10 businesses you can start for $1,000 or less


Mighty oaks from little acorns grow. – Traditional English proverb.

I’m willing to wager that many of you reading this have a regular routine of stopping by your favorite local barista each day to pick up a flavorful coffee drink. If that’s you, according to one estimate I saw recently, you’re spending some $800 a year to support your habit.

So, finding $1,000 to start a business shouldn’t be a major hurdle for many of us. However, what are the best businesses to start for $1,000? That’s probably the most important question.

You may want your $1,000 business to be a part-time endeavor at first, and in today’s lingo, that’s being called a “side hustle,” or you may want to go “all in” and work hard to turn your $1,000 investment into an income that can fully support your lifestyle.

In any case, here are today’s top picks in businesses you can start for $1,000.

  1. Event or wedding planner. This can be a high-stress business, but if you like a challenge, it has a lot of potential for growth. Further, many people can start out by planning events or weddings for friends and families. If you’re good, word-of-mouth advertising will spur growth.
  2. Assistant. There are a variety of “assistant” businesses today, including personal assistant, personal shopper, and virtual assistant. Where you live, your contacts, your talents, and your level of online smarts, would tend to push you in one direction or another. For example, if you live in an affluent area, you might find one or two individuals looking for a full or part-time personal assistant. If you have a talent for shopping, that would send you in another direction.
  3. In-home sales. There are a variety of franchises or direct sales opportunities available for $1,000 or less. These often involve sales similar to the classic Tupperware home sales model. If you’re outgoing and not afraid to work hard, you can be successful with one of these kinds of businesses. Holly Reisem Hanna reviewed some of the best products to sell from home in this article over at “The Work at Home Woman.”
  4. Personal trainer. I don’t see our interest in fitness waning anytime soon, so if you’ve acquired some skills and knowledge, consider starting your own personal training business. Think about an angle that would differentiate yourself from other trainers and give you a more clearly defined niche you could market to.
  5. Chef or caterer. Do people rave about your cooking? If they do, then maybe it’s time to take your talents to the marketplace as either a personal chef or a professional caterer. If you prefer catering, start with a small menu of the items you do best; don’t try to do too much too soon.
  6. Coach. We are big consumers of personal and professional improvement and the market is growing even more. With some knowledge, experience, and training (and marketing) you could be a life coach, career coach, or a “daily money manager.”
  7. Makeup artist. This is a natural side hustle for employed hairdressers, but it’s certainly not limited to that group. I know some women who make good money helping women at night clubs keep their makeup and hair looking their best!
  8. Tutor. The demand for tutors is very high. Parents of children struggling in school are looking for good tutors. Parents of children doing well but aiming to get into one of our top-tier universities are also looking for good tutors. Tutors in every subject area from basic phonics to advanced calculus are in demand.
  9. Dog walker. Personal observation tells me that Millennials are having children a bit later in life and in the meantime, filling out their families with beloved dogs (and cats). As busy professionals, they need folks to care for these critters and take their dogs out for exercise throughout the week.
  10. Lyft or Uber driver. I’ve been hearing a commercial for Lyft drivers claiming that they can make as much as $1,500 per week. I suspect that requires a lot of hours behind the wheel and driving in a major metropolitan area, but nonetheless people are using these gigs for fulltime income and as side hustles. The downside is that it can’t be scaled.

Let me make one observation before I leave you alone with these 10 $1,000 business ideas. There’s an important implication to understand whenever startup costs are low: You – your energy, your personality, your knowledge, and your attitude – are personally providing most of the “capital” required for success.

Therefore, when you’re starting out, it’s more important to accurately measure your desires and abilities than it is to measure the balance in your bank account.