Small business ideas with staying power


If you’ve been pondering small business ideas, you’ve probably asked yourself, “What’s the long-term outlook for that business?”

That is, of course, the $64,000-question.

In this curated lineup of small business ideas, I’ve approached that question from two angles:

  • Businesses that never go out of style, and
  • Businesses that fit the tastes and habits of Millennials.

You might question my second criteria, and I hear you. But, Millennials are a huge demographic and a demographic largely shaped by the Internet and today’s economics – neither of which I see changing radically in the foreseeable future; in fact, I think they’ll be exactly like they are today, except “even more so.”

And what is very interesting, is that there are a few areas where Millennial tastes and enduring businesses merge, and that’s where I’ll start.

craft-beer-1268652_640Liquor industry. Let’s face it, if Elliot Ness and an amendment to the U.S. Constitution couldn’t kill the liquor industry, it will always be a going concern. There are, of course, many ways to tap into this commerce. If you want to give a nod to Millennials, consider the burgeoning world of craft alcoholic beverages. Craft beers are huge and various craft hard liquors are getting into the picture as well. According to Beverage Industry magazine, Millennials are driving the growth of premium spirits.

Further, it’s just not in the U.S. Announcing the release of a new study, Research and Markets says “valuable opportunities exist in the global alcoholic beverage industry, due to impressive trends in demand quantity and growth, based on the various markets.” With new international trade deals, this could present opportunities for new businesses.

As you consider possible small business ideas in this sector, you don’t necessarily have to start a brewery or distillery. Tasting rooms, refill stations, and other strategies should work quite well and startup costs can be fairly modest.

woman-1210061_640Tattoos and Piercings. You need the proper training, of course, but in terms of startup costs, opening a tattoo parlor can be very reasonable. Location and local competition is critical in an endeavor like this. Anytime the barriers to entry are low, you can be sure that you’ll have quite a few competitors. Your most important decision may be the first one you make: where you’ll rent space.

You’ll want to become a pro with the Size Up tool available on the Small Business Administration website before you choose a location for your tattoo parlor. That way you can see how saturated various areas are, as well as get a feel for revenue estimates. Also, be sure your location has a high density of Millennials.

exercise-1581583_640Athleisure wear. I’m not sure who coined this term, but we all know what it is. When you see folks – often Millennials, but not always – around town in their yoga pants or other (seemingly) workout clothes, they are decked out in athleisure wear. Between 2016 and 2020, this segment of the fashion industry is set to grow by 30 percent.

The major players are in the picture, but smaller brands can carve out a niche for themselves and be very competitive. Yoga instructor Jamie Hanna started her Zobha label in 2008 and now it’s sold around the world. If you’re into exercising, I bet there are things that bug you about the clothing; others probably have the same complaints. Solve the problem. Market the solution.

salsa-669389_640Specialty food stores. This small business idea can cater across generations. With Millennials you might want to put the accent on “grab-and-go.” Quality food, such as organic produce and tasty prepared foods, will appeal to a big group of buyers.

One key here is to avoid growing too fast. For example, we saw at least one cupcake chain go bankrupt because it spread its icing too fast. However, many local cupcake shops are still doing fine and Shark Tanker Wicked Good Cupcakes is doing well selling cupcake jars via the Internet.

Another area to explore is hyper-tasty and spicy food. Millennials have a taste for hot sauces. I’ve seen some Internet specialty shop spring up around this theme, and if you have a great family recipe for a hot sauce, you might try marketing it online.

Accountant. Okay, running your own accounting business may not be as exciting as developing and labeling your own hot sauce, but it’s one of those small business ideas that will always be with us.

No matter who’s in the White House, or which party controls either house of Congress, I don’t see a great lessening of regulatory compliance or tax reporting requirements, so I think there will always be a strong demand for good accountants and tax preparers.

car-1562723_640Repair services. We are keeping major appliances, cars, and other big-ticket items longer than we used to. Have you noticed that new car dealers are now financing vehicles for 6 years? I remember when 36 months was pretty standard. This is creating an increased demand for repair professionals.

Further, we know that Millennials are more interested in “experiences” than “things,” so I don’t see them running out every year to lease or buy a new vehicle. I think they’ll nurse their vehicles, appliances, and major items like HVACs for as long as possible.

These small business ideas should spark your imagination. Try to see which idea would best suit your community. And, by the way, if you’re looking for more small business ideas that you can do from home, check out this list of 80.