Only those with money, special skills and a lot of luck can start a successful business, right?
The fact is there are myriad enterprises waiting to be hatched that don’t require gobs of capital and fancy degrees. We’re not talking about the next Google, Microsoft, or General Electric here, but tidy, profit-generating outfits all the same. Better yet, you get to bust down those cubicle walls and be your own boss.
To canvass for ideas, we teamed up with Adams Business (a unit of F+W Media), publisher of The Start Your Own Business Bible, released this month. The book contains 501 “new ventures you can launch today,” each with its own breakdown—including the startup funding required (as little as $500 in some cases), an overview of the product or service, the typical fee structure, initial equipment needed, hidden costs, operational tips and more—to give budding entrepreneurs an idea of what they’re getting into.
Here are 20 of the more compelling, easy-to-start businesses, spanning a range of industries, customer segments and initial funding needs. Some are quirkier than others, and all are within reach for those with a healthy supply of common sense and determination. And, yes, luck always helps.
These Businesses Require Between $5,000 and $15,000 In Startup Costs
Description: With the unemployment rate at 9.1%, you’ll find a wide market of people clamoring for a leg up. Give it to them by organizing a series of small after-work mixers at a local hotel and advertise them on a regular basis. Supply a few light refreshments and a speaker, and then let people mingle.
Fees: admission fee. Offer discounts to those who leave their business cards so you can build a mailing list.
Tools of the Trade: Phone, computer, database software.
Tip: Works well in a metropolitan area where you can hold multiple mixers a month in different locations.
Hidden Costs: List rental fees and insurance.
Online Internet Researcher
Description: You’re surfing the Web daily. Why not get paid for it?
Fees: $45 per hour to start. Increase your hourly rate as you develop your reputation.
Tools of the Trade: Computer and high-speed internet access.
Tip: Focus one or two types of information so that you can get deliver meaningful results quickly.
Hidden Costs: Initial marketing efforts.
Description: Call on the property owner and get to scrubbing.
Fees: $150-$300 per job. For longer jobs, $50 per hour is reasonable.
Tools of the Trade: cleaning chemicals, scrub brushes and possibly a power washer.
Tip: You’re working with nasty chemicals, so be careful. Abide by federal disposal regulations.
Hidden costs: A vehicle for transporting equipment to job sites.
Description: Have strong organizational and time-management skills? You could make decent money doing everything from making customer/patient contacts to coordinating travel arrangements to maintaining databases.
Fees: $20-$35 per hour or on a project basis.
Tools of the Trade: Computer, high-speed internet access, fax/printer/scanner, and office software.
Tip: Make your schedule parameters clear from the outset and keep careful records of your time, just in case any questions should arise about how you’re spending it.
Hidden Costs: Phone expenses.
Patient Gift Packager
Description: This is a slightly more specialized version of the gift basket business. Build your market by pinpointing hospitals, extended care facilities and church groups.
Fees: $25-$75 a basket.
Tools of the Trade: Decorative baskets, boxes, glue gun, shrink wrap machine, filling, ribbons. As for the basket contents, look for a private craft retailer that sells only to other vendors–you could save 40% relative to a traditional retail craft supply shop.
Tip: If you have a station wagon or van you can add a delivery fee to your orders and generate additional revenue.
Hidden Costs: Insurance and a vendor’s license.
Auto Swap Meet Promotion
Description: Auto swap meets are where buyers and sellers gather to buy, sell and/or trade used vehicles and parts. As a promoter, you’ll secure a parking lot or large warehouse for those seeking to trade or sell their cars and car parts.
Fees: $35 for participants; $5 admission fee for browsers.
Tools of the Trade: parking lot or warehouse.
Tip: Work the Web to get the word out.
Hidden Costs: Liability insurance.
Description: Begin with a personality assessment and then work with your client to match his or her motivations and interests to a new career.
Fees: $85 to $200 per hour for your services; flat fee, roughly $350 per session.
Tools of the Trade: Computer, high-speed internet access, fax/printer, and office software. Books and DVDs on career planning.
Tip: Build your credibility by offering seminars on career change and writing a career-centric blog.
Hidden Costs: Building a professional website.
Description: This a $50 billion industry and growing. Transcribed copies of dictated notes related to examinations and procedures give doctors a quick way to review of patient histories, as well as legal evidence of patient care/. Main customers: private-practice physicians.
Fees: $15-$30 per hour, depending on the difficulty of understanding the speaker.
Tools of the Trade: Computer, specialized medical word-processing software, transcribing unit and reference books.
Tip: Turnaround time is critical–and that may mean working nights and weekends.
Hidden Costs: There is no room for error–a simple misspelling could mean the difference between life and death.
These Businesses Require Between $15,000 and $40,000 In Startup Costs
Child ID Products
Description: A small but viable retail niche. The equipment helps identify children by their facial features, voice and fingerprints. Buyers include organizations across the country that provide regular child ID programs.
Fees: Depends on the item.
Tools of the Trade: Inventory includes video, 35mm and digital cameras, fingerprinting equipment, background information forms. You’ll need a web site and a way to process payment.
Tip: Marketing these products can be tricky, given the darkness of the underlying message. Focus on success stories showing how your products saved the day.
Hidden costs: Insurance, equipment storage and shipping costs.
Mobile Paper-Shredding Service
Description: Given the number of identity theft horror stories, it is vital for companies to shred all documents containing sensitive information. You can save a business time and trouble by showing up on-site with your shredding machines on a regular schedule to perform this necessary but tedious task.
Fees: $50 to $100 per visit.
Tools of the Trade: A van or truck, at least one heavy-duty shredder and a back up machine, and a good supply of heavy-duty plastic bags to cart away the shards.
Tip: Strike terror into customers by offering scary examples of what happens when the sensitive documents get into the wrong hands.
Hidden Costs: Vehicle maintenance and repair.
Pet Taxi Service
Description: What does Fido do when he has to go to the vet and his best friend can’t take him? This business caters to dual-career families and pet lovers with higher than average incomes.
Fees: $30-$45 for one-way transportation (fees vary based on distance traveled, pet size and number of pets per owner).
Tools of the Trade: Travel cages and a vehicle large enough to accommodate several animals at once.
Tip: You better love animals.
Hidden Costs: Janitorial supplies to combat pet messes.
Residence for the Elderly
Description: Opening your own home to older people who do not wish to live alone can be a profitable business if they don’t require the level of care offered by either assisted living facilities or nursing homes. (Each state licensing agency has its own definition of the term it uses to describe assisted living.)
Fees: Monthly rent of $450-$1,000 per client, depending on facilities and geographic location.
Tools of the Trade: One or more easily accessible bedrooms, suitable furniture, bathroom with special handrails, dining space, efficient kitchen.
Tip: Check local zoning regulations before spending a dime.
Hidden costs: Insurance, food (many residents may have special dietary requirements), home alterations.
Description: Place nannies with families that hire your service.
Fees: $7-$18 per hour per child, or weekly/monthly rates of $275/$800.
Tools of the Trade: Office set-up and advertising materials.
Tip: Target large metropolitan areas where dual-income couples are most likely to reside.
Hidden Costs: Liability insurance and personnel costs such as health benefits and workers’ compensation.
Health/Fitness Centers for Corporations
Description: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that one third of America is obese. By centralizing purchasing, marketing and other business activities, you can develop and manage fitness centers for corporations at a competitive price–and save them and the health care system loads of money.
Fees: Monthly retainers of $3,000 to $5,000 per project.
Tools of the Trade: Even if your client corporation provides the space, equipment will run up a sizable tab.
Tip: Hire competent, friendly trainers to run each facility.
Hidden Costs: Insurance, equipment maintenance.
These Business Require Over $40,000 In Startup Costs
Mailbox Rental Service
Description: Home-based businesses in particular benefit from this service, largely because they need to establish a professional-sounding address.
Fees: $18 and up per month, depending on the size of the box.
Tools of the Trade: Mailboxes, scales, parcel packaging equipment, cash register, inventory of labels and shipping supplies. Consider a pay-per-copy photocopy machine.
Tip: Situate your service in a busy shopping complex.
Hidden Costs: A good security system.
Temporary Employment Agency
Description: People need work, even the temporary variety. Your job is to match temps to the right assignments while ensuring that all are trained and able to work on short notice.
Fees: Varies depending on the position.
Tools of the Trade: Four to six computers with printers for testing purposes, as well as an office computer with internet access and scheduling/billing software.
Tip: Focus on a market niche like health care, communications, or technical/engineering. Build a brand in a specific area and clients will keep coming back.
Hidden Costs: A comprehensive employee benefits plan.
Description: Self explanatory.
Fees: $35-$50 per delivery (add a surcharge for speedier runs).
Tools of the Trade: Fleet of delivery vehicles or bicycles.
Tip: Consider paying bonuses to your swiftest employees.
Hidden Costs: Medical bills (this is a high-risk profession, particularly for bicyclists in large metropolitan areas).
Pinball/Electronic Game Arcade
Description: You don’t even necessarily need a storefront of your own because many shopping malls rent out floor space precisely for games like these.
Fees: 50 cents to $1 per play.
Tools of the Trade: Pinball/electronic games and a token or change machine.
Tip: Buy used equipment if you can, as long as its not too behind-the-times..
Hidden Costs: Maintenance.
Description: Buy used clothing and other products, clean them up, and resell them in a fun, inviting setting.
Fees: Depends on the item.
Tools of the Trade: retail space, shelves, display cases credit card processing equipment, cash register. And probably a Web site, too.
Tip: Bargain hunters like to hunt, so don’t be afraid to situate your shop near your competitors.
Description: Everything from burgers to signage.
Hidden Costs: Expect to incur some legal costs to examine the contracts.
Article by Sean Stonefield of Forbes