“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”
― William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894)
That quote by 19th century theologian William Shedd sums up what it means to be an entrepreneur.While it’s true that there’s a lot of risk involved in starting your own business, it can also be an opportunity for growth, prosperity, and self determination. There’s nothing wrong with working for someone else — and a lot of people need the security of a steady paycheck and company-provided benefits. Entrepreneurs are a unique breed, however, and are not content having someone else call the shots and place a limit on their potential.
There’s Nothing Easy About Starting a Business
Starting a new business in not unlike preparing for a triathlon, sailing across the Atlantic, or climbing Mount Everest — well maybe it’s not quite that grueling and treacherous!
In all cases, however, it pays to go into it with as much knowledge, training, preparation, supplies, equipment, and mental toughness as possible. Survival and success in any of these undertakings also depends on the cultivation of self belief, determination, and persistence.
While tenacity and preparation are usually prerequisites to success in any undertaking, one has to acknowledge, early on, whether or not they’re really up to the challenge.
Before taking the plunge into self employment or small business ownership, it’s wise to temper your enthusiasm with a reality check. In the same way that you wouldn’t want to attempt swimming the English Channel without being 100% sure you had the strength, endurance, and motivation to go the distance, it’s also inadvisable to attempt to start your own business if you’re ill prepared or poorly suited to the challenge ahead.
The First Step in Starting a Business
Although many entrepreneurs do not take the time to really think things through, doing a self assessment is a step that should precede all other steps. In the same way that a job interviewer assesses a candidate’s readiness or capability to handle the demands of a particular job, someone considering starting their own business should evaluate their own readiness.
Here are a few of the key questions one should ask themselves when starting a business:
- Do I possess the knowledge, skills, and credentials necessary to succeed in this business or profession? (And if not, would I be able to acquire them within a reasonable period of time?)
- Do I have access to the money I’ll need for startup costs, operating costs, and living expenses? (If not, have I explored options for obtaining a small business loan, government grant, or other forms of financing?)
- Have I demonstrated to myself and others that I can handle setbacks, work through frustration, and overcome obstacles in the pursuit of my goals?
- Do I possess the organizational skills, the “people skills,” and the work ethic to handle everything from sales and marketing to customers relations and record keeping?
One you’ve given serious consideration to those kind of probing questions, you’ll be in a better position to decide whether self employment and small business ownership is really the right path for you.
Although there are a lot of different ways one can approach self employment, it’s always best to make sure you’re a good match for the demands of an entrepreneurial lifestyle.
What Do I Need to Start a Business?
Once you’ve decided that you have what it takes to start and succeed in your own business, the U.S.Small Business Administration offers some additional points to ponder that will help you pinpoint your objectives, clarify what you need to do to start a business, and hone in on your strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and priorities. I would strongly recommend reading the SBA’s list of 20 questions to ask yourself before starting a business.
If you’re stuck on the answer to question #2, which is “What kind of business do I want?” then perhaps the following list of startup business ideas will help you narrow down the possibilities. I’ve gathered more than 100 small business ideas that include everything from property management to cake decorating.
What Business Should I Start?
Other than fear of failure, one of the biggest mental barriers to starting your own business is a lack of clarity about what kind of business you should start. There are literally hundreds of self employment options available to you, and each one has its own individual costs, challenges, potential rewards, and startup requirements.
So with that in mind, here’s a list of over 100 of the most popular business ideas — some of which may help you gravitate toward the best small business idea for your temperament, capabilities, tolerance for risk, market conditions, geographic location, and budget.
- Cleaning business
- Lawn care
- Real estate
- Tutoring, giving group or private lessons, seminars
- Vending machine business
- Event planning services
- Painting services
- eBay business
- Carpet cleaning
- Clothing business
- Fashion business
- Shoe business
- Food businesses: restaurant, deli, food truck, hot dog cart, ice cream shop
- Bakery, cupcake business, cookies, birthday and wedding cake baking and decorating
- Pizza shop
- Party planning
- Bar business
- Lawn mowing
- Recycling business
- Transportation or trucking business
- Bookkeeping services
- Computer repair services
- Courier services and/or delivery services
- Daycare center
- Home health care
- Senior care business
- Medical transportation
- Wedding planning services
- Limo business
- Import export business
- Wholesale business
- Craft business
- Gift basket business
- Handyman business
- Janitorial services
- Pressure washing
- Laundry business, dry cleaning service, laundromat
- Repo business
- Web design and/or graphic design business
- Printing services (print shop or print broker)
- Advertising or marketing business
- Credit repair
- Cell phone business
- Gym business
- Bail bonds business
- Pest control
- Tax preparation
- Financial services
- Home and business security services
- Chiropractic services
- Massage therapy
- Boutique business
- T shirt business
- Car detailing
- Car rental
- Concierge/personal assistant business
- DJ business
- Junk removal
- Scrap metal business
- Coffee business: coffee roasting, cafe business, coffee retailing, distribution
- Hotel or Bed and Breakfast business
- Candle business
- Dog boarding
- Dog training
- Dog grooming
- Farming, ranching, growing produce, aquaculture, greenhouse business
- Professional practices, such as medical, legal, dental, eye care, CPA, veterinarian
- Life coaching
- Magazine publishing
- Medical billing
- Medical supply business
- Storage business
- Secretarial services
- Travel agency
- Consignment business
- Lingerie business
- Party rental
- Interior design
- Swimming pool cleaning, opening and closing, and maintenance
- Fundraising business
- Dropship business
- Home staging services
- Furniture store (new or used), furniture making, woodworking
- Mail order
- Recruiting business
- Property management business
- Spa business
- Web hosting business
- Sewing business, being a seamstress, tailor, clothing alterations
- Contracting business, such as construction, home improvement, remodeling, electrician services, HVAC services, plumbing, excavating, roofing, etc.
BTW… If you’d like to download a guide to starting a specific business, I’ve posted links to several small business startup guides* at my website Marketing Survival Kit.
Cool Business Ideas
So if you’ve been asking yourself and others “What kind of business can I start?” I hope the above list will help you generate some great business ideas.
If none of these entrepreneurial ideas resonated with you, then perhaps you’d like to peruse 999 more business ideas developed by the creative minds from Seth Godin’s Alternative MBA program. Whether you’re looking for so-called “crazy business ideas,” fun business ideas, or innovative business ideas, this list is sure to get your creative juices flowing!
If you’ve stumbled across any other cool business ideas that you’d like to share, don’t hesitate to post a comment on this blog or contact me via my email address at email@example.com
Thanks for checking out my latest thoughts, observations, and opinions about the ever-challenging and exciting world of self employment and business development. It kind of brings to mind the opening lines from the old TV show The Wide World of Sports: “The thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat.” (The memory of the skier who took that nasty spill at the beginning the program still makes me cringe decades later!)
As you pursue your entrepreneurial goals, may you experience many more victories than defeats!
Business blogger, freelance writer, marketing strategist
*Disclaimer: This blog, as well as my website Marketing Survival Kit, contain links to digital products, websites, and marketing services for which I am a compensated affiliate. Although my mission is to feature only high-quality products and services, at the present time I am not personally endorsing any of them.
Business startup tip: Always consult with licensed business advisors, like Certified Public Accountants, business attorneys, and insurance experts when seeking advice on starting, expanding, and protecting your business.