17 of the best businesses to start with little money
This post was last updated on September 16, 2022.
Starting a successful business doesn’t have to leave a gaping hole in your wallet. With a strong business idea and the right tools, you can start a business without investing too much money upfront or investing into heaps of inventory.
From eCommerce business ideas to service-focused businesses, there are a plethora of opportunities to break into the business world. Here are 17 ideas to help get your creative juices flowing.
17 of the best low-investment business ideas:
01. Sell products online with dropshipping
Fortunately, dropshipping has revolutionized the game. Under this model, you can avoid typical startup costs by trusting a third-party supplier to create, package, and ship items directly to your customers.
Dropshipping offers a fast way to enter the eCommerce business by providing access to thousands (if not millions) of ready-to-ship products. It’s also a low-cost way to test product-market fit and/or experiment with trending products.
Data across 700,000 Wix Stores even shows that businesses that use dropshipping launch an average of 15% faster than other online retailers.
However, to successfully start a dropshipping business, you’ll need to have a clear vision for how to market your online store. Since you’ll be competing against other resellers of the same product(s), you’ll need to differentiate yourself through strong branding, messaging, and marketing.
Get started with Wix’s dropshipping solution today.
02. Sell print-on-demand merchandise
Print-on-demand (POD) works similarly to dropshipping; it’s another way to outsource fulfillment to a supplier. POD, however, allows you to create and sell unique products that feature your own designs.
Using POD, you could:
Start a t-shirt business featuring your own branded designs
Add cat photos to novelty socks
Create stickers for dog lovers
Sell merchandise with original artwork that you've created
Once you're ready to sell, simply connect your online store to a platform like Modalyst, Printful,or Printify. All of these POD companies integrate with Wix eCommerce, allowing you to easily list POD products for sale on your site and route orders to the right suppliers.
03. Become an Amazon (or other marketplace) seller
Marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy already attract millions of shoppers. While it's essential to have your own fully branded store, a multichannel strategy allows you to reach a wider audience faster—and at a relatively low cost compared to traditional advertising or retailing.
Based on data trends from over 700,000 Wix Stores worldwide, eCommerce sellers with an additional sales channel can increase sales up to 12%.
With Wix eCommerce, you can automatically import existing product listings to marketplaces like Amazon. You can also manage all of your orders and inventory from one place, minimizing the amount of time needed to manage multiple sales channels.
That said, each channel has its quirks, so you'll want to be selective of where you sell. Take the time to understand buyers' values, motivations, and personalities to anticipate the types of products they're looking to find on each site.
04. Take your brick-and-mortar business online
If you run a brick-and-mortar business, you can expand your reach by selling online while avoiding a large increase in your business costs.
Case in point: Angel Gregorio, owner of The Spice Suite, took a leap of faith when she quit her day job to become a “full-time spice girl.” What started as a brick-and-mortar store (an interactive spice bar featuring spice blends from across the world) evolved into an online empire. With the help of Wix's online store templates and back-office tools, she was able to take her business online and sell spice boxes, which served as a core revenue stream during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result of a successful shift to a hybrid online model, The Spice Suite made over $2 million in sales, with their online store representing the most successful part of the business.
In the same vein, eCommerce has been a welcome addition to several other businesses in the food and restaurant industry.
Catering company Cleverchefs shifted online by selling and delivering restaurant-standard food boxes to customers’ homes.
Single-malt whiskey retailer Bimber Distillery was able tap into a global market by offering ready-to-buy products, tour bookings, and other perks online.
Whether you’re looking to sell food boxes, clothes, or car parts, eCommerce can be a wise, low-cost investment.
05. Create instructional or entertaining videos
Create cooking videos, workout videos, kid-friendly content—whatever floats your boat. The revenue potential is massive if you're able to engage and nurture a loyal audience.
There are various ways to make money with digital video content. You could charge a monthly channel subscription that gives customers full access to exclusive content. Or, if you work with video hosting platforms like YouTube, you could monetize your content based on the number of viewers.
Another option: sell or rent your videos, allowing viewers to download your video or access it over a 24-48-hour cycle.
Whichever pricing model you pursue, consider offering some of your content for free to give customers an idea of your product and nudge them to make a purchase. Host live streaming or webinars with Zoom, Vimeo, and YouTube that focus on building an engaged community.
06. Start your own subscription service
Ecommerce has seen a boom in the product subscription service industry, with big names like Netflix and Ipsy amassing large followings throughout the years. Within this sector, three types of subscription services have emerged:
Replenishment - Recurring purchases of frequently used items, like toilet paper, coffee beans, toothpaste, or razors
Curation - Boxes of themed items, like apparel, beauty, books, food, and wine
Access subscriptions - Discounts or premium member perks, typically in industries like food, beauty, and apparel
There are various ways that you can start a subscription box business. The most important step is to define a clear niche. It helps to pick a niche that you know well.
For example, do you already sell a product that you can turn into a subscription? Maybe you have a hobby like soap-making, hot sauce recipes, or homemade sanitizers with essential oils? Create a gift box of your products and set up tiered memberships for premium access.
07. Launch an interior design or home decor business
Part of their success can be attributed to:
Strong branding. Through their website, Kaekoo expresses their devotion to ethically sourced, handcrafted goods. Their products additionally use “ancestral techniques celebrated across generations.”
Purposeful and unique. “Each pillow is sewn with a custom leather tag with the name of the Pillow Lady design you chose,” writes Kaekoo on its site. “Just like your home, each of our pillow designs comes with its own story.”
Gift cards. Gifts cards are available for purchase through Kaekoo’s site, allowing customers to refer their friends to the brand. (Did you know: 69% of customers spend more than the value of their cards when redeeming them online, according to data from across 700,000+ Wix Stores.)
Artisans can similarly tap into this market by selling home decor, whether it involves woodworking, macrame pieces, painting, candle-making, indoor plants, or custom mason jars. Go the extra mile by sharing your home art, craft ideas, and decorating tips on your shop to inspire customers as they look through your products.
08. Start a podcast
Podcast ad revenues are expected to surpass $2 billion in 2023, and to reach closer to $3 billion by 2025. Outside of ads, you can use your podcasting platform to offer courses, publish premium content, or host events.
If this tickles your fancy, start by picking a topic that you personally find interesting. Look for ways to entertain, inform, and inspire using your topical expertise. Team up with friends, invite special guests, and/or work with influencers to add value and increase your exposure.
You can record your podcast using audio hosting sites like SoundCloud or Libsyn. When you finish recording, use the Wix Podcast Player to showcase and stream podcasts from your site.
Once you have enough listeners, you can find sponsorship deals on sites like Ad Results Media, Adopter Media, or True Native Media. Pro tip: to give you revenue an additional boost, think of ways to complement your podcast brand with print-on-demand merchandise like branded tees, socks, and other accessories.
09. Publish your own book
Have you always dreamed of writing your own book? Make this the year you finally get your book published. You can self-publish your own ebook and promote your book through your own online store or a marketplace like Amazon.
For inspiration, take a page from Ashley Antoinette, New York Times best-selling author and founder of thebooklovers.co. Antoinette uses her website as a platform to promote her immensely popular Butterfly series, as well as her upcoming Book Lovers App. Her homepage features a countdown for the next book drop.
Moreover, Antoinette’s connection with her fans (known as the #asharmy) is a testament to the accessibility of creating community online. The results speak for themselves: Antoinette has sold over one million books to date.
Unsure of what to write about?
Create a story out of real-life events
Repurpose your old blog posts as an ebook
Narrate an audiobook
Make sure to take advantage of Wix’s website templates that are specially designed for authors and publishers. And, collect royalties by distributing your ebook or paperback through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.
10. Provide remote consultation services
Just as expanding online allows brick-and-mortar stores to reach larger audiences, shifting to an online model for consultation services enables you to reach a global customer base.
There are multiple avenues you could take. For example, build and design websites for other folks who aren’t as familiar with Wix eCommerce or other site builders. Or, offer virtual tutorials and coaching sessions to share best practices and tips with other business owners.
Do you work in the medical industry? If you’re a general physician, nutritionist, or therapist, you could provide consultations by phone or video. Start by setting up a website where patients can schedule and manage their meetings, then integrate your site with Zoom.
11. Sell second-hand or vintage goods
If you love rummaging and finding deals on vintage clothing or second-hand goods, then creating a business out of doing it for others may be the perfect startup venture.
Begin by selecting a niche for your vintage store. Some examples include:
Clothing or goods from a particular decade
A hip young adult vintage trend
Vintage home decor
It pays to focus on a value or style that you love. For example, Henny Penny Vintage, a spunky vintage shop, is committed to “giving fast fashion the middle finger” and promoting sustainable fashion through its store. Meanwhile, I Can Tell By The Moon Vintage sells more romantic, antique clothing and home decor.
Once you determine your niche, start sourcing, repairing, and reselling a few pieces to start. By keeping your initial inventory small, you can keep your costs low and spend time getting familiar with how to sell vintage clothing online.
12. Start a candle business
The candle industry is expected to reach $9.9 billion in annual revenue by 2028, according to Vantage Market Research. If you’re a craft lover or someone who already makes candles as a hobby, then the candle-making business could be your calling.
Starting a candle business offers several unique advantages:
Low startup costs - You can find basic candle-making kits and supplies at your local craft store or online
Tons of free resources - You can find plenty of free tutorials, recipes, and walk-through videos online
Healthy profit margins - The average candle business can expect to sell their candles at a 25% to 50% markup
Of course, you’ll first want to master the craft of candle-making before putting your items up for sale. Test various aspects of your products, like smell, safety, and burn time. Decide whether you want to brand your candles as high-end, luxury candles or fun, playful scents offered at a more affordable price.
As an example, Coal and Canary focuses on creating “hand-poured luxury wood wick candles for every occasion – and for everyday…each candle is hand poured with the highest attention to detail and lovingly housed in a beautiful re-usable glass vessel.”
Once you’ve mastered your branding and candle recipe, put your creations up for sale on your own branded store.
13. Sell handcrafted goods
If candles aren’t for you, there are a variety of other ways to meld your creativity with your entrepreneurial spirit. You could sell knitted accessories or hand-painted art, to name a few.
Wix merchant, Sena Runa, made a business out of selling beautiful, paper-based artwork online. In addition to selling various framed art pieces, Sena Runa offers YouTube tutorials and downloadable templates for other aspiring artists.
As with any business, begin by choosing a niche and your target market. Then, select a primary platform for selling your products.
For example, many crafters start by selling crafts online through a third-party marketplace such as Etsy, Amazon, or eBay. However, to retain complete control of your brand, costs, and your customer's shopping experience, it’s wisest to build an online shop to serve as your flagship location. You can always expand to marketplaces afterwards (e.g., Wix’s multichannel campaigns allow you to automatically upload your products to Amazon, eBay, and other channels).
Analyze what types of products appeal to your audience, and create a cohesive brand aesthetic.
14. Participate in affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is ideal if you don’t have a product or service of your own to sell, or if you simply want to generate passive income.
As an affiliate marketer, you’ll be promoting another company’s product or service through your channel of choice. Be it a YouTube channel or social media, you can bring awareness to your brand partner’s products and, in return, earn a commission for every sale that you influence.
Roughly 80% of brands offer an affiliate program, so finding one that complements your interests is certainly doable. To find a product to promote, start by checking your favorite brands and seeing if they offer affiliate programs. Another option is to check affiliate marketing networks like ClickBank, ShareASale, and Affiliate Future, which offer thousands of affiliate opportunities.
Look for a program with a commission structure that you’re comfortable with. And, most importantly, find a product that you actually use and enjoy. Do not risk your credibility by promoting brands or products that you’ve never tried before.
15. Monetize your blog
A blog is not only an outlet for creativity. It can also serve as a powerful money-making vehicle. But before being able to monetize your blog, you first need to understand the fundamentals of building a blog with high-quality content and an engaged audience.
Learn more: How to start a blog
Note: building a great blog takes time and a lot of TLC. Still, once you’ve created a solid foundation, you can explore the many ways to make money from your hard work.
Here are a few ways that bloggers are getting paid for their time:
Offer paid membership plans - Set aside some of your content exclusively for paid subscribers. With Wix, you can easily create a subscription plan and flag select posts for subscriber-only access.
Become a freelance blogger - Reach out to brands with active blogs and inquire about freelance writing opportunities. You can additionally search for freelance writing gigs on job boards or LinkedIn.
Make money from online ads - Display ads on your site using Google AdSense and collect revenue each time a user clicks an ad from your site. AdSense allows you to specify which types of ads are most relevant to your audience to increase their chances of clicking.
16. Sell shoes online
Do you consider yourself a sneakerhead? Or perhaps you simply have a stockpile of shoes collecting dust in your closet?
The shoe business could serve as a good side hustle, given that the average yearly shoe volume is expected to grow by 14% in 2023, according to Statista. Not to mention that you could get started in a variety of ways. Sell good-as-new shoes from your closet and local thrift store, or collect and resell trendy kicks. Advancements in print on demand and dropshipping even allow you to sell custom or branded shoes, without shooting up your startup costs.
List your shoes for sale through an online store that features your full collection of shoes. Supplement this with other sales channels, such as eBay, where 15 pairs of sneakers are sold every minute. There’s also StockX, GOAT, TheRealReal, and many other marketplaces—each with its own unique customer base that you can tap into.
17. Sell books online
Do you love immersing yourself in the world of books? What if you could share that passion with others as an online bookseller?
Similar to selling shoes, you can start selling books online with very little upfront expenses. Sell books off your shelf, including old textbooks, popular classics, or children’s books. Online tools like BookScouter can help you estimate the value of your books.
Alternatively, source used books at second-hand stores, library book sales, estate sales, and flea markets. Or, source new books from book distributors, publishers, and local writers.
To maximize your chances of success, decide what kind of bookseller you want to be. Do you want to:
Specialize in a specific genre (i.e., comic books, graphic novels, biographies, etc.)
Sell used, rare, or vintage books
Focus on books pertaining to a particular topic (i.e., cooking, sewing, crafting, boating, remodeling, etc.)
Curate books for a specific audience (i.e., children, teachers, entrepreneurs)
Create a collection where each book has a history or story of its own (i.e., books owned/written by influential people, banned books, books written by women posing as men)
Book lovers value a personalized experience, so it pays to differentiate your business by themes like the ones listed above. You can further beef up your offering by designing and selling book accessories in your online store. You can additionally offer services like a private curation service, subscription box, or book club.
Start your business today
The best business idea is one that aligns with your audience’s interests as well as your own. Your business venture shouldn’t solely be motivated by the potential to make money (this is a surefire way to experience burnout), but should align with a value, cause, or passion that’s near and dear to your heart.
To make the most out of a small start-up budget, it’s also wise to start with a business model that doesn’t require a lot of overhead in the early stages of development. Dropshipping, print-on-demand, and multichannel retail are all great ways to maximize a tight budget, and to give yourself wiggle room to experiment.
With a little ingenuity, you can grow and nurture your low-investment business idea into a full-fledged success.
Ready to get your business started? Sign up for Wix eCommerce today.
Allison Lee Editor, Wix eCommerce
Allison is the editor for the Wix eCommerce blog, with several years of experience reporting on eCommerce news, strategies, and founder stories.
Marketing Writer, Wix eCommerce
Brielle is a Colorado native with a passion for innovation and helping to mobilize entrepreneurs. Brielle is a marketing writer for Wix eCommerce, which powers over 700k online stores worldwide.