You live in a small town – maybe even a township or a hamlet – that doesn’t support a chain store, a franchise, or any kind of big venture. After all, there aren’t enough people to support a large endeavor, and there isn’t enough money to support a franchise. There’s also a shortage of real estate, and possibly land, unless you’re planning on getting your own land rezoned and building from the ground up, which can be expensive. What’s a small business owner to do?
Not to worry – this doesn’t mean that you have to relocate to a bigger city to realize your dream of owning your own business.
Rural businesses are on the rise, and while new business owners in rural towns aren’t taking on franchises, they are instead tapping into their entrepreneurial sides, exploring different options and new way of doing things. All it takes is a vision, some ingenuity, some creativity, and a little bit of elbow grease to get started.
First, take a look at your town. What’s missing? How many people live there? What do they need? Talk to them.
What do people leave town to buy, or what service do they say is missing? What would make the people’s lives easier?
Once you’ve figured that out, check out our list of great small business ideas with a good chance of succeeding in a small town:
1. Join or Set up a Multi-Purpose
If you can’t afford the rent for office or storefront space on your own, consider joining up with one, or several other retailers to share the rent – and the customers. This could work in your favor in another way as well – customers may be more likely to visit if they know there are several businesses at their destination rather than just one. If they can have a snack and do their groceries at the same time, it’s worth the trip, right?
A common example of this is a boutique store, where several artisans display and sell their handmade goods so that one store carries several brands.
2. Pop-up Shops are all the Rage
You may have heard of pop-up shops – temporary shops that open up in temporary locations – which can last from a few hours to several months.
This is a trendy store idea that got their start in the big city, when craftsmen, home cooks, and indie entrepreneurs wanted a temporary venue to sell. Locations can be anywhere from a school, park, mall grounds, or the local art gallery.
In most cases, all you have to do is get permission from the land or building owner, set up your shop, and bring your goods in along with a big sign. After that, it’s just a matter of selling your stocks. Play music, sing a jingle, or offer a free sample, sometimes you need to get creative to grab people’s attention.
Pop-up shops provide small business owners a simple way to test the demand for their idea.
Examples: Farmyard Darlings, a specialty collectible pop-up shop for vintage and country collectibles turned full-fledged retail store. Another example is the pop-up shop HND students set up at Birmingham City University.
3. Keep on Truckin’
Talk about food-to-go – the food truck industry has been hot for years, traditionally selling fast foods like burgers, hot dogs, fries, and coffee. But lately foodies are finding their favorites on board, like sushi, tacos, burrito, churros, and even pancakes.
Trucks are easy to care for, and easy to relocate if the owner finds that one location isn’t working out. Is the weather bad? It’s easy to close up shop, too. Food trucks can make a lot of money at summer festivals, town events, and outside office buildings.
Example: Who knew a food truck selling Crème Brulée would be such a hit in Australia? Well, it is and The Brulee Cart is rapidly building a huge fan base wherever they go.
4. It Takes a Village
Little business villages are a shopping destination, where a single store is less likely to get people to stop and browse but a collection of them is sure to attract even the most hurried traveler. Shopping villages are often quirky, small, and located in historic areas or old downtown areas.
Souvenir shops, family-owned wineries, organic farmers selling produce, and other specialty stores are perfect for tiny business villages.
5. Set up an Online Store
Who says your customer should be limited to the folks in your neighborhood? With an internet connection, you can easily set-up can online store to help you reach more customers. Choose from tons of delivery and fulfilment companies to ship your products, so you don’t have to worry about logistics. You can even set-up a subscription box that includes a wide variety of your products.
Online stores are perfect for brick-and-mortar businesses that don’t deal in fragile or perishable goods. If you sell food, seasonings, wine, or other ingredients, just choose a delivery method that ensures your products get to the buyer well before it spoils.
Example: Taylor Stitch, a clothing store specializing in well-fitting day to night clothes, has two retail stores in San Francisco. But they also accept online orders from in and out of the U.S.
Remember, a standalone store isn’t your only option. Go explore other options possible given your location and business, or try one of the ideas here.