What’s a simple business to start?

Often, I’m asked about businesses to start.

Usually, the person asking has low-to-zero capital to invest; wants to start part-time; and, wants “a simple business to start”:

What is a business that I can start, so simple in nature, that virtually I (perhaps with the help of a friend) could start with less than $3000 and some hard work?

Well, there are lots of what I call ‘traditional’ businesses that you can start part-time, depending on your talents:

For example, if you are good at photography, you could do wedding photos at nights or on weekends. Same if you like baking (“cakes delivered to your door”).

But, these aren’t as easy to scale part-time, in my opinion,  as an online business …

… which is why I prefer online businesses, these days.

Even then, some online businesses are better than others:

For example, starting a blog (perhaps like this one), or selling information products (e.g. eBooks), or even starting an eBay business might be relatively easy, but they’re hard to scale into something that might one day take you full-time (so that you can quit your job and become your own boss) or even – eventually -become saleable.

So, let me share with you the little-known secret of the type of online business that I think is:

1. easiest to start, and

2. makes the most money, and

3. is still quite scaleable and saleable (the two magic words if you want to retire rich).

The secret is to create a 2-sided market place.

A two-sided market place is any kind of business that has buyers on one side and sellers on the other:

1. eBay is one example: it’s people and businesses selling to other people and businesses.

2. Amazon is NOT an example (it’s very hard to set up a warehouse and systems to become an online seller like Amazon) but the Amazon Marketplace is a example: it has buyers and sellers using Amazon’s payment platform to sell stuff to each other.

3. Etsy is another example: people make things (arts, crafts, jewellery, etc.) and list it on Etsy.com where people browse and buy things: Etsy doesn’t make anything, sell anything, or hold stock … it just makes a % of every sale for introducing both sides of the marketplace to each other.

4. The most famous recent example is Airbnb, started by 3 guys who simply came up with the idea of letting people share their couches for backpackers to stay (they weren’t even the first: couchsurfing.com got there first); it has since evolved into a real competitor to the Expedias and Pricelines of this world and is on track to become a $1bill.+ company.

That’s why, when people ask me what business to start, this type of business is usually where I then point them.

But, how to start?!

To start Airbnb (I suggest you don’t, this is just an example):

1. One of the startup’s founding team goes around their home city photographing and signing up a whole bunch of ‘bed and breakfast’-style accommodation (I know that Airbnb didn’t start with this; remember, this is just an example)

2. The other founder gets to kick back with a tiny budget to drive traffic to a ‘sign up to be notified when … ‘ landing page (LaunchRock is ideal for this).

[HINT: try $50 worth of Facebook ads and another $50 of Google Adwords and see if that drives any traffic. Spend $10 on each ad platform on 5 different keywords rather than $50 on one. Remember to target your ads specifically to your city (I know FB allows this; I’m not sure if Google does). Submit your landing page to sites like betali.st and startupli.st. Wait for a more significant story before you spam Techcrunch and Mashable]

3. Once you have 20 to 50 BnB’s signed up, and perhaps 200 – 600 names on the landing page, you put the two sides together and see if magic happens!

4. If so, you rinse and repeat in another city, and another (until you raise sufficient investment to allow you to hire ‘city managers’ to do the photographic/doorknocking for you).

5. If not, this marketplace idea sucks. Try another.

Now, stop asking and go do it … 🙂


Catch my latest interview herehttp://www.creditcardassist.com/blog/7-million-7-years-best-of-the-best-blogger-series-22702/ – thanks Bill (founder of Credit Card Assist).



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4 thoughts on “What’s a simple business to start?

  1. @ Luis – I think that most people who say they don’t start a business because they don’t know what kind of business to start are procrastinating.

  2. I like the idea of a two-sided marketplace. That would work really well, and I’m already coming up with some ideas that use buyers and sellers to provide an income for the business.

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