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Shoestring Start-Ups

[ 2 ] Aug. 2, 2011 | SBO Editor

50 great businesses you can launch for less than $500

You don’t need a lot of money to start a small business. It is a perfect way to pick up extra cash. Part-time, anytime businesses are very popular in this rollercoastering economy. Who couldn’t benefit from picking up extra cash each month, but many don’t have the inclination to take the plunge on a full-time basis. Part-time shoestring start-ups could be the answer.

Get the venture going on a part-time basis and determine if you like running your own business. If you do find that the life of a small business owner suits you, then prepare to gear up your business for full-time success.

Entrepreneurs have a knack for knowing what niche needs filling. Take a look at your community. Is there a business that needs to be started? If you already have a job, you can test the small business waters with a shoestring start-up without leaving the comfort and security of a steady paycheck and perhaps even nice medical benefits. Visit our website at www.sbomag.com to learn about other business opportunities and even low-cost franchise ideas. You will also find tips and suggestions on how to find the business that is just perfect for you.

Conduct your own due diligence research. You might find that there is already a business that caters to your proposed market. Analyze the existing business. Could you do the task faster? Cheaper? Better? If after careful analysis, the answer is “yes,” then you should prepare to take on the competition.

1. CLEAN OUT FORECLOSED PROPERTIES: It is sad, but foreclosures continue. You can make money by helping realtors, banks, mortgage companies, personal homeowners clean out foreclosed properties and get them ready for the short sale. Visit www.cleanoutforeclosures.com or call 800/685-9670 for details. The start-up is $249.

2. CAR, BOAT, RV DETAILING: You can go online and check out various products to help you clean vehicles quickly. Start your own mobile detailing biz. If you have a truck or van, you are on the road to riches! Busy people don’t want to get their autos, etc. washed and waxed offsite. You go to them and charge for the convenience!

3. SELL FUN & IN-DEMAND PRODUCTS: Register with SMC and you’ll have access to 1000s of products to sell online, via mail order or at flea markets, fairs, etc. Visit www.smchomebiz.com or call 800/960-7079.

4. GIFTS WITH A PERSONAL TOUCH: You can start a business offering personalized gifts with special software from Personal Touch Products. Start-up packages start at $249. Offer Famous Quotation Gifts, Family Tree Gifts, Personalized Poetry, and more. Call 909/596-1166 for information or visit www.personaltouchproducts.com.

5. MEAL DELIVERY: You can start your own meal delivery service right in your own community. An increasing number of consumers out there don’t have the time or the inclination to make their own meals or they want to celebrate a special occasion with a great meal from one of their favorite restaurants.

This is where you come in; you pick up the meal they request from the local eatery or restaurant and deliver it to your customers. You receive a service fee for your delivery and possibly can buy the meals at discounted prices from the restaurants. You charge your clients the price listed on the menu, however. For more on how to start this business, visit www.legacymarketing.net/ and check out their guide on How to Start And Operate A Meal Delivery Service. It’s $19.95, plus shipping costs.

6. SERVICES FOR SENIORS: Contact or visit assisted living centers and see if you can get listed as a go-fer, errand runner, etc. for the seniors that live there. Offer shopping services, pet taxi, etc. to seniors who can’t or don’t want to get out to do these chores.

7. IMPORT/EXPORT BIZ: You can tie in with a manufacturer in China and purchase products to sell to brick and mortor stores or via your website. Visit www.alibaba.com to start shopping.

8. AUTO SERVICES: You can purchase various business opportunity packages from Liquid Resins and start repairing windshields, restoring headlights, etc. Packages are available in many options for less than $500, so visit www.liquidresins.com to learn more.

9. SELL YOUR CRAFTS: Get a free account on etsy.com and start selling your jewelry and craft items to the entire world! This is a business the whole family can enjoy!

10. WINDOW WASHING: A growing number of homeowners want to keep their windows sparkling clean but don’t have the time or the energy to take on the job. You could do it for them and learn how from Philip Bregstone, the founder of Dr. Glass Window Washers. His “Business In A Box” system teaches you everything you need to know to start this business. You can start with a down payment of $350 to purchase the “Getting Started” Package.

You can learn more about the company and the business opportunity offered by clicking on www.docglass.com. The founder made $100,000 in just one season. Why not you?

11. CLEANING SERVICE: Start your own office cleaning business; it’s a profitable service business that is in demand. It is a recession-proof business, too, as company owners need their spaces spruced up no matter what! Cleaning Up The Cash has a package that will teach you the ropes and get you started. It costs $199. Visit www.cleaningupthecash.com or call 866/364-4020. PayPal is also accepted!

12. PET-SITTING: More and more Americans are buying pets but they work so hard that Fido and Leo are often left at home alone. You can end this sadness with a pet-sitting service. It doesn’t take much to get started. Do an online search and find the National Organization of Pet Sitters. You can also order a guide, How To Start A Pet-Sitting Service, for $19.95 from Legacy Marketing. The group has a wide variety of manuals to start different home-based businesses. Visit www.legacymarketing.net.

13. BLOG BUSINESS: Creating a blog is easy. Choose a hosting service through Yahoo, Google or MSN and get going. You can develop a following for your unique blog and then sell ads that are targeted to your market. If you can show advertisers that you are getting lots of hits a day on your blog, you can sell ads and get sponsors.

14. SEWING ENTREPRENEUR: If you are handy with the sewing machine, consider starting your own tailor business. If you live near industrial parks, consider taking the business directly to the executives who work there. Offer hems, etc.

15. TEACH YOUR CRAFT: Do you have a hobby or craft that people love? Knitting is hot, and so is building simple items. If you have the know-how, then consider setting up a class and teaching it. You could also offer group classes at the local adult education program, so check it out.

16. SUNGLASS SHOP: You can start your own business selling fashionable sunglasses from your home, to co-workers, at parties, the beach, flea markets, mall shows, etc. You purchase the sunglasses at wholesale prices. You sell them to your customers for a nice profit. Entrepreneurs report that in the right location, they are making profits of $800 a day. Solar Sunglasses products. Call 877/765-2732 or visit their site at www.solarsunglasses.net for more information.

17. SAFETY & SECURITY: Start your own business or sideline selling safety and security products. You tie in with Safety Technology and purchase their products at wholesale rates. You then re-sell them at a profit to your customers. The company is headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, and has a wide variety of merchandise for you to consider: Pepper Spray, Knives, TASERS, child guards, personal alarms, spy equipment, etc. The best way to learn more about the business opportunity is to visit their website at www.stsbo.com.

18. MOVE-IN SERVICE: Have you ever moved into a home or apartment and wished you had a few elves to help you with the cleaning, a new paint job and window washing? You can start a business helping other people with this problem.

Your move-in service will get everything ready for the customer before they move into the new place. You might do the work, or pay someone else to do it for you. You can also hire floor sanders, wallpaper pros and plumbers to take care of some of the bigger jobs if that’s what your client wants. In addition to paying for the outside workers, your client will pay your hourly wage as well. You could also offer a crash move-in service: $250-$500 for basic kitchen and bath cleaning. Determine what your market will bear and set your price appropriately.

19. HOLIDAY DECORATING: This business is becoming bigger and bigger across the country and it is not only residential clients that will be your customers. Commercial clients will sign on too once they see the portfolio you’ve created. This is not a service for winter holiday time only. You can expand it to include the four seasons. Decorate your own home and the home of a friend or two. Photograph them for a digital portfolio you can e-mail to potential customers. Don’t forget to include commercial customers on your target list, too. Many small business owners would like to capitalize on the four-season holidays with their window displays, store displays, etc. but don’t have someone on staff to handle the chore.

20. BIRTHDAY IN A BOX BIZ: Birthday parties are popular and most parents today, especially single parents, don’t have the time to plan everything out to the child’s satisfaction. You can start a business offering a birthday party in a box. Catherine Middleton’s parents run a party business, why not you? You include the plates, napkins, party favors, decorations, plastic forks, balloons, themed goods and items and even the cake, if you choose to get into cake making and decorating, too, to expand your business. You can also tie in with a local cake maker and promote this business right along with your birthday in a box. Parents might like the “one-stop shopping” offered by your fine service. Visit www.orientaltrader.com to take a look at their offerings. The prices are rock bottom and great for just about any type of party theme.

21. ERRAND SERVICE: Rob Spina is an entrepreneur who’s put together a number of guides on how to start a wide variety of businesses from your home. One is How To Start And Operate An Errand Service. He offers tips on getting started and how to build business, costs to consider, and ways to market your service to give it an edge. Visit Rob’s website at www.legacymarketing.net.

22. CARVE A NICHE: Is there a product or service need in your community that needs fulfilling? Is there a big interest in a particular item that people just can’t seem to find? Look at the rush for patriotic products that erupted after September 11. Americans couldn’t buy flags and other flag products quickly enough.

In fact, flag manufacturers here in the U.S. were completely sold out of their flags and the products were on back order. Twenty million flags are sold every year. Fifty million were sold last year. Examine your community, region and figure out what will be the next big need to be fulfilled. Determine a strategy on how you can cash in on this item and contact manufacturers to purchase the goods at wholesale rates.

23. ONLINE AUCTION SELLER: We know of a senior citizen who regularly makes $600 a week selling items from her garage, attic, basement and shed by participating in eBay auctions. She learned how directly from the site and it cost her just a few dollars to get started. Ebay powersellers make $100,000 a month!

If you haven’t experienced the fun of eBay yet – as a buyer or a seller – go to ebay.com and see what all the fun is about. You can even start your own store on eBay. If you have something to sell, you will find a buyer on eBay. More than 2 million auctions are closed each day. Shouldn’t they be for your old junk?

24. INFORMATION BROKER: There are plenty of people out there who need information but don’t know where to turn to get it or don’t have the time to investigate what they require on their own. You come in as an information broker for private citizens, civic groups, organizations and commercial operations.

Say a neighbor wants to plant an evergreen hedge but doesn’t want to just accept what the local nursery is offering. You conduct the research – charging by the hour – and find out what would grow fastest, thickest and in that particular light or shade. Or, a small business in town wants to set up an outdoor café but the overworked owner doesn’t have time to navigate the zoning laws with the town board. You step in and handle it.

25. START A WEBSITE BIZ: You can follow instructions from many Internet Service Providers who offer hosting services for your new website. They will help you get started with all of the elements, from design and naming your site to tracking orders. Investigate this way of selling your goods or information. If you have an idea for an informative site, you might be able to make money by selling advertising. Visit www.1and1.com to learn more about how to get your domain name registered and start working on your easy-to-build site.

26. APARTMENT AND HOUSE CLEANING: You can start your own service on a shoestring for less than $100. Figure out what you’ll need to get started and place some ads in local newspapers. Call competing services if they exist and find out how they charge. You can also order a start-up guide for $19.95 from Legacy Marketing entitled, How To Start Your Own Home and Apartment Cleaning Service. To order, visit the company’s website at www.legacymarketing.net.

27. PERSONAL TRAINER: If you are in shape and have wondered why people always ask you what you do to get in such great shape, consider a profession as a personal trainer. You can start hanging out at gyms and develop a rapport with the current trainers and the owner/manager. See what their needs are and if they would take you on as an apprentice.

Once you develop your own clientele, they can hire you as a full-fledged personal trainer. Most clubs have their own liability insurance worked out for their trainers. Call around and determine if you need extra coverage on your own or if you could have your clients sign a waiver in case they get bruised or injured while exercising or working out.

28. CHRISTIAN-THEMED HOME BIZ: You can set up your own site and sell Christian-themed products to your clients: Bible studies, skin and hair care products and more. Visit www.scrip.cc or call 800/585-5873 for a free info package.

29. KIDPROOF HOMES: Start a business in which you go to homes and apartments and take stock; troubleshoot where trouble could be lurking and then offer the remedy to install locks, gates, etc.

30. CONSULTING SERVICE: If you have an expertise or do something very well such as bookkeeping or accounting, you can start a business as a consultant. Many consultants are popular today because companies don’t want to hire extra staff. They would rather farm out various jobs to consultants who don’t have to join the payroll full-time.

The start-up costs for a consulting service are minimal. You’ll need a computer, phone, online service and some very good looking marketing pieces such as letterhead and cards to get started. You can also develop a slick-looking direct mail piece to send to potential clients. Visit various job fairs in the region, too, to connect with companies that might need your services.

31. GARAGE CLEANING AND ORGANIZING: You are right. It doesn’t sound all that glamorous but in no time at all you could be working as the agent booking the jobs around town, while your staff of two, three or four workers handles the hard work.

Once you clean and organize a few garages around town, you will likely develop positive word-of-mouth that could be enough to skyrocket your venture. While you are waiting for that to happen, place a few ads in the local newspaper and make sure you keep your answering machine turned on while waiting for the gigs to come to you.

32. CYBER SCHOOL FOR SENIORS: There are plenty of seniors who want to conquer the Internet to stay in touch with their grandchildren. They also are a new market for facebook and Twitter! You can offer classes at local senior citizen centers or assisted living complexes. Print up a nice flyer and start circulating.

33. NANNY FINDER: Live in a resort area where visitors need babysitting services or full-time nannies for their vacations? You can start researching and interviewing candidates and have an agency up and running in no time.

34. SOUVENIR/MEMORY BOOKS: People take trips, celebrate graduations, anniversaries and births, host office parties and retirement gatherings. They usually are stuck with photos, ticket stubs, programs, and other memorabilia from these events. You can start a business putting them all together in decorative scrapbooks. You can create actual scrapbooks or virtual scrapbooks by setting up a website for the individual so they can share the moment and the memories with everyone who has access to the Internet.

35. JUNK REMOVAL: This is a great part-time, shoestring start-up. All you need is a truck or van and the will to haul goods to the local dump or recycling center. Maybe your customers have no way to haul goods away, or maybe it is too heavy for their car. You do the research and find out the best way to dispose of the goods or items. Make sure you can identify antiques. If you are picking up four Chinese antique chairs and a table bound for the dump, consider taking it to a local antique dealer instead. Charge by the hour or by the truck haul.

36. POND SERVICE: If you have a backyard water pond and it looks great with flowers and rocks, fish and a fountain spray, photograph it and place an ad in your local newspaper. Charge by the hour and have your clients pay for all of the supplies. Design work is an extra fee.

Charge what your market will bear. Most homeowners are spending more time at home and want to beautify their backyards. You can cash in with this opportunity. Local pet stores will help you with the fish. Goldfish and koi are not that difficult to take care of – in any season. Read books about pond design, water gardens and caring for fish and you’ll be ready to start this business.

37. PERSONALIZED CANDY BARS: Cherubs-N-Chocolate’s themed candy bar wrappers can be used as personalized candy bars or as greeting bars without personalization. Anyone who has a computer (Windows 95 or later) and a laser printer can get started for less than $500. Cherubs-N-Chocolate is now an international business, with more than 1800 dealers worldwide. Home-based business opportunity enables entrepreneurs to earn $90 an hour offering 140 pro-designed, full-color candy bar wrappers in various themes for showers, anniversaries, grand openings, birth announcements, clubs, plays, community events, etc. For more information and to receive the free information packet, visit www.occasionographycom.

38. FUN SAND ART: This is a fun business for families to start. You make and sell Sand Art for and with your clients at flea markets, fairs, birthday parties, camps, etc. The startup is $49.95. Visit www.sandartbusiness.com or call 855/811-SAND.

39. BUTTON & BADGE MAKING: You can turn a fun pastime into a serious business with a package from Badge-A-Minit. They’ve been in business for years helping entrepreneurs start their own button and badge making business. These buttons can be sold to clubs, organizations or schools or made exclusively for a specific holiday, parade, etc. There is a button design for every occasion. The company is based in LaSalle, Illinois. Visit the website at www.badgeaminit.com or call 800/223-4103.

40. VIDEOTAPING SERVICE: There are many instances where folks need a videotaping service, but don’t have the equipment or the expertise to put it together. You come in and save the day with your service. For more information on how to start this business, pick up a copy of the $9.95 guide from Legacy Marketing: How To Start Your Own Videotaping Service. Order the book by visiting the website at www.legacymarketing.net.

41. PERSONALIZED PRODUCTS: Creative Amusement Services, Inc. (CASI) of Yonkers, New York, has been in business for a long time helping entrepreneurs start a wide variety of personalized product businesses ranging from personalized mugs, caps and t-shirts to Astrology, Personalized Cartoons, Coats of Arms, First Names, Last Names and more.

You can visit the CASI website at www.creativenames.com to get a more comprehensive picture of the company and even read what entrepreneurs have to say about the product line, support, etc. The company has been in business since 1977 and can help you start a business that has some entrepreneurs making $1000 a day. The product line is extensive and you can see it on the website and get pricing information, too. The phone #s are: 800/842-5580 or 914/668-2100.

42. PARKING LOT CLEANUP: Earn $50,000 to $100,000 a year as a simple one-man operation or much more with others doing the work. For details visit Brian Winch’s website at www.cleanlots.com. He did it and shares the secrets of his success. It’s $39.95 or $79.95 for the deluxe package.

43. HOME INVENTORY: You can start a home-based business documenting personal property. You can start this for about $195. Visit www.KCHomeInventory.com for more information. You can also contact Home Journal Business for info on their program by visiting www.HomeJournalBusiness.com.

44. SPORTS BIZ: For $395 you can start your own sporting goods business with help from Pro Star Athletics. Visit www.Prostarathletics.net or call 866/390-7732 for information on how you can sell caps, jackets, team uniforms and more. Also contact SportsLife Enterprises for details on their program. For details visit www.sportslife.com or call 800/909-5433 and request their free information packet.

45. ADVERTISING SPECIALTIES: Kaeser & Blair Incorporated has been in business for 108 years and has a wide variety of products you can offer to your customers that will feature their name and/or logo. School teams, clubs and other organizations are all potential customers in addition to businesses. The start-up is $85 and you can request a free information package. Visit the company website at www.kaeser-blair.com or call 800/642-9790 for new dealer information.

46. SELL GOURMET CANDLES: This line is made of vegetable wax so they are clean burning and the start-up cost is $50. Mia Bella’s Gourmet Candles come in more than 100 scents and consumers love burning candles. There are plenty of ways to make money with this type of business. Visit www.CandleSuccess.com and learn how you can make six figures a year selling candles!

47. PERSONAL ASSISTANT: You can earn anywhere from $15 to $50 an hour as a personal assistant for small businesses, community groups, civic organizations and more. You need to be proficient with a computer and have a cell phone. Add a healthy dose of being detailed-oriented and organized and you have the makings of a great freelance personal assistant. Charge by the hour and consider working part-time for a number of different clients to build a six-figure income. Go online and research the category of personal or executive assistants, print up a brochure or develop a website through Yahoo, for example, and start merchandising your talent!

48. HOME DELIVERY SERVICE: You can start your own business offering home delivery service by tying in with stores and home centers that don’t already provide this service. People are pressed for time and the population is getting older. Consumers want goods delivered right to their doors. The items you deliver could include: groceries, hardware, lumber, etc. Canvass the neighborhood and ask store managers/owners if they could permit
you to distribute business cards and flyers in their stores to drum up business. Perhaps they recommend you directly to their customers or hire you to perform the much needed service directly for them.

49. LAWNS & LANDSCAPES: Yard cleanups, lawn cutting, weed pulling are things that every homeowner and apartment manager must deal with but many are saying they just don’t have the time to do it all. Print up a flier or a business card and start promoting your service. Take out an ad in the local newspaper. Offer a discounted price for new customers.

50. MAIL ORDER AND MORE: You can start a mail order empire right from your kitchen table, but you need to find the right product or products to sell. Go online and search for resources. Don’t forget to check out eBay, too. Make money via a mail order business or by selling at Home Parties, Flea Markets, Swap Meets, Fundraisers, Gift Shops, Kiosks, Mall Shows and more.


Your all-important credit score will determine how much interest you will pay on a loan. Anything above 720 is considered very, very good.

get your free credit report by visiting annualcreditreport.com. This site is run by the top three credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Don’t go to freecreditreport.com that is widely advertised unless you are willing to pay for the credit report and sign up for a annual credit monitoring program.

fix any mistakes you see by contacting all three credit bureaus.

look at all of your credit card statements very carefully each month and make sure you approve of all charges and that no one has used your credit card to make unauthorized purchases.

once you are finished using a credit card, don’t cancel it. The credit you are entitled to use on the cards will boost your credit rating.

pay your bills on time and don’t exceed your budget and spending limits.

Category: Magazine, Small Business Opportunities, Small Business Opportunities Nov 2011

  • http://www.facebook.com/crhedges C Ross Hedges

    If you need start up money, I can help. Contact crhedges@chelsisfinancial.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/genine.gilmore Genine Gilmore

    Sell roadside assistance memberships. Costs $40 to join to enjoy the same exact benefits and automatically become an Authorized Agent to sell the membership. Learn more at http://www.MotorClubRescue.com. Click on the opportunity tab.