The Best Small Business Opportunities

This list features the best small business (or even micro business) opportunities are chosen for having low barriers to entry—you will not need 10 million dollars or a PhD in biotechnology to start any of the businesses in the list. Some of them do require startup capital but most just require what every startup business requires—dedication, hard work, perseverance, and a desire to succeed.

Keep in mind that most small businesses don't generate great riches for their owners, but that's not why you want to start one of your own anyway, is it? For most small business owners, being your own boss and calling the shots makes starting a business very rewarding in itself. And many of these ideas have the potential to generate steady income even in uncertain economic times.

If 2016 is the year you decide to take the plunge and start your own business, here are some ideas that have potential based on current trends in business and demographics. Remember also that good business ideas are all around you.

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Gluten-Free Products

Image (c) Dave Mcleod

Gluten-free foods continue to be hot (pun intended). Sales of gluten-free products grew 34% year-over-year from 2010 to 2014, and total sales are expected to reach $2.34 billion in the U.S. by 2019, according to a Packaged Facts report authored by Howard Waxman.

Right now, avoiding wheat and gluten is not only something sufferers of celiac disease do but something almost everyone seems to want to do. National chain restaurants are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon—Pizza Hut has recently debuted its first gluten-free crusted pizza.

But there is plenty of opportunity for local restaurants and bakeries that are actually safe to eat in for celiacs and serve real, tasty food—and especially places that serve hard-to-find fresh items such as soups, sandwiches, and bread.

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Senior's Care: Aging in Place

Image (c) Dave Mcleod

If it seems like catering to seniors is a perennial best small business opportunity consider the following statistics: according to Canadian Census data, by 2031 the proportion of seniors in the population in Canada will reach 23%, as compared with 15% in 2011. The situation is similar in the United States—75 million Americans were born in the years between 1946 and 1964 (the so called baby-boomer generation) and are now retiring or headed for retirement.  

Given the relative affluence of the baby-boomer generation, this creates a wealth of opportunities for senior-oriented businesses. And when you're considering what kind of business to start, keep in mind that according to research by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) nearly 90% of seniors wish to continue to live independently by staying in their own homes and communities.

There are many different types of businesses that can take advantage of this growing market, including driving and delivery services, catering, cleaning, and landscaping. There are also various senior care franchise opportunities available if you prefer not to develop a business from scratch. Pet sitting for seniors who travel, and dog walking for those who are unable to exercise their dogs are other possible opportunities.

To stay in their homes seniors need various modifications to their living spaces to cope with diminished mobility, hearing, and eyesight. For those skilled in construction this opens up opportunities for the installation of safety flooring, bathroom aids, wheelchair access modifications, alarms, etc.

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Drought Friendly Landscaping

Drought-Friendly Garden
Image (c) David Madison / Getty Images

If climate change advocates are correct and drier weather is here to stay, business owners that depend on water will need to change the way they run their existing businesses to take advantage of new opportunities.

If you are thinking of starting a landscaping business (or already have one) the future is in drought-tolerant landscape design.

With water restrictions in place many existing sprinkling systems cannot be used so there will be increased opportunities for irrigation businesses to convert such systems. For instance, the business that services my sprinkling system has offered to convert our existing system to a drip system that has a fraction of the water usage and complies with municipal water restrictions even at the height of summer.

If you are thinking of starting a pressure washing business, there are methods of water recovery that can enable you to reduce water usage and still provide an excellent cleaning service, making it very attractive to water-conscious customers.

And "waterless" products such as waterless car wash cleaners will be more popular than ever.

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Image (c) darren wise / Getty Images

Have you every tried to find a mason to do some brickwork on your house, lay down a new patio, or repair your chimney? It can be very difficult—most masons are contracted several months or years in advance, and high growth in the masonry trade is expected to continue in the coming years.

Masons work in brick or stone and create beautiful exterior walls, fireplaces, patios, walkways, and fences. It is a skilled trade that is mostly learned on the job by apprenticeship—it does not require years of schooling and is well paid.

A large percentage of masons are self-employed, so if you are not afraid of hard, physical work and enjoy working with your hands why not consider taking up masonry as a trade and opening your own business?

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Artisanal Foods

Artisan Baker
Image (c) Monty Rakusen / Getty Images

The demand for artisan foods continues to increase in leaps and bounds, perhaps as a societal backlash against the mass production of foods which are sold in giant supermarket chains and fast food restaurants all over North America.

Artisanal foods are generally described as very high-quality foods produced in small quantities by hand, such as specialty chocolates, cheeses, sausages, jams and jellies, coffee beans, etc.

Most artisanal food businesses start out as one-person cottage industries, selling at farmers' markets and (with continued success and growth) eventually to local restaurants and grocery stores, who are always looking for locally-sourced, high quality food products.

If you are a food artist, why not turn your passion into a business?

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Electric Bike Sales and Service

E-Bike rental
Image (c) mgs / Getty Images

One of my best small business opportunities in previous years was electric scooter sales and service for seniors with mobility problems. The other big trend in the electric transportation market is electric bicycles (e-bikes) and 2-wheel scooters. E-bike sales are expected to hit close to 50 million units by 2018. E-bikes and scooters are the perfect environmentally-friendly transportation vehicle for today's traffic-clogged city streets.

E-bikes can be pedaled without electric power or use electric power to assist, whereas electric scooters have pedals mostly for emergency purposes. Another e-bike opportunity exists in selling kits that give regular pedal bikes an electrical assist. (You replace the front or back wheel hub with one containing a small electric motor and add a battery and cabling.)

As the technology evolves, newer models are constantly coming on the market, making E-bike/scooter sales, rentals, and service a good business opportunity for years to come.

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Self Storage Units

Self Storage Unit
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The self-storage industry continues to be a booming business across North America, fueled by a more transient workforce, downsizing homeowners, the general trend for people to accumulate more and more possessions, and reality shows such as Storage Wars.

Ironically, the trend for businesses to reduce or eliminate storefront space has also contributed to the demand for storage space. Plumbers and electricians, for example, can store tools and equipment in self-storage at a much lower cost.

Modern self-storage requires a climate-controlled environment, lighting, and security. Initial capital costs for land and building construction are high but can be easily financed from rental income assuming there is a steady demand for storage space in your area - making your business plan attractive to banks and other potential investors.

Trachte Building Systems has free web-based calculators for determining the profitability of self-storage based on estimated capital expenses, operating expenses, and rental income.

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Markets on Wheels

Food Truck
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Most people have a vision of food trucks as serving traditional fast food fare such as burgers, fries, and hot dogs, but there is no reason that good, healthy, nutritious food cannot be sold by mobile vendors.

For example, enormously successful Clover Truck of Boston, MA runs a fleet of trucks that provide a seasonally changing menu that serves vegetarian meals made from mostly locally sourced, organic ingredients (and actually, they do serve french fries).

GMonkey runs an "eco" food truck that uses biodiesel for fuel and serves delicious vegetarian fare to residents of Durham, CT.

If you have a knack for creating tasty nutritious food and a desire to "keep on truckin" why not consider a mobile food truck as a business?

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Beer Brewing
Image (c) Jack Andersen / Getty Images

Microbreweries continue to be hugely popular in North America. According to Beer Canada statistics, the number of licensed breweries in Canada grew by 70% in the 5 years leading up to 2014. In the United States, the craft beer market has grown to $20 billion annually in sales. Many beer lovers (myself included), much prefer a tasty local craft beer to a mediocre, generic brew from a national brewing giant.

If you have been successfully brewing beer as a hobby (and have tried out your recipes on your friends and neighbors) you might consider taking the next step and starting your own craft beer business.

Microbrewing is relatively capital-intensive to start, so you will need a great product and a solid business plan to secure financingfor your foamy venture.

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Mobile Dog Grooming

Dog Grooming
Image (c) Bill Holden / Getty Images

With dogs in over 50 million homes in Canada and the U.S. the pet grooming business continues growing year to year. In addition to basic grooming, today's pampered pooches can get a luxurious spa treatment including specialty shampoos, tooth brushing, and facials.

I first noticed mobile grooming services when my senior neighbor became ill and could not take his dogs in for grooming - now he uses a mobile grooming service and couldn't be happier.  Mobile grooming also works well for other folks with busy schedules that don't have the time to take their dogs into a commercial grooming location. In addition, grooming the dog in its home environment reduces stress on the animal.

Pet grooming skills are normally learned by apprenticeship with a certified dog groomer. Various organizations in the U.S. States and Canada offer professional certification in dog grooming, although this is normally voluntary. For more information see the National Dog Groomers Association of America or the Canadian Professional Pet Stylists and the Pet Groomers Guide.

If you love dogs and are looking for a business opportunity why not consider a mobile dog grooming business?

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Why Are These Good Businesses to Start?

Open For Business
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There are no guarantees of success when starting a business, but you can dramatically increase your odds of success by preparation and due diligence. Have a business idea? Do some preliminary market research. Is there a demand for your product or service in your area or is the market already saturated?

Once you’ve chosen an idea, the best thing to do is write a business plan; it will help you determine if a particular opportunity is right for you.

None of these are get rich quick ideas or even the business ideas that will make the most money. These are opportunities that are inline with business trends and demographics—and if you want to start a successful business, you need the demand for your products and services to continue to be healthy to ensure your business is profitable for years to to come.