20 min read
We’ve written a list of 30 business ideas for small towns. Full of upsells and online options, these business ideas for tourist towns and rural business opportunities can help you expand your thriving small business no matter what business you’re in!
30 Business Ideas for Small Towns to Expand Your Local Business Online
The size of the average small town varies, but it’s a term that’s usually used to describe towns of 25,000 people or less. Some small towns have natural wonders, and others just have a great community. Every small town is unique, and many are also tourist towns. Tourist towns usually have a relatively small population, but they see population booms during the summer or winter from visiting tourists.
Over 90% of businesses in the United States are small businesses. There were almost 2 billion trips for vacation or recreation in 2018, and people spent more than $1,036 billion in 2017. So, small towns and tourist towns can mean big opportunity.
If you already run a business in a small town or tourist town, you may feel like you have limited options for growth. If you run a business in a small town or a tourist town, your best bet to increase your financial freedom is to grow your business online.
It’s not just about what you do, it’s what you can do to excite and engage your customers. Whether your local business is a thriving retail establishment like a grocery store or a vital service like fitness or auto repair, these online business ideas for small towns will help you decide the next step as your small business shoots for the stars.
Online Business Ideas for Small Towns: Something for Everyone
Your local grocery store is a source of pride and purpose. You want to expand without breaking the bank. The obvious choice is to sell local products online, but there are other business ideas for small towns to try.
How to grow a small business? Get creative.
What makes your grocery unique? You can make your story a selling point with a podcast. Talk to local shoppers, share tips on the best produce, or interview local vendors. Your podcast will increase attendance at events for your grocery, and over time you can sell advertising or get sponsors to increase your revenue.
Your local pharmacy is vital to your community. You’re filling prescriptions, offering patient counseling, and preventative care screenings. You can create a rural area business opportunity by offering some of these services online.
You can also grow your local pharmacy by offering soaps and lotions or medicinal teas from local makers in your community. You can easily build a site to showcase your store and products.
Self-service laundromats and coin wash facilities are a must for any small town. If you run a local laundromat and are looking for extra business ideas for small towns you have to get creative. Some coin laundry spots have made their laundromat a destination by adding quiz nights or drink options.
Another option is to sell branded merchandise for your laundromat. Design a t-shirt with a local celebrity, create a keychain with your logo, or make branded beach towels for the busy tourist season. Dropshipping makes merchandise sales easy.
Your local florist shop is busy, but there are opportunities to grow! Consider offering gardening consulting online with a WordPress site. You can share an Ebook full of eco-friendly fertilizer mixes or develop an online course to draw bees and butterflies to local gardens.
Your local bookshop is a center for your community. Your bookstore is where people go for tips about the latest and greatest books, book clubs, game nights, and poetry readings.
Why not find a way to duplicate the experience online? Your website can host book clubs online. You may want to focus on a local book that’s gained a big following, or just provide advice for people seeking the warmth of your bookstore online.
Add a search service to your online offerings. You’ve spent time looking for a rare book that your neighbor wanted to find, there are more people that can use your help!
The best business ideas for small towns are the ones that use your unique skills. Think about how you can expand the services you offer to your community.
Pet Store, Grooming, and Boarding
Your pet supplies, pet grooming, and boarding services are essential to your small town. For more online business ideas for small towns, you can sell niche merchandise for pets! Host a local pet event, hire a photographer, and sell calendars online to grow your small business.
Online marketplaces often drive costs down, which can make it difficult for a small business to compete. Selling from your own website, offering personalized products and services, and providing a great customer experience will give your small business an edge over your competition.
You may want to look into free delivery, rewards programs, or other customer perks to keep loyal customers and build a larger global community for your online offerings.
Everyday Rural Area Business Opportunity
Your bookkeeping services are always in demand. Many small businesses are great at production or marketing, but not as good with numbers. Your bookkeeping business pays bills, does invoicing and keeps detailed accounting records.
To expand your local business, think about offering an online course in one of your areas of specialization. You may be a whiz at tax time or an Excel pro. Not interested in teaching? You can also sell templates online to help business owners who aren’t so spreadsheet savvy. If you’re new to selling digital products, learn as much as you can about keeping them secure.
When I was a personal assistant I built relationships with local restaurants, organized elaborate events, and created one-of-a-kind packages for international influencers.
Personal assistants learn a little bit of everything on the job and combine it with award-winning people skills. If you are a personal assistant in your hometown, there are tons of great opportunities for you to make money with your skills.
You’ve probably booked travel for your boss, why not take it to the next level? Build relationships with local (or international) venues to create retreats for executives and their teams. Many companies do this in house, but your service can save them both money and time.
Interested in the same work you do now, but more of it? Sites like UpWork have regular listings where you can do the same work you do at the office in the comfort of your home.
Want to use another skill set? If you have experience in marketing, copywriting, or Human Resources, there are tons of ways to add a side gig to your full-time personal assistant work.
If you run a local house cleaning business you’re familiar with the challenges and the rewards. There are only so many hours in the day, so time can seem like a big obstacle as you figure out how to grow a small business. But there are many business ideas for small towns to expand your income without expanding your staff.
Your house cleaning team has preferred products for different clients. Add personalized products to custom cleaning gift baskets and sell them from your website. Create a basket for couples expecting a new baby or welcoming a new pet who want natural products. Create another for the office down the street that wants your favorite floor cleaner that smells like fresh lemons.
Your childcare center is a busy and exciting place for local children. How can you offer great customer service while growing your small business?
For rural area business opportunity, offer enriching experiences for local school children. Build relationships with local schools and venues for educational entertainment and activities. It’s simple to advertise packages on your small business website.
My friend who runs a daycare knows everybody, and she’s who I call to find the best meals and deals. Are you the person people in your community call when they want a good restaurant, toy store, or exercise class for kids? You can start an online referral business site to grow your childcare center.
This is a win-win, connecting local and visiting customers to the best resources for kids in your community.
You’re already an active teacher in your community and looking to expand your reach. Why not teach online? Adult education is important and demand grows when the economy shifts.
Test prep and career counseling are other great business ideas for small towns that you are well qualified for as a teacher. Build a website highlighting your skills. Create training videos, or schedule one-on-one livestream classes with your new students.
Business Ideas for Tourist Towns
Running a local travel agency involves juggling many skills. Your role is vital. You are a part of the adventures your community is having all over the world! There are many ways to expand your business online.
Open an online booking site for hotels B&Bs and other local rentals. Create a welcome website for your tourist town with useful tips, coupons, local business samples. Partner with other businesses to develop unique offers. You can also become an affiliate for their services to earn a commission with each sale!
Start a travel and tourism blog. Fill your blog with helpful content and useful information. If you update your blog with trending tips locally and internationally you will attract traffic. Once you have a strong following, look into more ways that you can make money with your blog.
Another way to expand your reach as a travel agency online is to build a travel directory. Your travel directory should be an all-inclusive list of businesses and services within a particular niche. You are uniquely qualified to provide useful information that may be difficult for travelers to find on their own.
Every small town has a gift shop, but yours is special. Selling local crafts and gifts sets your small town gift shop apart. Wondering how to grow a small business like your local gift shop? Carry products from local artisans or drop ship items with your small town name and images.
Sell food from local restaurants and music from local bands. Launch a website where visitors can buy more gifts later or share your unique merchandise with friends from afar.
Local Tour Guide
You are already a valuable part of your tourist town. Your local tours provide help and information to newcomers and visitors about the history and culture of your small town. During slow times of the year, there are a ton of business ideas for small towns that can help you expand your local business.
While you’re building your website, connect with important business owners in your community. They are already part of your tours and might have extra merchandise that you can sell on your ecommerce site.
You’re already the local wedding planner of choice, but you’re thinking bigger. If you’re looking for business ideas for tourist towns, your small town could be perfect for a destination wedding service.
Develop a website that showcases your planning smarts. Make the most of your connections to local officiants, locations, photographers and more. Then, plan elaborate destination weddings or arrange services for last-minute fetes.
Your wedding website could also be the perfect destination for bridal affiliate marketing. Your connections selling wedding goods and services will appreciate your endorsement, and you can get a piece of the action. These relationships could eventually expand into full-scale bridal shows in your small town.
If you plan to sell a combination of products and services, be sure to pick the right ecommerce platform for your products.
Bed and Breakfast
Every small town has a beloved bed and breakfast. Your B&B may cater to tourists who wander in from afar or locals looking for a special night. You might be close to a popular college or wedding venue that drums up business for you.
Your bed and breakfast can keep growing by building a website that sells a little piece of what makes staying at your B&B special. You may want to sell the homemade quilts that cover your beds. You can package the scones you serve with breakfast or market the travel toiletries that you carefully place in each bathroom.
Make your products as simple or unusual as you’d like. Selling exclusive, expensive items may not be the right fit for your typical customers. Expanding online is an opportunity to experiment with new materials and products that may be out of the local price range.
Selling products online is an opportunity to give past B&B guests a reminder of their special visit and to keep them coming back for more.
How to Grow a Small Business with Local Food
No small town is complete without its local cuisine. Restaurant owners looking for online business ideas for small towns have a wide variety of options. To start, you can offer special events to repeat customers through exclusive online offers.
Many people love food but don’t know what to buy or how to put it all together in the kitchen. Offer meal plans online so that your customers can enjoy great meals in the comfort of their homes. Your meal plans could include shopping lists and recipes for a particular style of cooking. Meal plans can also focus on different types of diets and food allergies. Match your meal plans to what you already know best!
Frozen food is one of the most popular business ideas for small towns. Freezing unique meals from your restaurant can give locals a convenient meal option. It also gives tourists a chance to relive a memorable meal and expands the audience for your one-of-a-kind local dishes.
Your expanded business will represent you and your small town. So, make sure that your new venture reflects the quality that your local customers have come to trust from your small business.
Your bakery is probably a beloved center for your small town. Whether you make freshly baked bread, pastries, or elaborate cakes for weddings and special events, your small business is important.
We have two great business ideas for small towns, direct from your local bakery. First, try selling cookies online! Cookies are easy to make and store. Cookies also offer endless ways to be creative. A local Toronto artist created Eat My Sweet Face, a cookie shop that makes portrait sugar cookies. What makes your bakery special? What special cookie can your small-town bakery share with the world?
Baking at home is tricky for many people and can seem very complicated. Make baking easy by teaching baking classes online! You can share your expertise with a wider audience while also getting free marketing for your local brick-and-mortar store.
It goes without saying that coffee is a great product to sell online. But small-town cafes are also hubs for small-town entertainment. For rural area business opportunity, if your cafe offers live music, why not take that connection one step further? If you have great organizational skills you can organize tours for local musicians who play at your shop. You can also offer merchandise for local bands on your site so that people familiar with the town music scene can purchase local tunes.
Your incredible local candy store might offer a soda fountain and ice cream, showcase detailed sugar art. You may provide sugar-free, organic, or gluten-free treats. As you research business ideas for small towns or tourist towns, consider creating a line of sweets exclusive to online customers.
This strategy will expand your customer base and offer an incentive for local and out of state customers to check out your candies.
You take pride in your sports bar – it’s where local sports fans watch games, support their teams, and connect. To grow your business online you can sell sports souvenirs and mascots online. Choose a team to support, local or national, or develop sports merchandise just for your bar.
Business Ideas for Small Towns for the Mechanically-Inclined
Your auto repair shop is busy with work from locals and visitors alike. Any vehicle that needs repair is in your domain, but you’re looking for online business ideas for small towns, and want multiple streams of income.
How about selling spare parts? It’s easy to build an ecommerce site and you can build on your existing business connections to make it shine. You may also want to rebuild or remanufacture automotive parts, like starters or alternators.
This business builds on your existing small business and skill set, and can also help you spread the word about your business to keep building your customer base.
Your handy skills are something everyone needs. Some because they can’t do it on their own, they don’t know how to do it, or the job is too time-consuming. You can’t be everywhere at once, so why not write an Ebook? Write about a specific task you do really well, and include time-saving tricks that you’ve learned over time.
Christmas Tree Farm
Your Christmas tree farm is a beloved destination every November and December. But what about the rest of the year? For business ideas for small towns that will grow your Christmas tree farm business, think about how your skills translate to other things that people need. You could teach a class about tree care after the holidays.
Do you run an eco-friendly tree farm? Create videos about your processes and share them with other tree farms that are trying to make the transition. You may also be a perfect fit for consulting about nature-friendly business practices.
Still looking for more rural area business opportunity? Partner with local schools to make ornaments for your Christmas tree farm and sell them online, year-round!
Your hardware store is a center for your community. Customers love your staff because of the valuable advice they offer on equipment, landscaping, and home repair. Offer their expertise to the online world! Create instructional videos to sell online.
You may already be competing with online businesses. Learn from your competitors’ successes and failures as your business grows. Online selling offers a wealth of data. Taking a careful look at that data can help you better understand why your best-selling products are so popular, or why your customers didn’t respond to your latest sale.
A smart electrician is always important in a small town. You started your small business to meet a need in your community. Your sales may have dipped due to competition, or you may want to offer products or services that your local community isn’t ready for yet.
You may have a thriving business that everyone knows about, but you need some new customers to increase your client base. Either way, you’re looking for business ideas for a small town that can help you expand your business and your bottom line.
Start to develop partnerships with other local businesses. Build an online site with your new partners that offers special group deals. Your knowledge of safety can also set your business apart. Use your know-how to write and sell an Ebook about a specific problem you frequently see on the job. It’s easy to sell an Ebook through your existing social media accounts. Your safety tips could improve the health and knowledge of your customers.
Online Business Ideas for Small Towns in Health and Beauty
Your community may be rural, but exercise and staying fit are a craze that’s here to stay. If you already have a popular local fitness center, offer online personal training sessions. You may also want to offer popular classes online to increase the number of students who can attend your packed local classes.
The limited clothing store options in most small towns mean that local customers are buying clothes that don’t quite fit right. This can affect shoppers’ self-esteem. A great tailor like you can adjust that jacket or those jeans that don’t quite fit into a custom garment that makes your buyer feel great.
But what should a small town tailor do when you want to expand? It’s easy to start a clothing store online, and you can use your sewing skills to create unique pieces from scratch. Sell jewelry to complement tailored items for sale. Or, build a consignment store online, complete with custom tailoring services!
The internet has just as much competition as your town’s Main Street, so do your research before diving in.
As the proud owner of a thriving local yoga studio, you know that yoga is a connection between the body and the mind. To expand your yoga business online, why not try personal coaching? You can develop Ebooks, online courses, or set up individual meetings with clients looking for guidance.
Your usual customers might not be willing to try some spa procedures you’ve trained in but the online world is! Use an online store as an opportunity to meet new customers who are looking for something fresh.
Add online scheduling to your website and make home visits to expand your luxury salon offerings. Mobile beauty services are also a great idea if your small town has assisted living facilities or senior citizens who don’t want too many trips out away from home.
Looking for more great online business ideas for small towns and your beauty salon? Partner with a local professional photographer. Create a beautiful website together. Photograph special looks and location shots so that online customers can purchase your combined services.
Your salon may already turn a profit selling shampoos, conditioners, and other hair products. Why not sell cosmetics as well? Use your online store to offer special packages with your favorite products.
You’re already doing a great job of tapping into the wants and needs of your local community. You already have an incredible network of local partners and leaders. Expanding online will push you to develop these skills even more.
Marketing will be more important than ever, especially if your business relies on word-of-mouth the way most local small business does. Find ways to build communities online the same way you build community in your small town.
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