Shopify

The 23 Most Profitable Business Opportunities To Consider

the-23-most-profitable-business-opportunities-in-2021

Creating a home-based business or finding profitable online business ideas can be challenging. There are thousands of possible choices, yet everything seems like it’s been done thousands of times before.

So with all these product choices, where do you even begin digging to find the gold?

If you’re looking to start your own business, below is a big list of opportunities you can take advantage of today to grow a profitable business in 2021 and beyond.

Business opportunities that survived the pandemic

From our research, we defined a “thriving” business type as one whose founder had a higher-than-average level of satisfaction with business performance and/or a higher-than-average positive outlook on the future of their businesses.

While there have been some clear winners—we don’t even have to look at the numbers to call out loungewear brands and home fitness businesses—our research revealed some unexpected standouts.

Those thriving business types—and our predictions for the most profitable small businesses to start are:

  • Healthy and beauty businesses
  • Subscription businesses
  • Businesses selling B2B and B2C

Health and beauty businesses

business performance in 2020

The numbers: 55% of health and beauty business founders reported being satisfied with business performance in the past year. (The average across all business types was 38%.) While the past year’s performance indicates success, an even higher percentage expects continued success. 79% of health and beauty founders reported having a positive outlook in the following months.

Why these businesses thrived

Under the category of health and beauty, you’ll find personal care items like hand sanitizer and soaps. These products were in high demand, especially at the outset of the pandemic, with increased concern about surface transmission. Another side effect of rolling lockdowns was the impact on the beauty service industry. Consumers diverted their beauty spending to at-home spa and salon experiences.

With the slow rollout of vaccines and the continued need for self-care, we predict that health and beauty businesses will continue to thrive through 2021.

High-potential health and beauty businesses to start in 2021

If you’re looking to start a profitable health or beauty business this year, consider the changing needs of consumers. We identified trends that emerged in 2020 and are here to stay.

Businesses that can sell online and offer multiple delivery methods will win. Pair that approach with product ideas that are in high demand:

  • Personal care products like hand soap and sanitizer
  • At-home spa rituals like face masks
  • Beauty technology like massage guns, smart mirrors, and makeup refrigerators

💡 Quick start tip: Spin up a beauty business by considering reselling or white label. For more on these models, consult our guide to starting a makeup line.

Subscription businesses

subscription business statistics

The numbers: 63% of founders who sold subscriptions were satisfied with business performance, compared to 55% of founders who did not sell subscriptions. We identified two subscription models commonly used by businesses that thrived in 2020:

  1. Replenishment model: subscribers receive the same or similar products each cycle.
  2. Membership model: subscribers have access to exclusive products or perks.

Why these businesses thrived

In our consumer trends research, we found that buyers were more likely to shop from businesses that offered convenience through online purchasing options and multiple choices for delivery or pickup. Subscriptions offer an easy way for customers to receive the products they frequently buy without having to make multiple trips to stores—and risk exposure.

Even early in the pandemic, it was reported that subscription box businesses were experiencing a surge. Many replaced a lack of connection to activities that brought joy with delight delivered regularly to doorsteps.

High-potential subscription businesses to start in 2021

We recently announced that Shopify has made selling subscriptions on our platform even easier. That means if you already own a business, you can add a subscription option to help you increase predictable revenue and customer loyalty. If you’re starting from scratch, this could be a great online business idea for you.

You could sell:

  • Basics like diapers and personal care (replenishment model)
  • Self-care boxes
  • Current product trends work well with subscriptions, such as non-alcoholic beverages, puzzles, board games, and nail polish.

💡 Quick start tip: Read our quick guide to adding subscription options to your existing business. If you’re starting from scratch, reach out to existing subscription box businesses to see if you can partner up. Including your product in a popular box can increase your reach and exposure.

Business selling B2B and B2C

b2b2c businesses survived the pandemic

The numbers: 62% of founders who sold both B2B and B2C were satisfied with business performance in 2020, while only 53% of B2C-only business owners reported the same. This model was most common among those running businesses in the food and beverage industry, with 53% of those surveyed reporting selling both B2C and B2B.

Planned business expansion is an obvious indicator of a business’s current success. Among those who sell both B2B and B2C, 24% reported they planned to expand their business into new product areas shortly.

Why these businesses thrived

Reaching new customers and getting products into their hands became increasingly challenging as stores shuttered and delivery providers overwhelmed. Those who used multiple channels or models to reach customers had a better chance of survival in 2020—and a high potential to be profitable in 2021.

For example, a brand that sold its handmade skincare wholesale to beauty retailers may have seen its B2B business dip with the closure of these partner stores but could supplement the loss by selling the same products B2C via an online store.

High-potential B2B/B2C businesses to start in 2021

In 2020, Shopify announced the launch of Handshake, a wholesale marketplace for retailers and suppliers. If you already sell direct-to-consumer, consider adding wholesale to the mix and increase your exposure to new markets. If you’re a wholesaler, spin up a direct-to-customer arm of your business to make up for sales impacted by the pandemic.

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking for a product idea, many can be sold both B2B and B2C. Our findings indicate that combining these will give you a better chance of having a profitable small business. Start with our resources to help you find a product, or tap into some recent product trends:

  • Workout gear like exercise bands and yoga mats
  • Health and beauty products
  • Home decor items like rugs and furniture

💡 Quick start tip: Take your existing B2C business to a B2B audience by consulting our guide to selling wholesale.

Online business opportunities

Illustration of a woman working at her desk on her online business

Millions of self-employed people call home their place of business. Want to join them? Below is a list of online business opportunities you can take advantage of from the comfort of your home.

Dropshipping

Dropshipping is one of the best at-home business opportunities there is. Dropshipping is a business model that lets you buy products directly from a supplier or manufacturer and ship them to your customers.

Compared to other ecommerce business opportunities, dropshipping is low-cost to start. You don’t have to worry about carrying inventory or buying products in bulk. You don’t even have to worry about shipping products, because your supplier handles that for you.

Since you don’t have to buy the items you sell, you can offer various products, such as beauty, keto, fashion, home, ice cream, wholesale, and more—dropshipping business opportunities are near endless. If a supplier stocks a product, you can list it on your online store at no additional cost.

Print on demand

Whether you’re an artist, designer, or ecommerce brand, print-on-demand is a great potential business opportunity for online clothing retailers. Printing on demand involves working with a supplier to customize white-label products, such as tote bags or t-shirts, with your own designs.

The best part? You don’t have to pay for the product until after you sell it. Similar to dropshipping, you don’t hold any inventory or buy in bulk.

More Resources:

Sell handmade products

If you always enjoyed making and building stuff as a kid, selling DIY products is a great business opportunity to monetize your creativity. Even if you have the will to create something new but lack the know-how, there’s a way to make it happen.

Take Josh Pigford, founder of Baremetrics (a SaaS company) and Cedar + Sail (a handmade homewares online shop), for example. What started as a part-time side project quickly became a profitable online business opportunity to stimulate his creative side and sell products he makes by hand.

“I’m a sucker for little things that go on side tables and desks, so I started playing around with some ideas for concrete planters—the kind of thing that can hold succulents and air plants,” Josh says.

“I quickly figured out how to produce the silicon molds I’d need to pour the concrete in, and I was set. A month after I had the idea to make these little planters, Cedar + Sail was born!”

If you’re unsure what to sell, look around your house. What’s missing that you wish you had? Is it a concrete pot? Colorful artisan bed covers? Then do some online research to see what’s selling. Are big stores like Target, Amazon, or West Elm selling similar items?

Once you’ve decided what things to make and sell and what seems to be trending, start creating!

Resources:

Sell digital products

E-learning is exploding as an industry. Recent studies show that the industry will be worth around $325 billion by 2025, making digital products one of the best online business opportunities for creators and educators. Music, videos, ebooks, and online courses are a few examples. They can be held or touched, but they are popular amongst consumers because they can download them and consume on their own time.

Digital products also create great business opportunities because they’re inexpensive to create and distribute. You can make it once and sell it repeatedly to different people without restocking inventory or talking with suppliers. If you consider yourself an expert on a particular topic, you can package that information up and sell it as a one-time fee or subscription.

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Sell photography

Business opportunities like selling photography are common. You can sell photos on endless stock sites—such as Getty Images, Shutterstock, iStock, 500px, and Stocksy—or wherever the demand for your type of photography exists.

To succeed in selling photos online, make sure to cover three important things:

  1. Find your niche. Whether it’s flowers, travel, buildings, landscapes, or fashion, choose one and stick to it.
  2. Build an audience. Selling photos isn’t a passive business opportunity. Promoting your photos on social media and building a following to sell more is a good idea.
  3. Create multiple revenue streams. Don’t just sell on one site. Sell on as many as you can to create various income streams.

Whether you’re a hobby photographer or it’s your full-time job, selling photos is one of those free online business opportunities that can help you earn cash if you put the time into it.

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Play video games

Video games have come a long way from earning you only bragging rights. Today, you can earn degrees, get sponsorships, and even become an esports professional gamer.

With an industry valued at $257 billion and growing, video games can be one of the most profitable business opportunities if you play your cards right. Revenue doesn’t come only from playing professionally, either. You can earn money live streaming on Twitch.tv, start a YouTube channel, or even sell game-inspired merch.

Become a self-published author

Do you love to write? Have you ever thought about publishing your own book? Well, good news. Becoming a self-published author is one of your best small business opportunities.

Self-publishing means you don’t work with an established publisher to manage the editing, design, and production processes of making a book. Instead, you do it on your own. With no real shortage of readers on the internet, there’s plenty of space for you to make and sell an ebook or audiobook and turn a profit.

Sell pet products

An online pet store is one of the most fun business opportunities because you can sell various products. Many treat their furry friends like children and are willing to spend money to ensure they are taken care of. For example, you could sell everything from organic foods to luxury accessories, beds, and apparel.

Whether you want to run it as a dropshipping business or sell homemade treats, the pay is good, the work is rewarding (who doesn’t want to make dogs happy?), and people will never stop spoiling their pets—which means job security is guaranteed.

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Sell thrift clothes

Did you know the secondhand apparel market is valued at $38 billion? This makes it a prime business opportunity if you have some old clothes in the back of your closet and want to make some extra cash.

With new technology at the forefront, you can turn to sell unwanted clothing into one of the most profitable business opportunities online.

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Go freelance

Freelancing is one of the most common online business opportunities. Being a freelancer means you’re self-employed and not committed to a long-term employer. It allows you to take your office wherever you go and essentially be your own boss.

With the rise in remote work and the gig economy, you’ll be on your way to a successful online business by going freelance. It may be competitive, but if you have a set of skills you’ve built over the years, or even one you want to learn, there’s money to be made.

For example, you can turn skills like web design, SEO, marketing, copywriting, or app developing into a profitable home-based business.

Federal business opportunities

Illustration of a person gardening the lawn of a federal building

The federal government makes it easy for small businesses to start bidding on government contracts. They even offer special business opportunities for women with qualified companies. You can search the entire database at SAM.gov to find opportunities.

These are the most common federal business opportunities:

Sell your expertise

Do you have a service-based small business like landscaping or gardening? The federal government has a ton of departments that could use your expertise. You can land a contract for different gigs, including tree removal, snow removal, weed control, grounds maintenance, and more.

Security

As you’d imagine, security is extremely important in government-owned buildings and facilities. From single-guard to multistate operations, there are dozens of security contracts you can bid on. Examples include entrance security, armed patrol, after-hours patrol, and camera installation and monitoring. Now, you’ll be competing against some big corporations. Still, even for smaller service providers, you can bid for direct contracts or subcontract business opportunities to provide security services to federal clients.

Construction

Whether it’s new construction, electrical, or roadwork, you can bid on contracting business opportunities with the government. This includes providing supplies and materials for new buildings and roads or even renovating old ones. These business opportunities would go through the standard bidding process, but you can also find less intensive jobs like custodial work through sites like Indeed.

Equipment maintenance

Operations and maintenance span a variety of categories you may find interesting, including facilities, roadway, parking, electronics, public safety, food services like vending machines, and office equipment to keep agencies and institutions running smoothly.

Why do you want to start bidding on government contracts for maintenance? Many of these maintenance contracts run multi-year, which means stable long-term work for your business.

Entrepreneurial opportunities

 

federal business opportunities

Whether you aim to create a million-dollar business or want to build a small local business, below are some top entrepreneurial opportunities to try:

Become a social media influencer

Ever imagine turning likes and follows into dollars and checks? Now’s a good time to leverage your reputation as a social media influencer. While it sounds like one of those far-fetched business opportunities, it’s become a lucrative venture for people across different industries, including gardening, fashion, food, travel, and parenting.

Building your reputation online may take a bit of time, but if you have a passionate topic, you can make money by growing an engaged audience on social media.

Resources:

Sell coffee

Running a café is not your only option if you want to explore all your coffee business opportunities. With the increased demand for online coffee retailers, you can sell anything from beans to roasters to cups to other coffee-related products.

Since coffee is one of the world’s most consumed beverages, plenty of potential customers are ready to buy your product. Customers also give an advantage to small brands, which means you can niche down and sell to a specific group of people. People already want your coffee; they just need to know where to find you.

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Rent your unused space

With sites like Neighbor, you can easily rent unused space in your home to people who need more storage. It’s become one of the easiest passive income opportunities in the self-storage industry, which is valued at over $38 billion.

Basically, you become a storage unit for someone who lives near you. Instead of going to an expensive storage facility, they come to your house to store and retrieve their stuff.

Sell food waste

We throw out over $990 billion worth of food annually, destroying the environment and making a dent in the global economy. Entrepreneurs are finding creative ways to turn old and unwanted food into profit, and so can you.

You could sell “ugly” fruit and vegetables at bargain prices in a subscription box, turn food waste into fuel, turn rotten food into insect protein, or even create a local marketplace where people can share leftover food.

Buy a business for sale

Not everyone wants to start a business from scratch, and that’s OK. With Exchange by Shopify, you can choose from thousands of ecommerce stores for sale and get right into business, fast.

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Think of buying an existing business as investing in online real estate. When you choose the right property and maintain it, you can create an income stream you can own and grow without doing the heavy lifting.

Become a franchisee

Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, 7-Eleven, and Hertz are some of the most well-known brands in the world. What do they have in common? They are all franchises. Opening a franchise is a smart option if you want to dive into entrepreneurship and skip the brand-building process.

To open a franchise, you must pay a fee to the franchisor or the company owner. They own all the assets, products, trademarks, and services. Paying the fee will allow you to run the franchise business and use the company’s resources, training, and support.

The benefit of buying a franchise is that everything is ready to go. You don’t need to buy any equipment or products. The franchisor can also help find buildings, hire and train staff, share advice on management and marketing, and more.

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How to identify new business opportunities

If the types of business opportunities above don’t meet your needs, keep these tips in mind when looking for other business ventures:

  1. Look at industry trends and insights. Continually educate yourself on industry trends by subscribing to niche publications, joining relevant associations, and following experts on social media.
  2. Do competitor research. See what similar companies are doing. Why do their customers go to them? What’s their pricing like? This will help you identify key business opportunities to expand your market reach and create better products and services.
  3. Listen to your customer base. When your customers talk, listen to them. How do they talk about industry products and services? What frustrations and feedback do they have? Use this insight to tailor products for the right audience.
  4. Collaborate and network. This will help you better understand which ideas work and which ones don’t. Your business won’t get very far without a solid network.
  5. Find a mentor. Look to connect with someone in your industry who has achieved more than you. They will help you get better and identify more key business opportunities.
  6. Keep an eye out. Business opportunities can pop up out of nowhere due to your hard work. So be ready to take advantage of an opportunity at any time.

Finding the right business opportunities for you

Whether you’re looking for dropshipping business ideas or want to become a reseller online, you can find business opportunities to meet your future goals. While exploring all your options, be sure to check out our list of low-investment business ideas to find the best business opportunity for you!

Business opportunities FAQ

What are examples of business opportunities?

  • Selling digital products
  • Dropshipping
  • Online gaming
  • Consulting
  • Print-on-demand services
  • Freelance business
  • Ecommerce store owner
  • Consultant

What are the best businesses for beginners?

  • Dropshipping
  • Selling thrift clothes
  • Renting your unused space
  • Driving for Uber or Lyft
  • Becoming a social media influencer
  • Turnkey businesses like storage units or laundromats

What is a good business opportunity?

A good business opportunity is one that has potential for growth and aligns with your passions. Motivation is key to the success of any startup. If you are determined to build something you are proud of, you’ll have a bright future for your business.

What were the most successful businesses in 2020?

    • Health and beauty businesses
    • Subscription businesses
    • Businesses that sold B2B and B2C
This originally appeared on Shopify and is available here to cast a wider net of discovery.

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