the garage sale, who don’t know how to set prices and don’t want to arrange their junk. Capitalize on these three issues as selling points.

Tell your customer that you’ll take care of everything, including advertising, in exchange for 50% of the proceeds. Explain to the seller they’ll make more because:

  • You know how to sell at top prices
  • You are an expert negotiator
  • You’ll save them time

I’d start this business just like the chimney sweep business. Make and distribute a flier in your neighborhood stressing the payoff to the people who take you up on your offer. Oh, and if you ever come across an old G.I. Joe action figure for sale, give me a call. I want it.


4. Duct Cleaning Business

Pollution is a hot topic these days. Cash in by cleaning up. If you have a home heating system, you have ducts. Over time, those ducts get dirty. If you don’t clean them, you breathe that dirt all day long. Disgusting.

To get into this business, you’ll need some equipment. Ducts are cleaned by vacuum. You’ll use either a truck-mounted one or a portable one. But don’t worry about cleaning out your bank account in order to get into this business. You can always lease the vacuums. If you want to buy the equipment instead make sure you have enough working capital.  It can be pricey.

In order to close lots of sales, buy a video inspection camera. Offer to do a free inspection and show all of the dust, dirt and mold in a duct. You’ll have clients lined up like “ducts” in a row.


5. Window Washer

Most people hate cleaning windows, and people who say they don’t are liars. Take advantage of that by taking the job off our hands. You don’t need too much equipment or training. The key here is service.

  • Show up when you say you will
  • Dress nicely to stand out and be noticed
  • Be courteous and polite
  • Offer same-day service

Market your excellent service by fliers and talking to business owners.


6. Bookkeeper

There are two kinds of bookkeepers:

  1. Really bad ones who don’t know what they are doing and don’t even show up when they are supposed to
  2. Really bad ones who don’t know what they are doing but show up sometimes

Take advantage of this and people’s mortal fear of math. Most people don’t do their own books and many small business owners overlook this vital task as well. As a result, it costs them plenty and they know it. They are dying for you to take this burden off their hands if you can provide excellent service. To be successful, independent bookkeepers need to be thorough, dependable and accurate as well as skilled in using accounting and sometime spreadsheet software. You must enjoy paying attention to details. Honesty and integrity are also crucial.

Master “QuickBooks” – it’s the number one business accounting program in use. It’s not that tough to learn and once you do, you’ll have a skill that’s in huge demand. Here’s a QuickBooks 20% off coupon to get you started.


7. Virtual Assistant

If you are detail oriented, thorough, professional and honest but don’t like bookkeeping, become a virtual assistant. Let me tell you a secret. I’ve had a virtual assistant for over nine years. Hiring her was one of the best business decisions I ever made. It also works great for her. Virtual assistants don’t need to travel to work or buy work clothes. Heck…you can even work in your jammies.

You’ll put in lots of hours while you’re ramping up, but you’ll be building your business as an independent contractor. It’s worth it and you’ll work remotely and use technology to deliver services to clients. You can deliver just about any kind of service – no matter how specialized your expertise is. Clients hire virtual assistants to save money. The VA pays for their own equipment, taxes, training, health care and insurance because they usually qualify as independent contractors. Another reason employers need virtual assistants is because they might need help with a temporary project.

Here’s how you can start:

  • Decide just what service you want to offer
  • Determine how much time you are willing to commit to this job
  • Find out where the demand is for the service you want to provide
  • Prepare a marketing plan (how you are going to reach your customers)
  • Get set up correctly (from a legal/tax standpoint)
  • Start marketing


8. Dog Walking/Pet Business

I personally wouldn’t do this but if you love dogs and need some extra biscuits…why not? While I’m sure you’ve seen this idea before, keep in mind that the key here is to deliver lots more value than your clients expect. Return their canine with a bow on its pretty little head. Learn how to clip nails and offer it as an extra service. Give the pups a toy. Something…anything…that demonstrates you care about the dogs.

If you do this, your business will grow and you won’t be barking up the wrong tree. (I know you got that one…)


9. Scrapbooking

Here’s another one I wouldn’t do but if you love scrapbooking, you might have a winner here. It’s currently a $3 billion-a-year industry, so somebody is cashing in. As we age, more people will want to scrapbook…and you can help them. Either create original scrapbooks or consult for people who want to get involved.


10. Senior Care

Facts are facts. We’re all getting older. There is and will be ever-increasing demand to help seniors. You can open your own senior care home or provide in-home care. This is a job that must really speak to you. Do it only if you love working with seniors.


11. Senior Renovations

A variation on the theme presented above is home renovations. Focus on doing work to make seniors more comfortable in their homes. Ramps and safety equipment are just the beginning. These people have the money and the need. All they need is for you to come along and provide the services they need.


12. Social Media Marketing / Management

I’m not going to make any bones about it. I read everything I could find on social media and spent countless hours trying to understand how to build a presence for my blog before I got any clarity. Won’t you help me and my friends save this time and frustration? If you know how this works…let us know. We’ll hire you…believe me.

I believe that the way to get the word out there is write lots of guest posts on established blogs and write them in clear English. Don’t assume we know about links, SEO, plugins or CTR. Before long, you’ll have more business than you know what to do with.

13. Shoe Repair

There is only one shoe repair shop in my town – or in the surrounding 5 towns.  The guy working there wreaks of cheap cigar smell and I feel like I am at risk of getting emphysema every time I step foot in his store.  He works limited hours, he charges a fortune and it takes forever to get my shoes back.  This smells like opportunity to me.

Read a few articles on the net and buy a book or two and you’ll know everything you need to know shortly.  The equipment won’t cost that much and you can advertise by printing up flyers explaining how inexpensive and cost-effective it is to repair rather than replace shoes.  Before you put your heart and “sole” into this, check with your local government to make sure you have the right permits and licenses.

Why Are These the Best Business Ideas For People With Limited Capital?

These are all great opportunities because they won’t cost you a fortune to start and because they all have huge demand. Most of these can also start as part time jobs or weekend careers. Also, very few people can compete with you if you focus on your customer and deliver exceptional service. All these services exist – they aren’t new. But so what? These are still great ideas for small business.

When I started my business 25 years ago, I wasn’t the first or only financial planner. I knew this, so I tried to be the best financial planner I could be. I tried to focus on my clients and deliver the kind of services I’d want if I were a client. That’s why I’ve been blessed with a thriving business. You can apply this concept to your new business.

To summarize:

  • Look for some core skill, ability or interest you have inside you
  • Determine who your customer is and what she wants
  • Be clear on how to provide more than what your customer expects
  • Determine your pricing structure
  • Communicate your benefits to your prospective customers and market

Have I missed anything? What are some other great business ideas you’ve identified?


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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Leslie April 26, 2014 at 12:55 PM

Hey guys,
I am a stay at home single mom and searched for a long time for a way to stay at home with my kids. After me and my kids almost got killed driving to a job that hardly paid my bills I set out to find a way to work from home and have the control of my life I was looking for. For the past few years I have spent a lot of money looking for that opportunity and am blessed and grateful that I not only found one that worked for me…! Now I am living a lifestyle I never imagined and can be there for my kids every time they need me.


Neal Frankle, CFP ® April 26, 2014 at 1:15 PM

Sounds good Leslie. What kind of business are you involved with?


David Offutt July 9, 2013 at 4:00 PM

I have clients in many of these “jobs”. if you are considering one of these endeavors — you may want to consider the cost to have insurance in place when you start. Some carriers are wary of someone who buys insurance later after running the business for some time without. The issue could be insuring a company who is only buying coverage due to specific lawsuit.


Troy May 26, 2013 at 3:56 AM

I’m thinking of building an internet business as a side business to my investing.


J.K. January 6, 2013 at 6:29 PM

you are right at putting auctioner at the top .where I live there are some auctioners that make big money .


Timothy Mobley November 30, 2012 at 10:39 PM

This is a great post! Very well summarized and I agree it is not about being the first or the only one, it’s about giving your 110%.


Mc October 31, 2012 at 11:42 PM

Can some one do only part time,like one day a week!
I was wondering.


Christine July 22, 2012 at 12:36 PM

I would add “online freelance writer” to your list. The Internet is huge, and most of the content on most websites are written. Therefore, the need for writers, especially those who understand SEO (search engine optimization) is great. The only problem is finding good paying clients. You wouldn’t believe how little some clients want to pay writers!


Tom January 26, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Believe it or not, being a dog walker is a big business in my area. I don’t know if you can make a full time living doing it but I bet you can make some good money.

Just my 2¢…


Craig Ford March 15, 2010 at 4:37 AM

I once hear to have a good business you need do something cheaper, do something better, or do something in a way that makes life easier for people. I always thought it was about coming up with a unique business plan. I think your right – what is right in front of you has great business potential.


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