21 Best Small Businesses to Start for Beginners (2024)

Alibaba.com MAY 10, 202218 MIN READ
21 Best Small Businesses to Start for Beginners (2024)

There are plenty of advantages to being a business owner. First, owning a business provides the opportunity to earn more money. Also, being an entrepreneur means you are in control of everything. You decide when to work, where, and what to sell.

Meanwhile, the first step to becoming an entrepreneur is finding a business idea that works for you. In this article, we review the best small business to start and provide ideas for launching your business as a solopreneur.


What is a small business, and why start it online?

Anyone can start an online business as long as they have a business idea and a working internet connection in this day and age. Today, you have all the tools to set up your own business online.

Any business that functions on a small scale involves less investment, and less human/machine labor to operate is a small business. Most entrepreneurs with huge companies and corporations started by running small businesses.

Meanwhile, social media and online technology make it easier than ever for anyone to start a small business. This includes entrepreneurs who run businesses as their full-time jobs and those who run them as a side hustle.

With a profitable B2B online business, you can:

  • Avoid expensive startup costs,
  • Choose your working hours
  • Work as little or as much as you want
  • Pick a niche that you are knowledgeable or passionate about

More importantly, starting an online business makes it easy to be your boss and earn money from anywhere. But how do you know which small businesses start? We cover this and more in the next session.

Smart ideas to start a business with little money

Before starting any business, you must decide what to sell and analyze if it’s profitable. The last thing you want is to invest time and effort in a business that doesn’t yield reasonable returns. But what is a good small business to start?

Here are Alibaba.com’s 21 low-cost business ideas you can consider for your entrepreneurial journey:

1. Start a dropshipping business

Dropshipping is a profitable business to start online, especially if you do not want to buy products in advance. Some entrepreneurs make up to $100,000 a year from drop shipping.

Start a dropshipping business

How does it work?

Drop shipping involves sourcing from suppliers at wholesale prices and then selling them to consumers without stocking inventory. Many B2B e-commerce stores like Alibaba.com make it easy for drop shippers to find suppliers and sell to consumers.

Unlike wholesalers, dropshipping is also a low-risk and profitable business because you do not need to incur running costs. You can specialize in any product as a drop shipper, but it’s best to focus on high-quality products that sell well.

2. Develop and sell a niche product

Carving out a niche product for a specific target audience is another small home business idea. Instead of depending on suppliers and manufacturers for goods, you can develop your product.

Choosing a specific niche is best before racking your head for a product idea. For instance, if your preferred niche is fashion, you can produce apparel, lip gloss, or skincare. If you’re more interested in art and creativity, you can offer notebooks, journals, etc. Different niches have multiple product ideas, and deciding what you want to produce is up to you.

3. Design and sell print-on-demand t-shirts

Another profitable yet inexpensive small business to start at home is offering customers customized t-shirts. In 2020, the printing t-shirt market was valued at $4 billion.

Print-on-demand t-shirts are an excellent dropshipping idea for entrepreneurs exploring the fashion or design industry. Also, you do not have to worry about inventory or stock as you only print on demand.

To start this business, you will need to create t-shirt mockup designs (there are templates online) to allow customers to preview the design. Once a customer orders a shirt, you can leverage platforms like Printful to create designs or outsource to a print-on-demand service. Also, the trick to success in this industry is to offer unique and cute designs that showcase people’s identities and personalities.

4. Sell print-on-demand posters, greeting cards, and prints

There is something unique about custom-made and artistic products. Even though the world can now leverage technology to send their messages, most people still prefer sending customized greeting cards. A study showed that nine out of every ten households buy greeting cards yearly.

Also, many people love artistic posters, prints, and wall hangings, which you can offer through print-in-demand services. If you are an artist, a designer, or a writer or have a thing for print-on-demand goods like posters and greeting cards, this is a business idea to consider.

5. Sell handcrafted and homemade goods.

While technology and computers have made production easy, they haven’t stopped the demand for homemade products. In fact, the handmade and homemade craft market is fast evolving into a large industry. This is mainly because many consumers now prefer products made by an actual human. There’s the longing for a human touch, thus making it a good idea to sell unique and personal handcrafted goods.

Handcrafted goods may include crochet, beadwork, metalwork, handmade dresses, scented candles, pet toys, weaves, etc. It’s also a plus if you have the skills to make the goods yourself. However, if you can’t make the products yourself, you can always collaborate with people who do.

6. Sell sustainable products

As people become more aware of global warming and climate change, the demand for sustainable products has increased. The Economist Intelligence Unit also reported that there had been a 71% rise in online searches for sustainable goods since 2016.

If you are passionate about the environment and want to start a business, selling eco-friendly products is a good idea. Different product options include recycled fabric, reusable straws, eco-friendly shopping bags, stainless steel, etc. Investing in this market is also a great way to gain customer trust.

contact with alibaba.com

7. Start a pet business

The pet market is a booming industry that offers the possibility of financial success for those who get into it. According to the American Pet Products Association, US pet owners spent $103.6 billion on their pets in 2020. This isn’t a surprising statistic because pets have always played important roles in many people’s lives. They are like a part of the family, and it’s natural for pet owners to care for their companions.

Getting into the pet industry is a great opportunity if you are a pet lover. Whether you offer pet products, grooming materials, or pet food/treats, there’s always room to thrive in the industry.

8. Create an online fashion boutique

Running an online boutique is a great way to capitalize on your passion and skills if you have an eye for fashion. Statistica estimated that the apparel industry will likely generate more than $153 billion by 2024.

Meanwhile, the fashion industry is a massive market, so it’s always better to niche down when considering a small business to start at home. For instance, instead of focusing on everything fashion, you can narrow down to female shoes, jewelry, or vintage wear. You can choose a niche based on your passion or use tools like Google Trends for market gaps and insights.

9. Start a beauty business

The beauty business has never been out of vogue for decades now. Many people are into beauty and skincare products, and anyone who can hack into the business will find it profitable.

And the best part? There are a lot of niche ideas in the beauty industry. You can focus on makeup, skincare, haircare, jewelry, DIY products, and so on. Another great advantage of starting a beauty business is that showcasing products online is easy. You can share before and after pictures, beauty tips, and recommendations with your audience.

10. Sell phone accessories

Mobile devices have become an essential need that most people can’t live without. And, as long as people use phones, phone accessories will always be in demand. Starting a phone accessory business can be very profitable and doesn’t require huge starting capital. You can focus on different accessories like:

  • Phone cases
  • Speakers
  • Ring lights
  • Gimbals
  • Chargers
  • Memory cards
  • Earphones, and so on.

Sell phone accessories

11. Sell sports apparel

There are many lucrative sports business ideas, and one of them is selling sports apparel. According to Global Industry Analysts Inc., sports and fitness clothing will be valued at $231.7 billion worldwide by 2024. While big companies like Nike and Adidas are key stakeholders in the sports apparel industry, there’s room for small businesses to thrive, too.

Selling sports items and clothing is one of the easiest ways to earn money in the sports industry. However, you should ensure that you only deal with trendy, comfortable, and unique products.

12. Sell mother & baby products

You can earn a lot from selling mama and baby products online. Parents need to buy products for their children’s well-being and maintenance, so this market will always have customers. This industry has many products, including pregnancy braces, pacifiers, baby clothing, maternity clothes, baby food, carriers, etc.

A good small home business idea in the children’s products industry is always looking for trending and essential products. Sell what babies and moms always need because those will sell better.

13. Start a wholesale jewelry business

More than 29 million people purchased jewelry online daily in 2021. If you think of starting a lucrative business online, you should consider selling wholesale jewelry. There is always a market for it, and the industry keeps growing.

As a jewelry distributor, you’ll have the option of selecting different products. Some trendy jewelry products include fine jewelry, precious stones, handmade jewelry, costume jewelry, and body jewelry.

Another great thing about the jewelry business is that shipping is always easier than heavy products like electronics.

14. Create digital products or online courses

Digital products include things like podcasts, online courses, and ebooks. You can monetize your expertise by selling it as digital content or online courses. For instance, if you have marketing skills, you can create an ebook on marketing 101 for new entrepreneurs or organize an online class.

Digital products are intangible, so you do not need to worry about delivery. Other digital products you can sell aside from online courses include:

  • Videos
  • Ebooks
  • Online tools and templates
  • Software
  • Editing presets

15. Host virtual events

Another great way to make money is by hosting events on social media or other platforms. You’ve likely attended a webinar online or connected to an event through video conferencing. Since the pandemic, there has been a rise in virtual events, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.

Many businesses and companies are pushing out virtual events. Most of the time, they outsource the planning/hosting to a professional. There are different event ideas, but one of the most popular is webinars, which involve inviting one or more speakers to present to a virtual audience.

16. Invest in vending machines

A brilliant way to make extra cash is by investing in vending machines. The vending machine industry generates more than $23 billion in annual revenue. You can invest in one or many vending machines depending on your capital.

You only need to place the vending machine strategically to get into this business. Also, you have to decide what products you want to sell or even sell multiple products. Some of the most popular vending machine products are snacks, beverages, and confectionery. You can also go for non-edible products like medicines, magazines, cosmetics, first aid, and so on.

17. Become a social media manager

Many companies need to run social media accounts to manage their businesses. This is especially important now that 45% of the world’s population uses social media.

However, many entrepreneurs often need to outsource the job of running multiple accounts to social media managers. As a social media manager, you can help businesses create content and manage their accounts. An excellent social media manager provides strategies to help a business improve its online visibility and engagement. If you are social media savvy, enjoy content creation, and have social media marketing skills, this is a good idea to consider.

18. Become an SEO consultant

Looking for best IT business to start without overspending on investment? Try SEO services. Many business owners are obsessed with ranking their websites on search engines. For this reason, there is a high demand for SEO consultants who can wrap their heads around SEO optimization, link building, content creation, and so on.

If you know the ins and outs of SEO, starting a consulting business for website owners could be a profitable opportunity for you. Clients will pay you to offer them SEO strategies, analyze their web performance, and boost their online engagement. If you don’t have SEO skills yet, you can master them and offer businesses your help.

19. Provide web content services

Content is integral to digital marketing efforts for businesses and ecommerce companies. Thus, many people require the expertise of those who can develop high-performing content for their websites.

If you have excellent marketing and writing skills, starting a career in web content will work perfectly for you. Some of the commonly sought-after content that may require your writing skills include:

  • Blog posts
  • Website copy
  • Social media posts
  • Email newsletters, and so on.

You can hop on a freelancing platform or contact companies directly to get into this business.

Provide web content services

20. Become a translator

If you’re bilingual, creative, and looking for a business idea to start, you should consider offering translation services. There is an increasing need to translate texts into different languages to serve a global audience.

Movies need to be translated, car manuals need to be translated, and your Korean skincare bottle needs to be translated. This B2B service is essential for businesses that sell to global customers worldwide. Whether you speak French, Italian, or Mandarin as a second language, a company always looks for translation services.

21. Sell your artwork

Here is a unique business idea if you are an artist or creative: sell your artwork. Whether you are passionate about taking photographs or painting, you can easily set up a store to sell your prints.

Also, several photography sites will be willing to pay for your artwork. This is a good idea if you are an artist looking for a way to sell your creative works or products.

5 tips for starting a small business online

The small business ideas covered in this article are just a few out of many available. Whether you have found a business idea or are exploring other options, here are 5 tips you should consider when starting an online business:

1: Focus on a niche market

Business is always easier when you have a specific niche and target audience. For example, if your industry is fashion, you can choose jewelry for men as your niche. This makes reaching your target audience and marketing your products easier.

The best way to find a niche market is to conduct market research. You can leverage platforms like Alibaba.com to conduct marketing research for your business.

2: Build an online storefront on Alibaba.com

Alibaba.com is one of the biggest B2B ecommerce platforms in the world. This marketplace brings together millions of B2B buyers and sellers worldwide.

Having Alibaba.com makes connecting with customers online, setting up your store, and selling your products easier.

3: Identify your potential customers

Customers are the most critical part of your business, so it’s best to target the right people. You are in business because some people need solutions to your products or services. To identify your audience, you need to ask questions like:

  • Who are your potential customers, and what’s their demography (age, gender, location)?
  • What are their main challenges, and how can you help solve them?
  • Whom do they buy from, and what’s their buying habit?

Understanding your audience is crucial for building a marketing strategy that works.

4: Leverage multi-channels

The beauty of online business is that you can leverage multiple channels. Instead of sticking to one channel, consider using different channels to sell your products. For instance, if you have an e-commerce site, you can leverage various social media websites to list your products.

5: Don’t stop marketing

Previously, it was possible to count on people to buy your products without marketing. Not anymore; there are millions of businesses out there, so it’s a competitive market.

If you do not invest in building your business reputation and marketing your business, reaching your customers will be hard. Social media now makes marketing your business on the plus side easy. So, use social media and digital marketing tools to promote your brand and build a community of loyal audiences.

How to start a small business at home

There are numerous advantages to starting a small business right at home. By starting a business at home, you will save money on many overhead costs. However, before starting a good business online, it’s essential to plan thoroughly to ensure things run smoothly. Here are some steps to start a small business at home:

1: Decide on a business idea

This is, of course, an obvious one, but some people often start a business without knowing what they are getting into. To start a business at home, you need a business idea and validate it.

Once you’ve decided on something to sell, you need to analyze the viability of your new business idea. Is there a market for your business? Will people be willing to pay for your products/services? Is your business idea profitable?

There are many business ideas you can start at home. You can sell homemade products, start affiliate marketing, sell your writing skills, sell digital products, etc.

2: Set up a business plan

Once you have a business idea, it’s time to plan how you intend to run your business. A good business plan will be a roadmap to understanding and running your new business. Also, business plans are essential to identify your industry and create marketing strategies.

To create a solid plan, you’ll need to:

  • Identify your business objectives
  • Conduct market research
  • Identify your target audience and competitors
  • Plan for your budget.

There are also multiple resources and templates online to help small business owners put together a plan.

3: Brand your business

Building a brand is an essential part of starting an online business. Branding involves developing strategic features to distinguish your organization from another. Good branding improves the perception of your business, increases customers, and boosts sales.

Some branding elements of business include:

  • Business name
  • Logo
  • Card
  • Website

3: Set up a marketplace

Now that you have an idea and business plan, it’s time to get your marketplace running. A marketplace makes it easy for customers to see your business and buy from you. To build a great marketplace, you will need to conduct market research to determine what suits your business.

There are several options to set up a marketplace, including:

  • Hosting your own site
  • Leveraging third-party platforms like Alibaba.com, Amazon, and Etsy
  • Opening social media accounts

4: Test your new business idea

You have worked hard to plan your business, and now it’s time to launch your idea. Announce to the world that you are now open for business. You can announce through social media, email, online ads, and so on.

5: Create a unique marketing strategy

You should build a marketing strategy to promote your brand now that you’ve launched your business. How do you position your brand in a way that fuels your business growth? You need to figure this out to attract more customers and increase sales.

Some common marketing strategies for online businesses include:

  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Content marketing

Sell on Alibaba.com

As a small business owner, it’s important to leverage all the tools you can to reach a wider audience. Ready to sell on a global marketplace and meet millions of customers? Leverage Alibaba.com!

Alibaba.com is a B2B marketplace that offers business owners a platform to list their products and sell them to a broad audience. Also, Alibaba.com provides marketing tools and 24/7 customer support to grow your business.

It’s easy to get started on Alibaba.com. Open a seller account, list your products, and sell to a global audience.

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