There are over 30 million small businesses in the U.S. The challenges and rewards of a small business are heightened when you live in a small town.
Stable small-town businesses are businesses that get to know each of their customers and become a staple of the town. But what are the best small town businesses?
If you've found yourself googling "small business ideas small towns," your search is over. This article will walk you through a list of common small businesses in town, as well as some experimental ideas, to help you with your small-town entrepreneurial endeavors.
All small towns need a music store. Music is important to the lives of many young people. Many parents who live in small towns have the money to buy their children the instruments they need to succeed in the arts.
Running a music business in a small town means establishing yourself as a reliable seller of instruments and music-related equipment. But that's not all.
You can also employ music teachers in common instruments like guitar, bass, piano, and drums, to earn a little extra money and direct more people to your store.
If you work up a good reputation, you could become the go-to repair shop for musicians who live in your area. Even if they already have their own instruments, your expertise could come in handy.
Many schools partner with music stores to provide their children instruments for school orchestra and bands. This is a great opportunity for businesses, as many students will want to rent instruments from you.
Some of the students will fall in love with instruments and want to buy one. If they buy from you and trust you with repairs, you've just gained a lifelong customer. You've also probably earned the trust of that student's family and friends.
But a music store isn't the only way you can provide music to a small town. Small towns love having town-wide events, and they'll need music for them.
If you have always prided yourself on your music collection and have a working knowledge of tech equipment, consider starting a DJ service. People in small towns may hire you out for opening night parties, housewarming parties, graduations, weddings, birthday parties, block parties, proms, confirmation parties, and bar mitzvahs.
If you know how to play an instrument and have a wide repertoire, consider performing. Many restaurants in small towns hire singers who can play relaxing covers of classic tunes or jazz bands who are willing to jam out quietly.
If you're more of a rock and roller, you could be in luck. More high-end parties and festivals might hire you to bring a new level of energy to the festival.
Running a music business means you won't own a store. You'll do well to learn how to market yourself online.
While audiobooks and e-readers (such as the kindle) have become extremely popular, physical, paper books are still the most popular way to read. With many Barnes & Nobles basing themselves in more central areas between towns and cities, a local bookstore right at the center of town can become a cultural hub.
One of the best ways to beat Barnes & Noble is to play a different game. Consider operating a used book store. At a used bookstore, people can get beautiful, high-quality, vintage books for lower prices.
You can also operate a trader system, where people can trade in their books for in-store credit. Obviously, you'll need to get pretty good at appraising books for quality or hire someone who is.
Devising a system where you only take books that you can sell and give shoppers in-store credit to use for more of your products will build you life-long customers that will come back and introduce their friends to the store.
Even more niche than a bookstore, however, is a game store. Video games have meant that many people don't play as many video games as they used to. However, the pandemic has led to a surge in the popularity of board games — probably because people are tired of being on their screens so much.
Large stores like Walmart sell the basics, like Monopoly, Chess, and Sorry. However, a good board game store can make good money selling cult-classics such as Betrayal At House On The Hill, Cosmic Encounter, and Puerto Rico.
A board game store can operate as a hub for kids with different interests than the standard small-town love of sports. If a game store sells various Table Top Role Playing Games — such as Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Cyberpunk 2020, and World of Darkness — will attract kids who hold these interests. You can even hire someone to run a TRPG campaign that will attract people to the store.
Everybody knows that one of the staples of high school is the school play. But the unfortunate truth is that the underfunding of the arts in many high schools makes most school shows not quite up to par with the desire of many artistically-minded children.
Theatre kids are no joke. Many of them go on to good acting schools and get jobs in local theatres around the world. Acting schools are competitive, and they want the best training that they can get, and their parents are willing to pay for it.
If you have some credits as a theatrical, actor, director, or producer, considering opening up a theatre school. You can hire various employees to provide acting, dance, and voice training to theatre students. Make sure you understand how to improve their performance.
If you're ambitious, you can rent out a local theatre a few weeks out of the year and develop an "ensemble" program for your students. This will be a full-fledged production that students pay to be in. You can use your funding, know-how, and extra-talented students to provide them with a theatrical experience they'll remember — and may even inspire more people to join.
One of the most annoying things about putting on theatrical productions in a small town is buying the right. Getting the rights to a popular theatre work involves filling out a lot of paperwork and paying money to a publishing company. Depending on the time frame that the production is running for and the number of people in the production, this can wind up expensive.
However, this can all be bypassed by using original material. A local playwright or composer can develop their work with a school or theatre program. This will benefit both the theatre program and the playwright/composer.
If you're somebody who likes to write and compose and now find yourself away from the big city, consider advertising yourself as a writer/composer online. You'll be surprised at the number of people who will require your services.
These days, everyone has access to a camera on their phone. Technically, we can all capture every moment we want to. However, not everybody has the time, patience, and know-how to capture all of their memories in the best light.
This is where a videographer comes in.
If you have camera equipment and some business know-how, consider becoming a videographer. A videography business can tape weddings, proms, birthdays, theatrical productions, ceremonies, etc. Not many people become videographers these days, but many people need them; you very well might end up the only one in your small town and make some good money.
America loves coffee. One of the staples of big cities is spacious, beautiful, well-maintained, high-quality coffee shops with free wi-fi where people can come, sit down, meet friends, read, and work all day.
Starbucks is nice, and many people choose to go there for their coffee and work. Dunkin is nice too, but nothing beats the experience of a good coffee shop. A good coffee shop can operate as a hub of the town, hosting all sorts of meetings and hang-outs.
Creating a great coffee shop is all about the coffee. Offer many different options for specialty-made coffee and tea drinks. Also, allow your customers to buy bulk coffee to take home for themself.
A coffee shop is also about the experience. Consider if you want to go for a classy aesthetic or something a little more rock and roll. Hire employees with a good, hip, experimental taste in music to make the store an "it" spot for the young and the old alike.
Diner's — once a staple of American pop culture — is not quite as popular as they used to be. Many people prefer to go to specialty restaurants, breakfast shops, and coffee shops.
However, you should never count the diner out.
A diner is wonderful because it creates a sense of nostalgia. The older people like it because it provides a familiar sense of the past, and the younger people like it for the novelty.
A diner provides a central place for people to meet late at night, early in the morning, after church, or returning to town. It's a neutral place that can become the hub of a town — much like a coffee shop, only bigger.
Diners specialize in the same basic foods all around the country. Because of this, the most important thing in running a designer is quality, not the originality of the menu.
People aren't coming to a diner to try out Lobster Fradiavlo for the first time. They'll most likely want a rueben sandwich, burger, or omelet. Make sure you perfect these basics to thrive as a diner.
Though it's tough to maintain, one of the best things you can do as a diner in a small town is keeping yourself open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This doesn't just bring in more customers late at night; it also sets your diner up as a cultural staple.
Think about it — cities have many parks, restaurants, and clubs that are opened all hours of the night. But in small towns — especially during weekdays — the whole town practically shuts down at 10:00 pm. Many small towns even have regulations on parks.
If you open up a 24-hour diner in a small town, you're creating a hub for people who want to meet each other late at night. They won't have anywhere else to go, so they'll naturally pick your diner — and order fries while they're at it. This will also most likely attract people from other towns as well and grow your daytime businesses.
When you're operating in a small town, you're living in a different business world. You'll most likely be seeing the same customers day after day. When you start seeing the same customers over and over, your reputation becomes extremely important.
Small towns rely on word of mouth more than anything. Most of your business will come from people within the town — people don't generally take vacations to small towns to try out their restaurants. Because of this, advertising doesn't count as much as reputation.
It's essential to keep your customer reviews in tip-top shape. You need to monitor quality religiously and make sure you're always providing an experience your customers enjoy. Losing a customer doesn't only mean losing a customer — it means losing their friends and family too.
Ensure you know how to deal with tough customers so that they don't tarnish your reputation online.
If you've found yourself googling "small business ideas small towns," your search is over. Any of these small business ideas will — and have — worked well for small towns. The final step is your entrepreneurial spirit to bring the idea to life.
Whether you're dealing with something more traditional and universal — like a diner or a coffee shop — or something a little more niche — like a theatre school — you're guaranteed to shine if you keep your customers in mind.
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