Starting a business doesn’t have to require a lot of startup capital. There are many great business ideas out there that allow entrepreneurs to get started with minimal investment. The key is finding an idea that fills a need in the market, provides value, and can be monetized.
With some creativity and hustle, almost the low cost business ideas with high profits can become a money-making endeavor. Here are some of the best low cost startup ideas to consider:
The internet has opened up a wealth of possibilities for starting low-cost, online-based businesses. With just a laptop and internet connection, you can get started with any of these popular online business ideas:
Offering freelance services in areas like writing, graphic design, programming, marketing, consulting, and more allows you to start a business with little overhead. Sites like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer provide platforms to sell your services globally. Focus on building client relationships and providing top-notch service.
Create value-driven information products to sell online. From eBooks and courses to templates, guides, and more, leverage your expertise to help others. Self-publishing platforms make this a low-cost endeavor. Promote through your own website, social media, and affiliate partnerships.
Sell products online without inventory. Research winning products, build an e-commerce store through platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce, and partner with suppliers to ship orders directly to customers. Focus on marketing, branding, and providing great customer service.
Launching a blog can cost next to nothing. Monetize with display ads, affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, eBooks, online courses, and coaching. Build an audience through valuable content, SEO, and social media. Blogging can become a significant income stream.
Share your experience and expertise by consulting or coaching in your industry. Start with a website, social media, and outreach to ideal clients. Offer services like hourly consulting calls, project work, mastermind groups, and online courses. Provide high-value service and build client relationships.
The benefit of online businesses is low overhead and the ability to scale and monetize digital offerings. With hard work and persistence, these businesses can grow into very profitable ventures.
Creating a physical product that solves a problem can also be an extremely lucrative business pursuit. Some possibilities for low-cost product businesses include:
Offer handmade crafts, jewelry, clothing, candles, soaps, or other artistic products. Sell on Etsy, at craft fairs, markets, trade shows, and through social media. Expand to your own online store. Focus on quality, great branding, and stellar customer service.
Print on Demand
Design trending products like apparel, phone cases, stationery, wall art, and more, then have them printed on-demand through platforms like Printful and Printify. List them on Etsy, Amazon, and your own store. Paid ads and influencer marketing can help drive sales.
Private Label Products
Source custom-manufactured products unique to your brand, either domestically or overseas at low cost. Sell them online or to retail stores under your own brand. Use paid ads, SEO, and email marketing to promote. Keep quality high.
Curate themed boxes of products to be delivered monthly. Source products wholesale and market subscriptions through social media, paid ads, and influencers. Offer subscriptions at different pricing tiers. Automate fulfillment as you scale.
Physical information products
Leverage books, guides, planners, journals, calendars, and more by self-publishing through platforms like Amazon KDP, IngramSpark, and others. Promote through online book marketing tactics and speaking engagements.
The product business model requires more upfront capital and effort vs. service businesses but brings the benefit of passive income potential, scalability, and eventual automation.
For those looking to start a small side business around their existing skills, pursuing gig work can be an excellent low-cost option. Some examples include:
Driving for Uber, Lyft or other ridesharing apps only requires a qualifying vehicle, background check, and driver’s license. It offers flexibility to work when desired.
Deliver food for Uber Eats, DoorDash, or groceries for Instacart using your own vehicle. A flexible schedule with decent earning potential makes this a great side business idea.
Offer freelance writing services for blogs, websites, and magazines on a per-project basis. Start by building clips and experience. Later focus on direct client relationships.
Provide administrative, social media management, email management, and data entry services virtually to clients. List your services on sites like Upwork or Fiverr to gain initial clients.
Renting Your Space
Rent out extra living space, parking spots, storage, yards, driveways, or other unused property through platforms like Airbnb, RVShare, and Neighbor. Provides passive income.
Buy equipment like cameras, lighting, tents, and tableware for events and rent them out locally. List on rental sites like FatLlama or local listing sites. Could also rent yard tools, food trucks, etc.
Gig work provides flexibility and quick money. The key is picking an in-demand niche, offering great service, and scaling up over time.
For those willing to put in the time and effort around inventory and logistics, retail arbitrage can make for a lucrative low-cost startup idea. The model includes:
- Finding inventory clearance or discounted products through big box retailers or online sellers
- Purchasing items at lower wholesale cost
- Reselling inventory through channels like Amazon or eBay for a profit
The key is finding profitable products through thorough product research. This takes diligence but can be done from home without any upfront investment. Inventory purchases are made only once winning products are identified, so costs scale with profits.
Starting a service-based business is one of the easiest low-cost business models. From contractor services to pet care to cleaning services, thousands of options exist for those willing to “get their hands dirty”.
Some examples of potentially lucrative service business ideas include:
Start cleaning homes, apartments, or offices with minimal startup investment. Offer add-ons like laundry service and window cleaning. Hire employees as needed. Promote through reviews, referrals, and social media.
Offer mowing, planting, yard cleanup, outdoor lighting, and more. Requirements are basic truck/trailer and equipment. Build recurring clients. Expand to lawn care products/services.
Become a licensed home inspector in your state and offer inspection services for home buyers and real estate agents. Build relationships with agents and lenders to drive referrals.
Help clients organize and declutter their homes. Provide services like closet builds, pantry organization, garage cleanup, and downsizing assistance. Market to new parents, empty nesters, and home sellers.
Dog Walking/Pet Sitting
Offer dog walking, pet sitting, overnight stays, or pet transportation. Start locally and expand with employees. Promote through reviews, referrals, and social media. Offer premium add-on services.
Provide non-medical elder care services like household help, cooking, cleaning, transportation, and companionship. Market to retirement communities, senior centers, and adult children. Build trust and repeat business.
The demand for quality local services makes this a perpetually lucrative business model. Focus on reliability, quality, and building customer relationships to grow over time.
Food-based businesses make fantastic low-cost high growth startup ideas, especially considering America’s $55 billion per year restaurant industry. Options include:
Make healthy prepared meals or catered events for locals from your licensed commercial kitchen. Market through social media, events, and corporate lunches. Offer delivery or pickup.
Serve signature dishes from a mobile food unit. Attend local events & festivals. Build a social media following to advertise locations. Ensure proper licenses, permits & commercial kitchen rental.
Bake from Home
Prepare baked goods from home for delivery, pickup, or local markets based on cottage food operator laws in your state. Expand into local coffee shops or online.
Meal Delivery Kits
Assemble and deliver meal kits with recipes and pre-portioned ingredients. Partner with local farms or food providers. Promote through Instagram and food influencers. Expand to meal planning app.
Sell beverages from a mobile coffee trailer at events, festivals, carnivals, and busy intersections. Experiment with custom drinks and expand to multiple units.
As long as you obtain proper permits, certifications, and licenses, the food industry offers multiple avenues for lucrative startup ideas on a budget. Provide an excellent product and use marketing to drive growth.
Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program allows you to leverage Amazon’s massive infrastructure to sell products without handling inventory or shipping. Here’s how it works as a low-cost business:
- Source low-cost products domestically or from overseas suppliers like Alibaba. Stick to light, small products for low shipping costs.
- Send inventory to Amazon warehouses (they handle storage and shipping)
- List products on Amazon through Seller Central and drive sales with Amazon PPC ads
- Amazon ships orders directly to customers and provides customer service
- You collect profits and reimburse Amazon’s fees
While competition is high, those able to source profitable niche products can do well. Some keys to success:
- Find untapped niche markets through rigorous product research
- Negotiate low wholesale costs and minimum order quantities
- Drive initial sales through promotions and PPC ads
- Focus on products with high margins and rapid turnover
- Monitor and optimize listings for maximum visibility
- Stay on top of reviews and inventory levels
With patience and persistence, FBA can become a solid business model. But careful product selection and marketing is crucial.
Also known as multi-level marketing (MLM), network marketing allows you to sell products for an existing company by recruiting a team of distributors beneath you. Popular companies include Amway, Avon, Mary Kay, and Herbalife.
The model relies on you recruiting a team of distributors and earning commissions off their sales. While controversial, some have succeeded wildly in network marketing by relentlessly recruiting and leading large, productive teams.
Keys to success:
- Pick a strong company and decent quality product. Research carefully.
- Leverage online marketing and social media versus traditional offline pitching
- Learn persuasion and relationship skills for recruiting
- Coach and lead your team through motivation, goal-setting, accountability
- Keep growing your team to expand revenue streams
Many fail due to poor leadership skills, while top recruiters can profit enormously from their team. But reputation and ethical practices are critical.
Local Lead Generation
One B2B niche that can be started with very little capital is local lead generation. The model:
- Build websites targeting service requests for home services like roofers, landscapers, contractors, etc.
- Drive leads to these sites through aggressive SEO, PPC ads, and social media.
- Sell these leads as exclusive zip code packages to local service providers.
- Help providers follow up on and close leads (for a fee)
Skills needed include web development, online marketing, sales, and automation software. If done properly, selling just 10-20 fresh leads per month to local providers can become extremely profitable over time.
Importing products from overseas like China, India, Mexico or elsewhere to sell locally or online can make for a lucrative startup model. Keys to success:
- Research niche imported products in demand domestically
- Find reputable suppliers and negotiate rates/minimums
- Determine logistics like customs, shipping, duties, insurance
- Market aggressively and sell online or to retailers
- Build supply chain efficiency over time
Similarly, exporting products to overseas markets can also be profitable. Figure out customs regulations, marketing channels, and overseas payment processing first.
International trade has greater complexity but the massive margins and scalability justify the effort for the right products.
One person’s trash is another’s treasure. That’s the driving concept behind recyclable and refurbished product resale. Potential options:
- Buy scrap metals, papers, and plastics in bulk and resell them to recycling plants
- Refurbish old furniture or equipment and resell
- Buy salvage vehicles at auction, repair and flip
- Buy and resell items from estate sales, auctions, and thrift stores
The key is spotting valuable products worth reselling. Tools like eBay completed listings help gauge potential profits. Operate locally at first and expand online later.
Local Services Aggregator
Build a user-friendly website offering bundled services like cleaning, junk removal, moving, lawn care, and more. Get preferred rates from top local providers. Sell packages online and become the middleman – connect clients to Service Pro. Can scale this across different markets.
Similar to retail arbitrage except you buy used products rather than new ones. This includes:
- Finding underpriced items at yard sales, estate sales, flea markets, Craigslist
- Reselling at higher prices on eBay, Amazon, Facebook Marketplace
- Best for collectibles, vintage items, clothing, electronics, books, CDs
Requires research and scanning tens of thousands of listings to find diamonds in the rough – but profits can be significant if done right.
Placing vending machines in strategic high-traffic locations can quietly generate impressive passive income over time. Ideal locations:
- Office break rooms
- Apartment/Condo lobbies
- Libraries, community colleges
- Laundromats, car washes
- Hospital waiting rooms
- Transportation hubs like bus stops
Best machines: snacks, beverages, coffee, ATMs, basic toiletries. Manage stocking, maintenance, and collect/reinvest profits. Scale with multiple machines.
Like vending machines, ATMs provide passive income but require finding ideal high-traffic locations and keeping them stocked and maintained. Bid on locations and negotiate a revenue-sharing percentage with venue owners. Works best in bars, convenience stores, events, malls. Consider starting as an ATM franchisee to simplify operations.
Cater to the growing peer-to-peer rental market by buying in-demand equipment to rent out locally. Potential options:
- Party & event equipment — tables, chairs, tents, tableware, home decor
- Photography and video equipment
- Outdoor equipment — generators, lawn tools, camping gear
- Sporting goods – bikes, fishing gear, golf clubs, kayaks
List gear on rental marketplaces like Fatllama and NeighborGoods. Handle scheduling, delivery, and collection. Offer premium services.
Temporary Staffing Franchise
Staffing is a perpetual need among small businesses. Invest under $100k for a staffing franchise like AtWork Personnel and earn commissions on placing candidates at local businesses. Franchises provide back-end support like HR and payroll. Build relationships with employers to drive recurring business. Scale into multiple territories over time or start your own staffing brand.
Join a handyman franchise like Mr. Handyman or Fixx-It and immediately tap into their brand, back-end systems, and dispatch software. Enjoy the flexibility of setting your own schedule. Focus on providing speedy, quality service and leverage their marketing and operations. Requires nominal investment for tools, trucks, and franchise fees. Grow into additional territories over time.
Direct Sales Franchise
Direct sales franchises like Rainbow vacuum cleaners, CutCo, or consumer products allow you to leverage their brand and products to make in-home sales. Make a modest investment in your demo products and inventory. Go door-to-door and schedule in-home demonstrations to make sales. Rely on referrals and repeat customers. Works best with a motivated sales personality.
Starting Low-Cost vs. Traditional Startups
Many of these business models allow bootstrapping entrepreneurs to get started quickly, test concepts, and gain initial traction without requiring large capital outlays upfront.
The benefits of starting with a low-cost model include:
- Less risk – You minimize risk by avoiding large investments upfront before validating your idea. Pivot easily if the model fails.
- Bootstrap growth – Without outside funding, you maintain control and grow organically. Forces creativity and discipline.
- Low barrier to entry – Anyone can realistically start right away. You just need drive and consistency.
- Hands-on learning – Grows leadership skills through practice. Learn by doing.
- Sustainability – Focuses on profitability and recurring revenue vs. rapid scaling.
Downsides to consider:
- Slower growth – Lack of outside funding to rapidly scale like venture-backed startups. Need organic growth.
- Higher effort – The DIY model requires grit and perseverance without much outside help.
- Unproven idea – Haven’t necessarily validated the idea through extensive market research.
- Limited exit options – Bootstrapped companies have fewer exit opportunities like IPOs or acquisitions. You’re in it for the long haul.
If you’re willing to put in the sweat equity, a bootstrapped startup can become just as successful and profitable as any venture-backed startup over the long term. The key is starting small but thinking big.
Keys to Success With a Low-Cost Startup
While low startup costs certainly help, they don’t guarantee success. Achieving profitability and growth with any of these models requires tapping into some fundamental entrepreneurial skills and disciplines:
More important than a clever idea is the grit and focus to turn that idea into a business day after day. Establish work rituals, set challenging goals, and stick to the game plan. Resist distractions and be obsessed with the consistent execution of the right things.
Sweat the details when it comes to costs, efficiency, and automating processes. Find ways to deliver more value for less expense. Eliminate all unnecessary tasks through delegation or outsourcing. Systematize everything possible. Reduce waste.
Don’t settle for competing solely on price. Figure out how to stand out through branding, positioning, superior product/service, or faster delivery. Discover customers’ emotional triggers and meet unmet needs.
Marketing and Sales Mastery
Marketing, branding, and sales separate successful companies from struggling ones. Become a master marketer. Test different strategies relentlessly. Network and pitch relentlessly. Create valuable content, and leverage social proof and referrals.
Maintain razor-sharp focus on profits and cash flow. Know your key numbers and metrics. Stick to budgets. Never overextend yourself financially. Manage debt and expenses conservatively. Prioritize profitability over growth.
Legal and Tax Compliance
Don’t cut regulatory or accounting corners. Set up proper legal entities, licenses, and permits. Follow labor laws. Pay taxes on time. Hire professional advisors like lawyers and accountants when needed. Don’t risk fines or violations.
As your team grows, leadership capabilities become critical. Stay motivated and focused. Hire A-level talent. Train and mentor. Fire quickly when needed. Set inspiring vision. Build culture. Aim to get the best from everyone.
Make customers the center of your world. Prioritize service, responsiveness, and problem resolution. Gather feedback. Delight at every opportunity. Build loyalty through relationships, not transactions. Let customer value drive all decisions.
With so many low-cost, scalable models now available, the biggest challenge is choosing the right idea. Do your homework, validate demand, start small, and remain nimble. With tenacity and smarts, massive success could be within your reach. Believe in your idea and get started now. You’ve got this!
Almost all these low cost business ideas with high profits can be started on a bootstrap budget as long as you get creative and maintain a laser-like focus on profitability and low overhead. Do your research, start lean, work diligently within your niche, reinvest earnings wisely, and growth will follow over time. Keep costs low but think big.
Q: What is the best low cost business idea to start with low competition?
A: Some of the best low-competition business ideas include service businesses like cleaning or home inspection, selling information products online, food trucks/trailers in certain areas, or peer-to-peer equipment rentals. Pick an area others aren’t pursuing.
Q: How much money do I need to start a low cost high profit business?
A: Most of the ideas mentioned can get started for less than $5,000. Many can be bootstrapped for even less upfront with under $1,000 as long as you leverage technology and outsourcing. Start very small and reinvest profits.
Q: What small business has the highest profit margin?
A: Business models like information products, digital services and software, and financial/insurance products tend to have the highest margins since they require low incremental delivery costs after being created. Maintain low overhead.
Q: How can I promote my low-budget business?
A: Focus on cost-effective marketing like social media, content creation, PR, referrals, and word-of-mouth. Creatively utilize any existing audience and networks. Only test paid advertising with careful ROI tracking.
Q: How can I scale my low cost startup?
A: Use technology, systems, and automation to remove yourself from operations. Outsource tasks whenever possible. Reinvest profits selectively. Make sure operations, customer service, and logistics can handle scale. Expand to new markets carefully.