Every day, thousands of people dream about becoming entrepreneurs, but the biggest thing holding them back is often money. And while starting a company with a lean budget can be challenging, the truth is, you don’t always need millions to start a business. In fact, there are myriad businesses you can start for just a few thousand dollars.
Take the case of Stewart Vernon of Macon, Georgia, who saved up a few thousand dollars while in college and bought some chemicals and a truck to open a pool-cleaning business. After doubling his revenue every year for the first four years, Vernon became a millionaire by the age of 25 and later turned his business into a franchise.
From party planning and copywriting to business consulting, there is a business opportunity for every skill level, budget and interest. Here are five business ideas that can be started for $5,000 or less.
If you love to shop, being a personal shopper may be ideal for you. There are many people who are unable to shop for themselves or buy gifts for their loved ones, and such individuals are always looking to hire personal shoppers. Initially, you can start a personal shopping service and assist those who don’t like to shop, are too busy to shop or can’t do their own shopping. This is particularly timely with the COVID-19 pandemic going on, as many people prefer not to go to stores.
Personal shoppers are also engaged by collectors and interior designers to rummage through antique stores, consignment shops, flea markets and garage sales to find art, collectibles, antiques, books, home and office décor, and other items.
In addition, businesses hire personal shoppers to buy gifts for their investors, business partners, customers and employees, as well as gift bags to give away at company events such as seminars and business conferences.
Investment required: Under $2,000
If you have a green thumb, know a great deal about trees, flowers, shrubs and vegetable gardens, and like to stay fit and active, starting a starting a gardening consulting business might be the perfect choice for you. You can teach others everything they need to know about how to design, plant and maintain a productive or decorative vegetable and herb garden.
You can start by advertising your services in local newspapers and various online channels. Then, during the first consultation with customers, you can ask questions in order to get an idea about the type of garden and landscape features they prefer, the time frames and budgets they are looking at and whether they would like to hire someone to install the garden or do the work themselves. Finally, create a step-by-step garden plan suited to each client’s needs and garden criteria based on your knowledge about plants, soil, fertilizers, plant placement and rocks.
Once you’ve done some work, you can ask your existing clients for referrals, or you can build alliances with garden product retailers. You may even offer free seminars at churches, local garden centers and community centers to spread the word.
Investment requirement: Under $3,000
Social Media Consultant
The demand for online and social media marketing is growing and will continue to expand. However, when running a company, business owners rarely have the time to interact with their customers on LinkedIn, Facebook or other social media sites. In fact, most of them don’t know exactly how to keep up with changing algorithms on Facebook, optimize their listings on Google or Yelp, or figure out which social media channels they should be on. This is where your expertise as a social media expert comes into play.
To begin with, you must ensure that your own social media sites and online presence are first class. Then, to get further experience, you can offer your services to family and friends’ businesses and local nonprofits. And once you have built a worthy portfolio — and can tell prospective clients how you increased the online and social media presence of other companies — you can market your services to other businesses, which you can find by networking at local business associations or cold-calling and visiting business owners.
Investment requirement: Under $2,500
A growing number of parents are spending a lot more on their children’s birthday parties than they did just a few years ago. According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, parents are now willing to spend on average $370 on their kid’s birthday parties. And all you need for starting and operating a children's party service is a love of children and party planning.
You can run a children’s party service in two ways: You can either host the party from a rented space, which will require the guests to come to the location; or you can operate on a mobile basis and throw the party at your customer’s locations. Irrespective of the location, your duties will be to plan the party, decorate, and provide food, beverages and entertainment (such as contests and games). During the pandemic, you'll have to get creative and find ways to have safe celebrations. The more innovative you can be, the more likely you are to find customers.
Rates will vary depending on the entertainment, menu and frills; however, you can typically charge anywhere between $20 and $100 per guest (for themed or highly specialized parties).
Investment requirement: Under $2,000
Another potentially profitable business idea that you can start with minimum investment is selling unique, specialty cupcakes and cakes for such occasions as birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. You can begin by baking cakes for your friends and family from your own kitchen, before getting in touch with event coordinators, kids’ party planners, wedding photographers, bridal shops, restaurants, catering companies and others to let them know about your business — in the beginning, you can even send samples of your products to these professionals to ensure they send clients your way.
Set up a business website with colorful pictures of your cakes and cupcakes, and make use of social media platforms to give your business a boost. Selling specialty cakes can be extremely profitable, as the cost of ingredients is only about 15 to 20 percent of the retail selling price. During the pandemic, as many people are working remotely, you can market your baked goods to companies as employee rewards, offering to ship them to staff members to show appreciation for their hard work.
Investment requirement: Under $3,000