Small Business Ideas

Coming up with a great idea for a side-hustle or small business can be hard. One of the best ways to create something new and unique is to explore a bunch of different ideas in order to let your brain make new connections and find something that is both exciting and possible for you to launch. That's why we've put together this huge list of interesting and original ideas with a focus on low startup costs and potential to make money quickly.

Train drug and disease sniffing rats

Becoming a rat trainer is probably not something that every little girl or boy dreams of. But, if you're good with animals then rats might just be your ticket to the big time.

Rats can be trained to detect disease

Rats are extremely intelligent and have an incredible sense of smell. This means that, like dogs, they can be trained to detect signs of disease, drugs, explosives, and other toxins and chemicals. But, they require far less investment per trained animal compared to dogs, meaning that there is opportunity.

Train your rats to detect TB (and possibly cancer) and lease them to hospitals. Train 'em to smell drugs and lease them to port and air authorities.

Upcycle cardboard into 'cats love boxes' toy

Cats love boxes. We all know this. Almost any cat lover will tell you that the expensive scratching posts they bought for their cats were duly ignored in favor of sitting in the packaging it came in.

Packaging contributes a huge amount of waste material from landfills, so why not put together a hamper of different cardboard box sizes and sell this as a cat toy.

Not only will you save tonnes of waste each year, but you'll provide a cheap, hilarious toy for cats and their owners to enjoy together. Not to mention all the funny YouTube videos you could use as marketing for your products.

Inflatable hammocks

There's an awesome new design out of the Netherlands that lets you quickly fill up a bag with air, tie it at one end and, hey presto, you have a comfy place to lie around and hang out with friends.

This is so convenient and user friendly that people are going to want it for everything from concerts, to hanging around at varsity, to trips to the beach.

While LamZak has pioneered it, there's no reason you can't get your own start locally and capture a bit of market share. Sell your products online as it folds up into a compact, lightweight bag that is cheap to ship.

Cancel unwanted subscriptions app

How many of us have joined a gym, eventually stopped going, but continued to pay the subscription fee for months, if not years?

I've done it, and there are millions of people out there who are wasting money on unwanted subscriptions every day. That's a big market for a clever little app that scans your bank bills, finds monthly subscriptions or direct debits, and cancels them (if they prove to be unwanted).

Unfortunately, you've already got competition in the form of Truebill:

App that cancels unwanted subscription bills

But, there's room for more than one fish in this sea. Pity I only found this now. It would have saved me a packet on gym, cable, and other bills that went unnoticed for way too long.

Rapid response, prison yard protection drones

Prison inmates are using their contacts on the outside to drop drugs and weapons into prison yards, making it almost impossible for guards to stem the flow of illicit goods.

Prison drones delivery

One way to handle this is to fight fire with fire. Create solar powered induction panels that allow rapid response drones to perch on top of guard towers. These can respond quickly to take down drones that fly into prison airspace.

How do they do a takedown?

I would attach fine, strong filaments to the bottom of the defence drones. They fly over the target drone and the filaments get pulled out and twisted into its rotors , bringing it down.

Automatic LED walking/hiking shoes for night-time

Walking or hiking at night can be fraught with peril - especially when camping in the wilderness. Kids can often be scared to move around at night too. Wouldn't it be easier to have shoes that lit up when you put them on, and switch off when you remove 'em?

Slippers for kids have been done (like these unicorns):

Kids slippers that light up in the dark

and adults too:

But what about hiking boots or trail runners? Incorporate existing lighting technology into these and market to serious campers and night time joggers/walkers.

Anti-monster spray bottles for kids

Parents of young kids might really value a "magic spray" that rids their kids' bedrooms of ghouls, ghosts, and monsters. It's a nice little present that could also make bedtime a lot more easy to handle.

Design and sell monster spray for kids

Design funny and entertaining stickers for your spray bottles and make those available directly to parents who want to make their own home-made monster spray without having to buy the whole bottle.

Do a creative enough job and you could even create a range of "must have monsters" that you can spray for.

Smart, touch-screen mirrors

Wouldn't it be great to be able to keep track of the time while straightening your hair? Or, catch the latest news and sports headlines while in the shower?

The technology to make touch-screen mirrors already exists, but no-one has jumped on that bandwagon. Although, one inventive guy made his own smart mirror prototype using a two-way mirror, display panel, controller and a few other bits and bobs.

Smart mirror with display

While that particular mirror can't be controlled with touch, there's no reason your 2.0 version shouldn't be.

Up-cycle light fixtures

It's amazing how many used products and packaging can be turned into awesome, creatively designed light fixtures. Everything from wine bottles to old bowls can be cut, painted, glued and repurposed into chandeliers, lamp shades and even candle holders.

What's more, these types of light fightings go very well with many types of interior decor - especially industrial and modern looks.

Empty wine bottles repurposed

Source old products, like wine bottles, for free from places that would otherwise have to spend time and energy taking them to the dump. Find creative ways to convert them into beautiful, high quality fittings and sell them online via your own store, or other platforms like Amazon and Etsy.

Custom big game drinks coasters

There are big games almost every day - from super bowl to Ryder cup golf, tennis, rugby, soccer, athletics, you name it. Big sporting events are big bucks for pubs and bars, so why not help them make the most of it?

Design custom drinks coasters that use the big game to get patrons involved. You could have coasters that enforce a drink penalty if a certain player fumbles, and allows a drink nomination if they score. Something like this (but on coasters):

Drinking game coasters for sporting events

Build relationships with bars and pubs and they'll be ordering stacks of custom coasters before each big game because they know it makes for great entertainment - and bigger profits.

Sell floating house plants and bonsai

How awesome would it be to have a bonsai slowly rotating as it floats gracefully above it's bowl? Sounds like science fiction? It's actually super easy to do and looks very striking:

Design some tasteful magnetic bonsai bowls. Wrap the root mass of the tree in a metallic cover and make sure you get the weights and balance right (this is the tricky part), so you get something like this:

Design and sell floating plants & bonsai

Once you have some floating plants, start up a website and sell 'em online, or locally.

Treasure hunt adventure holiday tour operator

There is a growing global demand for adventures out of the ordinary. Set up a tour operator business that takes tourists around all the best attractions in your region, or country. You could offer several holiday packages ranging from backpacker style to five stars - all doing the same epic adventure.

adventure holiday tour operator

To market your new holiday concept, offer a great prize or prizes for the holidaymakers that collect all the clues or solve the puzzle.

Get the local hospitality industry and tourism board to buy into the idea too. Think along the lines of a famous pub putting up a clue (they'd love the extra foot traffic this would bring).

Hidden sculpture candles

The humble candle has been around for quite a long time in its standard form. Sure, there are scented candles and plenty of different shapes, colors and sizes, but the time is right for an update to candle 2.0.

Create boutique candles that reveal a sculpture as they burn down. There's a great example of a dinosaur egg candle that burns down to reveal a baby dinosaur sitting in its egg:

Firebox's dinosaur egg candle

Come up with your own ideas. Be creative. Come in at under $45 per unit cost. Then market and sell 'em via your local stores, and online. This is something that would do great on a platform like Etsy.

Professional skills investor for startups

Across the world there are entrepreneurs with great ideas who don't know how to get to market and build a profitable business. There is a huge demand in the startup space for people with time and the right skills. It could be Web design skills. Marketing skills. Business planning. Operational support. Whatever people need.

Attend local entrepreneur mixers and events and negotiate deals to work with startups to help bring them to market. Unless they're funded, it's unlikely you'll get much of a salary, but you should get an equity share, which will have value if the company succeeds.

Your success will be determined by how well you can identify and back winners.

Online drone repair and maintenance service

Something like 45 000 drones were registered within two days of the Federal Drone Registration site going live. Potentially, another 400 000 more drones would have been sold over the holiday season, 2015 - 2016.

That is a lot of drones that are going to be flown into trees, buildings, power lines, people, and even other drones.

Set up a professional online repair service for drones. Customers can mail their drones to you, have them repaired, and sent back in the post (or potentially delivered back to them via drone - Amazon style).

Solar powered parking lots for city commuters

No one enjoys sitting in traffic jams. What if you could park your car in a secure, shaded lot on the outskirts of town and catch electric shuttles (that run continuously) into work?

Buy a patch of land near a main highway. Set up a solar farm with panels that act as parking lot shade. Use the energy to power a fleet of electric shuttles.

Shopping malls & offices are already using solar parking on a smaller scale:

Companies are powering themselves with solar panels in their car parks

The beauty is that people will spend less on fuel and city parking, and traffic congestion will ease up significantly. Plus, you'll probably get tax and other benefits for reducing emissions and taking cars off the roads.

Sell solar powered air purifiers

Consider the problem of smog:

Cities are now commonly engulfed in smog

Luckily, all you need in order to take a lot of harmful stuff out of air is to suck it through water. This could be powered by wind or solar (on the roof), before being fed into the building's air system. It would also be a great way to combat pollution in cities.

People in countries like China are already prepared to pay $20 for a bottle of fresh Canadian air, so there is a "clean air" market:

Vitality Air is selling bottled fresh air to China

Loading icons ad agency

Advertisers are hungry for decent exposure and there is something we look at every single day that is just begging for a paid ad makeover - the loading bar.

Regardless of whether you are waiting for a game to load, or a piece of software to install, it is possible to animate that loading bar, to show something more interesting. Imagine a frosty cold glass of your favourite beverage filling up, instead of a blue line:

Make deals with brands to 'sponsor' games/software developers in return for loading bar animation ads that show each time it loads. Take a percentage commission for putting deals together.

Robotic sports coaches & trainers

Robots are getting better and better at doing human tasks. In fact, there is already a robot that will beat you at rock-paper-scissors 100% of the time:

But, that's not all they can do.

They can now play sports, and they're getting pretty good at it. We're nearly at the point where we could use existing technologies to provide some serious training partners for professional sports people.

Table tennis (ping pong) is a great example:

Robotic ping pong players could train tomorrows atheletes

Hip, stylish accessories for shoes

People spend a lot of money pimping out their rides. Why should shoes be any different? After all, shoes are a big part of any fashion statement.

Design and sell a range of hip accessories that can change the look and feel of a single pair of shoes. This will mean people can dress up or down but only spend big bucks on a single pair of nice shoes.

You can do everything from clip in flowers, to lace in wings, to stick on decals, to outrageous bling:

Pom pom accessories on shoes. Pic by cleob.com

There's lots of money to be made by starting the newest fashion craze. Have fun. Be creative.