Top Ten Most Profitable Start-up Businesses

Thinking about starting a business? A bit unsure where to best invest your personal capital? Wondering which types of businesses offer the best potential for profit? Certainly all fair questions, and ones that should be carefully considered in a down economy and uncertain regulatory environment such as ours. According to Rosemary Peavler, small business consultant and Professor Emeritus in Business/Finance at Morehead State University, there were ten industries in 2012 that consistently combined low start-up costs, increased demand and high pretax profit potential without the need for a specialized degree, ultimately making them more attractive to budding entrepreneurs. In alphabetical order, they are…


These flourish best in small towns, rural areas and suburban upper middle class neighborhoods where families can afford to buy sweets from a specialty shop, and often do so to celebrate holidays and local events. While at least one skilled baker must be hired, such shops don’t require a ton of retail space; plus, the price of raw ingredients, equipment and materials are fairly minimal. Entrepreneurs can even get creative by adding a twist, like starting an all-chocolate shop or a mobile bakery truck.

Consignment Business

Frugal buyers searching for a deal will often target such shops for low-cost, well-maintained clothes, toys, furniture and jewelry. In fact, dour economies are especially prosperous for the consignment industry simply because that’s when folks are most intent on saving money. Operating out of your garage or online keeps overhead costs low. And specializing in a specific area such as silver, pet toys, maternity clothes or rocking chairs can help hone your market.

E-Commerce Website

This seems to cover all manner of sins in the digital age, allowing new business owners to leverage their unique skills through an inexpensive, readily accessible online platform with millions of potential clients worldwide. Internet commerce can be achieved by offering any product or service that consumers demand, and with lower capital risk than most brick-and-mortar shops. Start a consultancy. Sell used electronics. Offer transcription services. The sky’s the limit.

Elderly Care Services

In 2011, the oldest baby boomers reached 65 years old, representing 13% of the total U.S. population. As the number of retirees increased, so did the need for outpatient services, which can range from therapeutic day spas to family planning centers to rehabilitation clinics. While start-up costs may be higher than other businesses mentioned here, such service providers ranked number 6 on the Forbes “10 Most Profitable Businesses” list of 2008, with a pretax profit margin of almost 17%.

Handyman Services

Homes, apartments, offices, stores – they all have plumbing, wiring, mechanical and general maintenance requirements. So such services are relevant regardless of the area you’re in. And marketing costs are low since most business is derived primarily through referrals and word of mouth. Even if you don’t personally possess the jack-of-all-trades skill set needed to be successful, try staffing several handymen under your company umbrella and assigning them jobs that come in.

Music Teacher

Do you play a musical instrument? Guitar? Piano? French horn? Ever wonder how you could leverage that skill to make a buck? Why not pass on your knowledge to the next generation of eager learners. You can maintain a flexible schedule and charge by the hour to parents who want to supplement their child’s school curriculum with private lessons. Start-up costs are limited to your instrument of choice, and you can work out of your own place or make house calls.

Pet Shop

Animal lovers can take their fondness of man’s four-legged friends right to the bank by starting a pet-centered business, capitalizing on what a 2011 American Pet Production Association survey called a $50 billion industry. This doesn’t necessarily entail selling animals either. Your company might range from in-home grooming and pet-sitting services to luxury cat hotels to the distribution of pet food and supplies. All of these tap into the vast pet market.

Software App Developer

They say necessity is the mother of invention. So maybe you’ve thought up some ideas for mobile apps that haven’t been invented yet, but would make our lives a little easier. Why not create them yourself? Most app developers are self-trained, although the few who don’t have the patience can learn through cheap online courses or simply hire programmers to do the heavy lifting. Either start your own firm or work as a freelancer in a field that’s very in demand right now.

Staffing Agency

Sluggish economies often mean businesses stop hiring full time employees as a way to stave off undue cost burdens like high wages, health insurance and vacation pay. Capitalizing on this need by offering up semi-skilled temps and part-timers for a fee is a low risk scenario that allows you to work from your home while using brochures, direct mailing and social networking to generate clients. And high unemployment means finding willing workers will be easier than usual.

Tutoring Services

Qualified tutors for kids K-12 have been a hot commodity in recent years. Basic requirements include a high school diploma (although a college degree’s optimal) and a transcript showing good grades. Past experience working with developmentally disabled children is even better. Advertise your services through local school districts or at after-school events for a minimal expense. All tutoring services can be rendered in the home or online, and often using the student’s own materials.