Businesses You Can Start With $1,000 or Less19 min read
Thinking about starting a small business? This is one of the smartest decisions you can make. After all, starting a business is a great way to help people, make a few extra bucks, and pursue your dreams—all at the same time.
If you’re looking for business ideas to help you start the company of your dreams, you might feel overwhelmed by all the startup costs. However, it’s important to note that there are plenty of businesses you can start with minimal investment upfront.
Here are some of the most lucrative businesses that require minimal startup costs.
40 Businesses You Can Start with $1,000 or Less
If fitness is your calling and nothing speaks to you more than a beefy pair of dumbbells, you might want to consider a career as a personal trainer. You don’t need much besides a home gym—in fact, all you will need to buy are a few weights, some benches, and maybe a treadmill or two.
You could start small or invest in used equipment as you gain a foothold. Many people even offer personal training services online, so you can eliminate these startup expenses entirely. You can charge clients a retainer fee or charge per hour for your services.
When you really care about the details that go into a cup of joe, investing in a coffee cart business might be a smart choice. Although you could easily drop several thousands of dollars into a brand-new, brick-and-mortar coffee shop, there’s really no reason why you need to do this. Investing in a portable coffee cart is a less expensive (and potentially more lucrative) route—you can travel directly to the customers!
To start, you’ll just need to purchase the coffee, some disposable cups, and your coffee maker. You can add other equipment and offer fancier brews if you’d like, but basic should be the name of the game when you’re first setting out on your own.
Is “American Pickers” your favorite television show? If so, a business as an antique dealer is a good choice for you. You can start a business in this niche for very little money—often, for far less than $1,000. Once you build up a decent inventory of products to sell, there’s not much else you’ll need to do.
Some antique malls charge retailers monthly rent, while selling at an event will generally cost you a flat rate or a small percentage of your sales. You could also start an online antique business, which can save you some of those initial startup costs.
People don’t stay in hotels anymore—at least, not like they used to. If you’re traveling, there’s a good chance that you’re going to consider a rental service like Airbnb. Although Airbnb is still a growing company around the world, it is incredibly popular in large cities where rent is expensive.
If you want to consider starting a business in property management but aren’t sure where to start, Airbnb is a smart choice. You’ll be able to manage other people’s Airbnbs for them with this endeavor. You will be responsible for cleaning, setting out keys, and helping with anything related to preparing Airbnbs for prospective guests.
Your startup costs will likely be low, as this is one of those small business ideas that is more service-based. You will just need to spend a few hundred dollars on things like cleaning supplies, business cards, and perhaps a business license, depending on where you live. You can charge per hour or per property, depending on your preferences.
Making jewelry is not for everyone, but if you have hands that were built for crafting, it could be the right choice for you. You can sell your creations online or you can head to events. Usually, all you will need to purchase are wire, beads, and other basic supplies.
If you’re already an avid jewelry maker, you might have this gear on hand. You can sell pieces online or rent a space at a flea market or craft show.
Podcasts are huge. In fact, a lot of people say that podcasts are the new blogs—just about everybody has one! You can easily start a podcast on a topic that interests you and build your audience over time (bonus points if you already have a lucrative blog—the two can build on each other).
You will make your money through your podcast business by partnering with various corporate sponsors and engaging in affiliate marketing. You can also sell products through your podcasts. Good options include services, merchandise, and courses.
To get started with your own podcast, you’ll just need some inexpensive recording equipment and a computer. You can easily buy all of this gear for far less than $1,000.
Glassblowing is another artisan crafting hobby that can easily turn into a lucrative business. If you’re new to the craft, you may want to take a few introductory courses to teach you how to rope. You’ll need to invest in glassblowing equipment, too, which can cost as little as a couple hundred dollars if you buy it used.
Although a professional camera and other photography equipment and accessories can be expensive, you can get started with a basic camera and lens. A middle-of-the-road DSLR camera starts at around $500, and that’s about all you need to get started.
Set up a basic website to showcase your portfolio of work, and you’ll be off to a great start. Even when you factor in the time needed to edit and fine-tune your work, you can set your wages so that you continue to make money on a per-hour basis.
By investing a few hundred dollars in some basic detailing and cleaning supplies, you will have all the gear you need to start your own auto detailing business from home. At the most basic level, all you need is a vacuum, some soaps and waxes, and perhaps a carpet cleaner. Set up your business and you can have customers come to your house or travel around to service cars wherever they might be.
Amazon FBA Dropshipping
This small business idea pops up all over the internet when you’re looking for ways to make money online.
If you haven’t heard of it yet, the Amazon FBA dropshipping business starts by finding a niche that is not currently inundated on Amazon for a given product. Then, you will find an international supplier that can drop-ship the product.
Here’s how it works: a customer will order your products from Amazon and the supplier will receive the order, package it up, and send it to the customer. You don’t have to handle and store the inventory, and you don’t have to worry about the logistical hassles of mailing the products, either.
You don’t have to invest a ton of money when you’re first getting started. Essentially, all you need are some products —you’ll have to pay for the inventory, even if you don’t have to house it—and things like a business license and computer, too. Investing in some Google and Facebook advertising is also a smart choice.
Makeup Artist or Hairstylist
Whether you provide services exclusively at events or you decide to work on a more regular basis, becoming a traveling hairstylist or makeup artist is a great way to make a few bucks as a side hustle. If you’re really good, you could make more than $20 per hour (with tips, too!).
Of course, you’ll have a few initial expenses. You’ll need to buy some hair products, styling tools, makeup, scissors, and capes. However, these are all relatively inexpensive, and since you’re not paying for chair time or an actual storefront, you may find that you’re actually saving money in the long run.
Just keep in mind that some states require anybody doing hair or makeup to have a cosmetology license. Make sure you look into the regulations where you live to confirm that you are doing everything by the book.
Independent Social Media Management
Do you absolutely live for that next “like” on Facebook or Instagram? If so, a business as an independent social media manager might be the right choice for you. In this kind of business, you’ll work with customers, clients, and other business owners who want to reach new markets but don’t have the social media savvy necessary to do so.
It’s smart to specialize in a specific niche (like makeup artists) to help you find your footing. You can run your business from home, which will get rid of most major expenses. Then you’ll just have to pay for a computer, a business license, and perhaps some basic social media management software.
Love to cook? Starting a small business in catering is a great option. You don’t need to have a full commercial kitchen when you’re first getting started, although some states do have regulations that will ultimately require you to upgrade in order to meet food safety laws.
You can provide food services for all kinds of events, including corporate functions and weddings.
To start your own plant nursery business, all you need is a greenhouse or a similar kind of growing structure so you can grow your own plants.
If you build a small greenhouse, that will take up most of your budget—but you’ll also need to spend a bit of money on gear like soil, seeds, and fertilizer. You will likely charge on per product rather than per hour, so make sure you do some research into the time and expenses involved to make sure your business is profitable.
Local Event Planning and Hosting Service
From startups to larger corporations, businesses are always looking for ways to build a following in their communities. Often, businesses will do this by creating regular meetup events (on either a weekly or monthly basis) that visitors can attend for a small price to learn more about the company.
If you like planning events, this is one of the best niche business ideas you can pursue. Start by hosting your own meetup and spend a bit of money to entice businesses to attend. You may want to spend a bit of money on a basic website, business cards, and other event advertising materials, but otherwise, your startup costs will generally be lower than $1,000.
Website Setup and Email Hosting
Although it helps to have some formal training in website development, you don’t have to be a tech wizard in order to set up a basic website. In fact, a lot of people are able to train themselves on the basics of website design by taking a couple of simple online courses.
If you get into the business of website design and hosting, you will almost always have a consistent customer base. Very few people are willing to spend the time, money, and energy required to start up a business—yet a website is essential for advertising your company’s services in this day and age.
If you are able to also add an email hosting service to your list of offerings, you’ll be in even better shape. This will allow you to cater to a smaller niche.
Like working outdoors? You could start a small business in landscaping. You can offer all kinds of related services to help make yourself more marketable, too. For example, you might toss in dog-poo cleanup and snowplowing to upgrade a sale. To get started at the most basic level, though, all you will need is a lawnmower and some inexpensive outdoor tools.
Love to sew? If so, you could start an alterations service. Your customers can bring their garments directly to you. You don’t need to have a formal storefront but can instead offer services from your home.
All you need are some sewing materials and a basic sewing machine in order to get started in this kind of business. You can charge per hour or charge a flat rate for your various services.
A home cleaning business is one of the most basic—yet also lucrative—small business ideas you can invest your time and energy in. Start this kind of business, and you’ll almost always have consistent work.
You can easily get started with less than $1,000—in fact, most people get started with a fraction of this. You’ll just need to buy some cleaning supplies and a business license. You should also invest in some basic marketing materials, although you might be able to get by just with word of mouth and free social media advertising, too.
The demand is almost always there with a home cleaning business, and once things take off, you can expand your business by hiring additional employees, too. Add a few niche services, like crime scene cleanup, to your roster, and you could make a higher wage per hour, too.
Remote Employee Satisfaction Service
The remote employee satisfaction service is an industry that is constantly expanding among people who are interested in working from home. It’s a win-win for everybody involved. Employers don’t have to pay for someone to sit at a desk and work from an office, while employees can work according to their own schedules.
To get started, you’ll need to connect with a potential employer (you’ll find all kinds of information online) and invest in some basic software to track work, manage communication channels, and enable remote access to files. You can pass some of these costs on to your client, too, making it one of the most lucrative business ideas to pursue if you are interested in spending less than $1,000.
Copy Writing and Editing
Freelance writers of all kinds are in high demand, but if you have these specific skills necessary to write sales copy and advertising materials, you’re golden. There are all kinds of courses you can take that will improve your writing skills and provide you with the education you need to be successful as a copywriter. Even with these startup costs taken into consideration, though, you’ll likely spend less than $1,000.
Copy editing is a similar business idea you can pursue if you don’t want to produce the copy, but would rather work at fine-tuning it. Once you get good at copywriting and editing, you can set your own wages. Some professionals make more than $200 per hour!
Technical Support Service
If you have strong technical skills and are good at walking people through their computer glitches, you should consider a career in technical support service. You’ll be able to use your technical skills to help others resolve their most common computer issues—or, if you want to be really hands-on, you could travel to customers to offer one-on-one support.
Marketing is essential for just about every business. If you are good at marketing in any of its forms, from digital marketing to social media advertising, you might consider a business in digital marketing. A basic website is essential to get start a business—so you’ll just need to budget for a domain, advertising, hosting, and other basic marketing essentials for yourself before you get started. After all, you need to set a good example for your prospective clients.
You’ll notice that a lot of these small business ideas involve making a website, at the very least to market your new business. If you’re getting started with one of these concepts and find that you enjoy coming up with catchy website and domain names more than you enjoy running the actual business, here’s a new idea for you to try.
Start a business as a domain flipper. To do this, you’ll pay to register a domain (which usually costs less than $12). Buy as many domains as you would like, then hire a graphic designer to help you brand it. Then, you can sell your domain name by using a service such as BrandBucket.
Niche Virtual Assistant
There are all kinds of virtual assistant opportunities out there. If you don’t mind completing basic tasks from home for others, this could also be a great market for you to get into. You could schedule appointments, set up meetings, or run small errands for your customers. As a virtual assistant, you could make $20 per hour or more.
However, you’ll be much more successful if you can offer services in a specific niche. For example, if you are well-versed in financial terminology, you could book high-paying gigs with professionals who need somebody with in-depth knowledge in that area.
You can start by making a basic website and pay for a few online ads. You may also need a business license, depending on where you live, but in most cases, you can start a business as a virtual assistant as a freelance sole proprietor.
Blogs are all the rage, but video blogs are quickly becoming the next best thing. In fact, all kinds of Instagram influencers and YouTube stars have earned millions of dollars by sharing their opinions and passions on camera.
To do this, all you need is a decent camera—the camera on a basic iPhone will do the trick. You can also get a mic to make your recordings sound a bit more professional. To be successful, you need to be active on major social media channels, like Instagram and YouTube. While building a following takes some time, it doesn’t take very much money.
Was art your favorite subject in high school? If so, becoming a book illustrator is another smart small business idea. All you need is a creative touch and the ability to bring your clients’ ideas to life. You can take courses on websites like 99design if you’re just getting started.
To get a leg up on the competition, you should invest a website that shows off your past projects.
Crafting the perfect resume is a skill that a lot of us just do not have, unfortunately. If you have a passion for words and a knack for marketing people’s skills, you might consider opening a business as a resume writer. Fresh out of college or otherwise new to the workforce, a lot of people simply don’t know how to sell themselves in a job application.
As a resume writer, you’ll provide the perfect bridge between “searching” and “hired!”. A lot of resume writers make upwards of $20 per hour. To get started, you only need to pay for a basic website for advertising and some text editing software. That’s all there is to it!
Mobile Car Repair Service
If you own a car, you’re going to have to repair it at some point. The reality is that very few people have the skills necessary to fix their own car problems, even if the problems are relatively basic.
But if you have some kind of a background or even some formal training in mechanics, here’s a business idea for you. Very few people are willing to spend hours waiting around in the repair shop for their cars to be fixed. However, the alternative is finding someone to drop them off and pick them up. This is a major hassle.
What if there was someone to repair the car right from home? When you start a mobile car repair business, that’s the exact service that you will be offering. You can easily start this kind of business for less than $1,000. You’ll just need to spend a few hundred dollars on tools, a business license, and some basic advertising materials. You can add a scheduling widget to your website so people can book your services whenever they are needed.
The day of the appointment, you’ll travel right to your customers. The experience will be much easier for them, and you’ll walk away with a few hundreds dollars in your pocket.
Knowing more than one language is beneficial for so many reasons—but here’s one you may not have thought of yet. You could also start your own text translation business! To be successful, you’ll just need to be fluent in two or more languages. With a bit of advertising, you’ll find that the business comes rolling in.
Human text translators are much better than artificial intelligence-based translations, primarily because we can understand context and nuances in language much better than an algorithm can.
Here’s another small business idea to try if you already have a successful blog—affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is one of the easiest ways to generate income automatically from your traffic. In most cases, you don’t need to pay anything extra to sign up with an affiliate marketing partner (like Amazon or ShareASale).
If you don’t have a blog, though, you will need to pay to start one. However, once you get your affiliate marketing business up and running, it is incredibly low-maintenance to continue. You’ll place links to third-party products on your website. When people click, you get a commission. The passive income will come rolling in.
eSports Tournament Management
eSports are growing in popularity all over the world. The beauty of becoming an eSports tournament manager is that you don’t have to travel to find work —it will come right to you, since eSports are formal video game competitions that take place online.
All you have to do is create different tournaments for various games. You can then pre-sell tickets to spectators and teams. You’ll take that money to find sponsors, rent a “venue,” and purchase prizes for the winners. If you love to game and don’t want to spend a ton of money to start your business, this is the perfect option.
It’s mind-blowing to think that, just a few years ago, drones didn’t even exist. Now, there are all kinds of business opportunities related to drones just waiting to be explored!
One lucrative business idea is that of security. Starting a drone security business is a cost-effective way to become a small business owner. You’ll market your services to businesses like construction facilities that need drones to prevent materials and equipment from being stolen.
You’ll just need to buy a drone (ideally one at a time, until your business takes off) and a business license. A website will help you keep track of your leads and market your services, too. Once your company gets successful enough, you can learn how to develop algorithms that will send notifications to you when activity is detected. That way, you don’t have to spend your days monitoring activity for your clients.
Reselling Collectible Cards
Baseball cards are worth a fortune, and they are virtually timeless in their value. As long as you understand how the cards are valued—in terms of their age, condition, rarity, and demand— you can start your own business reselling collectible cards. To do this, you’ll simply browse eBay or thrift stores to score great finds at super low rates.
Are you good at bookkeeping? If so, you may want to offer your services to businesses that are large enough to require bookkeeping services but don’t want to spend the money to hire a full-time in-house bookkeeper. You don’t need formal training in accounting, but you’ll need a solid work ethic and some basic accounting software in order to be successful.
Academic or Career Consultant
Becoming an academic or career consultant is a smart business idea if you have a certain niche that you want to focus on. While you may have to have a license in some jurisdictions, this field is lucrative in that you can run your consulting business online, without ever having to leave home.
Invest in a simple website and some basic advertising materials, and you have everything you need to become a successful small business owner.
Employment Program Development
This is a lucrative business, particularly for senior citizens. When people retire, they don’t actually want to stop working. Making a side income with other jobs tends to be an appealing pathway. It lets people get out of the house but still enable them to generate some income, too.
However, many (though of course not all) seniors are also reluctant to use computers. With this business idea, you’ll create local employment programs for seniors. You might have to go door to door handing out flyers, but networking with employers is another way you can market to your clients, too.
You’ll make your salary by charging a management fee. You won’t have to pay for much when you’re first getting started—a website to market your services will probably be unnecessary, so some basic flyers and printed materials are all you need.
Believe it or not, you can get hired to buy and play around with your favorite gear! Just make a business in product testing.
Brands are always willing to hire people who can offer unbiased reviews of their products. If you are good at providing judgment in these kinds of areas, you may want to consider a business as a product tester. The work may not always be consistent, but once you develop a solid reputation for the quality of your work, it should come rolling in.
While you may be required to have a license in some places around the world, opening a business in dog training is a great way to make some money doing what you love. You can specialize in niche areas—like obedience training and potty training—or you can be an all-purpose kind of trainer. In some places, expert dog trainers offer their services at more than $150 an hour!
Software & App Development
If you find that you spend most of your free time tinkering away on computers, a business as a software developer might be a good choice for you. To get started, you’ll want to have some solid skills, along with access to hardware and a basic training program. You could also focus on mobile technology and develop your own mobile app for sale.
If you have lots of ideas—or don’t want to restrict yourself to just one of the millions of business ideas out there—you could also start a small business that develops apps for clients. There are plenty of affordable mobile development platforms you can use. All you’ll need to spend your $1,000 on is a mobile device for testing and submitting your app to retailers.
What Business Should I Start in 2020?
Believe it or not, you don’t need a fully loaded, zero-limit credit card to start a successful business. All you need is a bit of motivation, a clear plan of action, and a solid business idea. You’ll be living the dream in no time!