Despite the extraordinary challenges that transpired in 2020, many business niches still managed to become successful and profitable. But what’s their secret?
Knowing what worked in 2020 can help guide you aspiring successful entrepreneurs into 2021. Whether you’re looking for ideas for starting a new business, have an existing business and need inspiration to grow or diversify, or even if you’re simply getting a feel for which direction the entrepreneurial world is heading, then keep on reading for practical advice from small business experts on what the most successful businesses are and how to get there yourself.
Most successful businesses have a plan
No matter the industry you’re in or the type of business you have, whether it’s online or offline, service or product based; you’ll need a business plan to be successful.
A common misconception about business plans is that it’s a once-off document that you show to investors when you’re trying to raise capital, while in actual fact it’s a dynamic entity that helps shape your business and guides you through the inevitable changes and growth. Just as you wouldn’t pilot a plane without a flight plan, so you should not take the risk of running a business without a specific yet flexible business plan.
What Corona has proven to us all, is that it’s also important to have a contingency plan, a different way to do business should a crisis arise, as realized by so many small retailers were caught unawares and scrambled to get their stores online in 2020.
Most successful small businesses from 2020
Although 2020 threw us all a major curveball, there were still many successes to be had. What would have succeeded pre-COVID may not necessarily have worked out well after the pandemic started but certain businesses managed to find their niche and become profitable during this topsy-turvy year. Certainly online businesses, businesses that support online businesses, or businesses that can be conducted virtually were better positioned to become the most successful businesses because of lockdowns and public fear, but others still managed to prosper.
1. Personal training
In today’s health-conscious culture, personal trainers can achieve success if they do the following:
- Use online and social media marketing: you can always outsource to an online marketing guru so you can focus on your core strengths (pun intended!)
- Differentiate: offer a packaged solution instead of just training. For example, you could bundle your personal training services with healthy meal planning
- Target a niche: yes, there are many personal trainers out there so claim your stake in a specific niche, such as postpartum women
- Add value: a good example is to offer an in-studio babysitting service for moms who want to work out
- Offer remote training: especially important during the pandemic
- Create additional products such as an online 6-week boot camp, ebooks, and so on
2. Virtual assistant business
As more and more of the working world becomes remote, so the demand for virtual assistants increases. As a virtual assistant, you can offer any number of services to your clients, anything from general administrative assistance to more specialized social media marketing, PR and email marketing. As a VA you can work as much or little as you would like by simply increasing your clientele.
3. Graphic design
Even with simple design tools such as Canva, many business owners simply want to outsource to a pro. As an independent graphic designer, you can easily market your services on a site such as Fiverr or Upwork for specific projects or you could even become a full-time freelancer or contractor working with a specific business.
4. Food trucks
Even before COVID forced us to stay at home and shuttered restaurants, food trucks were increasing in popularity. People crave convenience and novelty in this world of over-abundance and overload. Food truck owners can enjoy the benefits of owning a restaurant without all the risks of high overhead costs. By differentiating as a specialty cuisine, food trucks have made their mark, for example, by specializing in vegan food or healthy, quick lunch options.
5. Home improvement services
Stay-at-home fever has driven many people to want to improve their homes so this has become one of the most successful businesses of 2020. It is also possible to consult remotely if you’re an interior decorator during the lockdown, which means that your business could continue running during challenging times.
Online shopping has always been on a growth path, but since the tumult of 2020 e-commerce growth has been accelerated by 4 – 6 years. Dropshipping is a popular e-commerce model whereby the dropshipper essentially acts as the go-between for the supplier and the customer, and never actually holds the goods themselves.
There are minimal risks and costs with dropshipping, as you only pay for the goods from the supplier once the customer has paid you. You also don’t incur any shipping, logistics or storage costs, as the supplier delivers directly to the customer.
Bonus Tip: If you have your dropshipping store through Shopify, you can easily track your profit and expenses and increase your store’s profitability using a profit tracking app such as BeProfit.
7. Personalized products
Consumerism has become so saturated that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate. One way to do this is to offer customized products whether it’s for shoppers, their friends, businesses, children, or even pets. Esty is a popular e-commerce platform for sellers of personalized and homemade products.
Even though there is generally a lot of competition in the landscaping industry because of the low barriers to entry, if you work hard, are creative and personable you can build yourself a loyal customer base. Labor costs and equipment costs may be high but there is always demand for gardening services as gardens grow and people generally don’t have the time or inclination to maintain a functional and aesthetically pleasing garden.
9. Life coaching
Life coaches help their clients get clarity on their life’s goals and steer them towards achieving them. This is one of the most successful small businesses for budding entrepreneurs as once you’ve completed the course, you can start a very profitable business without overheads. With today’s technology and in the current times, you can even run your business remotely, consulting with clients over Zoom. As a life coach, you can even expand your business by developing ebooks, courses, and other services and products that you can sell online.
10. Instagram consulting
If you’ve mastered Instagram for yourself, you can easily promote yourself as an Instagram Consultant and charge on a per-project or hourly basis. Many business owners don’t know the nuances of hashtags, stories, profiles, and creating engaging content and ads so you can build yourself a list of clients and create a successful business.
Business opportunities are plentiful
If you have the drive to start a business, the opportunities are plentiful and up for grabs. To maximize your chances of success, choose your business opportunity carefully based on:
- Your skills – it’s easiest to start a business in an area with which you’re familiar and that matches your skill set, for example, if you’re a content writer you could start a freelancing business writing content for your own clients.
- Your passion – nothing motivates quite like something you’re passionate about. People also often have extensive knowledge of an area that interests them, so whether you’re passionate about fashion, pets, kids or whatever else tickles your fancy, try see if there’s a way to monetize it.
- Demand – even if there’s a business niche that you’re passionate about and for which you have all the right skills, it simply won’t work if there’s not enough demand.
- Profitability – before you start any business analyze what the profit margins are so you can work out if the opportunity is worth your while.
What to take into consideration
As with any business, you need to do your homework before you begin if you want to become one of the most successful small businesses. These are the most important steps to consider:
- Conduct a SWOT analysis by examining your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
- Define and analyze your target market
- Study your competition to assess the demand for your product and service and how you can differentiate to claim your share of the market
- Calculate your set-up and operating costs as well as your selling price so you can estimate your profit margins
- Get all your ducks in a row by listing all the legal, accounting, and admin tasks you’ll need to complete
Becoming the owner of a successful business doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s definitely achievable. Keep your chin up (with your mask on of course!), decide what business you want to pursue, and persevere because there’s only one direction for businesses to go in 2021 and that’s up!