Micro-Business Ideas



  • to generate ideas for small businesses which require minimal start-up capital

  • to help students choose business ideas which correspond to their personal circumstances and available resources

  • to reinforce the distinction between a business idea and a business opportunity

  • to help participants recognize that even very small businesses are “real” businesses if their owners treat them as such


  • scrap paper and pens/pencils (for each participant)

  • flip chart and markers

  • flip chart paper or poster board (1-3 sheets per participant)

  • scissors, old magazines, glue sticks and other collage materials (optional)


60-90 minutes (in class, with additional research time outside class)


  1. Choose a dollar limit ($200, $500, $1,000 or $2,000), which seems appropriate to your students. Ask each participant to list 10 businesses, which they think could be started with that amount of money or less. Encourage creative ideas!

  2. Create a master list on flip chart paper by having each participant contribute 3 ideas from his/her list until all ideas have been recorded. Hearing other people’s ideas may spark additional ideas—encourage this.

  3. After the class is satisfied with the master list (a class of 15 people should easily produce a list of 50-100 ideas), ask each participant (or pair of students) to choose a “best” idea to research further. Encourage students to choose an idea in which they have some interest.

  4. Give participants time outside class to research the basics of the micro-enterprise they have chosen and to make a poster or collage detailing each of the following features of the business idea (make a list of specific questions to answer if necessary):

· Ideal Entrepreneur to run the business: interests; necessary skills, training or credentials; time available to devote to the business; equity available; personality and temperament, etc.

· Required Resources to start the business: amount of money (with specific breakdown of start-up costs), equipment, space, employees and key people, etc.

· Ideal Community to support the business: needs, population, size, demographics, required and desirable characteristics, etc.

  1. Give students an opportunity to share their collages and what they’ve learned. Students should note, in particular, how close their start-up estimates came to the original dollar limit assigned.


After results have been presented, lead a discussion based on the following questions:

  • How did you create the profile of your target business?

  • What surprised you about the business you researched?

  • How feasible would this business be for you, in this community, given the resources available to you? What would make it an even better possibility?

  • Why is it important for an entrepreneur to consider these factors (the entrepreneur, resources required, and community characteristics) when choosing a business?

  • What makes a business “real”? Do these micro-enterprises qualify? Why or why not?

JOURNAL: Repeat this process for the business idea you are considering for this class. If some of the basic elements are missing, what can you do to make the idea work? If you cannot make it work, how can you adapt it or change it so that it suits you?


  • This activity is designed to help younger entrepreneurs and those with limited resources choose a business, which is appropriate in scale to their circumstances.

  • “Micro-Enterprise Ideas” should be completed early in the course, before students settle on a business idea to pursue.

  • “Mix and Match” is an effective companion activity to this one.

  • It is sometimes a challenge to get students to think realistically and choose a business that is small enough for them. The business planning process is basically the same whether they start the next Microsoft Corporation or a neighborhood dog-sitting service. You can help set the right tone by treating micro-enterprise ideas as the “real” businesses they are.


1. aerobics classes (kids/adults)

2. after-school game room

3. apartment cleaning (between tenants)

4. arts & crafts (YMCA, kids, senior center)

5. assembly (picnic tables, bicycles, swing sets, etc.)

6. assembly, office (collating, envelope stuffing, training manuals, etc.)

7. attic/closet/garage cleaning, organizing

8. auto detailing

9. auto body shop

10. baby-sitting broker

11. baby sitting, specialty (at mall, movies, ball games, etc.)

12. bathroom “billboards”

13. biological supply (frogs, bugs, mice, fish)

14. birthday party service

15. bookkeeping

16. bookstore/ newsstand

17. Bonsai trees/gardens

18. branding team

19. bulk mail service

20. button (badge) making

21. CAD (design/ blueprints)

22. calligraphy

23. campground sales (milk, ice, Wood, fuel)

24. candle making

25. carpet cleaning

26. catering

27. chimney sweep

28. Christmas tree digging/shearing/sales

29. Christmas tree delivery and set-up

30. clowning

31. collectibles (stamps, coins, action figures, historic documents, baseball


32. community newspaper, almanac, calendar, magazine

33. companion for the elderly

34. computer service, training, troubleshooting

35. computer tutor

36. concession stand

37. construction (residential)

38. construction site pick-up

39. cosmetology

40. cosmetics sales

41. costume making (Halloween, drama, etc.)

42. crafts (baskets, pottery, sewing, etc.)

43. custodial services

44. custom stationary

45. day care

46. day spa

47. decorative/seasonal window dressing

48. desktop publishing

49. DJ for parties, receptions, etc.

50. dog breeding/training

51. dress for success tutoring

52. elder care

53. electrical repair

54. errand running

55. farmhand

56. fashion design store

57. firewood cutting/delivery

58. fitness center/ classes

59. florist

60. food cart (ice cream, espresso, hot dogs)

61. framing / laminating

62. furniture finishing, assembly

63. garden sitting

64. genealogy research

65. gift baskets

66. gift buying service

67. greenhouse (public)

68. grocery shopping/delivery

69. guide service (hiking, fishing, hunting, bird watching, canoe trips)

70. gutter/roof cleaning

71. hair cutting (in home)

72. home-baked desserts for restaurants

73. home healthcare

74. house cleaning

75. house painting

76. house sitting

77. import/exports

78. insurance filing service

79. insurance record portfolios (photos, lists)

80. interior design

81. janitorial service

82. jewelry design

83. kid taxi (to lessons, after school care, etc.)

84. landscaping

85. laundry service (restaurants, inns, B&B’s)

86. lawn care

87. lawn mower repair/blade sharpening

88. lessons (art, dance, music, swimming, etc.)

89. manicures (in home)

90. manufacturing shop

91. marketing distribution (flyers, posters)

92. massage therapy (mini massage)

93. mini-fridge rental/sale (college campuses)

94. mobile health check

95. moving help (muscle and/or truck)

96. multimedia (video/camera)

97. office supply store

98. outdoor furnishings

99. painting (home exterior and interior)

100. party planner

101. pastry/ coffee shop

102. personal organizer/shopper

103. pet sitting

104. pet supplies

105. pet tags

106. pet taxi

107. pet washing/grooming

108. photo developing & processing

109. photography (general)

110. photography (niche--cars, pets, prom)

111. plant sitting

112. plumbing

113. pool painting/maintenance

114. PowerPoint presentation prep

115. pressure washing

116. printing

117. produce, specialty (Shiitake mushrooms, gourds, pumpkins, ginseng, etc.)

118. radio station

119. reading for the blind

120. recycling service

121. research service

122. restaurant

123. roofing

124. school store/supply stand

125. school store “on wheels”

126. screen-printing

127. seasonal work

128. security service

129. shoe repair

130. sign making

131. small engine repair

132. snow removal

133.-skate/ski sharpening

134. special education products

135. specialty cleaning/ maintenance

136. stenciling house #’s on curbs

137. storytelling

138. stove hood cleaning (in restaurants)

139. student credit union

140. summer day camp

141. tax preparation

142. “teacher workday” child care

143. thrift shop or sales

144. travel service (discount)

145. trend items specialty shop

146. T-shirt design

147. typing/word processing

148. vending machine snacks/drinks

149. video production

150. wallpaper hanging

151. web page design

152. wellness area (nutrition)

153. window washing

154. woodshop products or service

155. word-processing/ typing service

156. yard hand

157. yard sale organizing/set-up

158. yard waste removal