In this article, we cover:
There are a dizzying amount of business ideas to consider. How do you pick the right one? This article focuses on small business ideas that, with hard work and determination, can become million-dollar businesses. If it was easy to turn a million-dollar business idea into a successful business, every entrepreneur would do it. We take a practical and realistic look at how to get started and what it will take to drive your business to the 7-figure revenue mark.
Selling Products Online
There are two main strategies to sell products online. They are 1) reselling products that already exist and 2) manufacturing products on your own and selling them under your brand. Let’s define each approach, discuss how to start a business using each strategy, and review online business ideas:
What is a reseller?
As a reseller, you are taking products that already exist and selling them on your eCommerce-enabled website or a 3rd-party shopping site like Amazon.com. The benefit of being a reseller is you don’t need to come up with a product. You can sell something that already exists (even brand-name products like Apple).
Where can I resell products?
You can resell your products on 3rd-party shopping sites such as:
- Amazon: To start reselling products on Amazon, sign up using your normal customer account, or you can create a new Amazon seller account with your business email.
- Walmart: You can resell products on Walmart.com by registering for an account and sharing details about your business.
- There are many more 3rd-party sites to resell products including Facebook, Instagram, Wish, etc.
In addition to selling on 3rd-party websites, you can also resell products on your eCommerce-enabled website. eCommerce website providers like Shopify, Square, and PayPal enable you to create an online store and collect payments on your website.
What products can I resell?
Some businesses specialize in providing resellers with products. You can either buy the products, have them shipped to your location, store the inventory, and pack-and-ship orders, or you can partner with a drop-shipping company who, for a fee, will store the products at their location, and pack-and-ship each order directly to your customer.
Here are several examples of where you can obtain products to resell:
- Wholesalers and Manufacturers: buy virtually any type of product you can think of from Alibaba. Alibaba is a marketplace for manufacturers and wholesalers. However, Alibaba is for those interested in buying in bulk and at a low cost from Chinese companies. There are many other wholesalers and manufacturers to source products.
- Second-hand/Used: Source products like clothing, jewelry, handbags, shoes, etc, from second-hand stores, yard sales, and Facebook Marketplace and resell as a vintage shop.
- Drop-shipping Suppliers: According to Shopify, these are the 13 best drop-shipping suppliers. The benefit being they handle the product storage and shipping logistics while you can focus on sales.
What is selling under your brand?
If you have a manufacturing process, you can produce products that you can sell under your brand. The way to sell products under your brand and resell existing products is similar. You can do so on Amazon, Walmart, Etsy, your eCommerce website like those offered by Shopify, and more.
Creating a unique product and an associated brand is harder to do than reselling. However, the potential is near limitless. If you can produce a unique product or product line, and a brand name that becomes recognizable, there is a possibility that you can sell your company to a larger competitor, take your business public, or grow it into a very large valuation.
Creating an affiliate marketing business can be highly lucrative and you never have to deal with products. Affiliate marketing is when you send traffic to a shopping website like Amazon and if that person buys something, you receive a commission from the sale.
You need a website, a social media channel, or both. Special tracking links placed on your website or social media content are the mechanism that drives traffic to an Amazon product page (or whatever other affiliate marketing partner website). Typically, websites/social media channels are purpose-built for affiliate marketing review and test products. For example, create a website where you review the latest technology products and then provide a link to the Amazon product page so your reader can buy. The approach for social media is similar in that you need to review products and provide a link to the product in the text portion of your post.
There are a lot of affiliate marketing opportunities out there for both products and services. Let’s review how to create an affiliate marketing business with Amazon to give you a sense of how the process will work with other companies offering affiliate marketing opportunities:
- Review the qualifications: after you register Amazon requires at least three qualified sales within the first 180 days before your application is even checked, you must own your website and the content must be updated within the last 60 days, you need a social media channel (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok or Twitch) with at least 500 followers/likes. LinkedIn is not currently accepted.
- If you meet the requirements, register for Amazon’s affiliate marketing program.
- Review the commission rates to get a sense of what products you should focus on.
- Create content. On your website or social media channel, start talking about the products you’d like to sell and use the special tracking links provided by Amazon.
- Regularly review your analytics to understand what is generating sales.
Keys to Affiliate Marketing Success
Creating a successful affiliate marketing business does not require you to be a marketing genius. You need to have a high-level understanding of a few concepts, basic online know-how, know the basics of content management systems, know where to go when you need help, and have a relentless drive to keep producing quality content.
- Pick products that you enjoy. Creating content is going to be much easier if you like the product.
- Using a content management system like WordPress simplifies the content creation process for those looking to use a website for their affiliate marketing business. WordPress is a back-end infrastructure that controls the front end of your website. You can log in via an admin portal to make adjustments to your website, create and publish blog posts, and more. WordPress makes it easy for anyone to be a blogger.
- Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your website’s ranking in organic search results. The best SEO strategy is to produce quality and original content on a specific subject matter. There are technical aspects to SEO as well, but you can hire a low-cost resource on a freelancer marketplace like Fiverr or Upwork to help you with the technical stuff. The basic concept to understand is that producing quality content, original content, and relevant content will help your blog posts rank organically.
- For social media channels, graphics and videos are key. You can use basic equipment like your phone for video and Canva for graphic design work. However, if you’re looking for anything beyond the basics (which doesn’t necessarily translate to greater success), you can look to a freelancer marketplace like Fiverr or Upwork to find a relevant resource. The key factor with social media is creating authentic content that is relevant to your audience. It does not need to be a Hollywood-level production.
Focusing on creating quality content about the products you are reviewing is the key to creating a good business using affiliate marketing.
In addition to a website and social media, a podcast is another medium for you to grow your affiliate marketing business. Similar to social media and websites, a podcast has low start-up costs, and the key is producing great content. Buzzsprout is a popular podcast-hosting website that offers a free subscription tier to help you get started.
At its core, a service business is one where you provide tasks for your customers. There are a lot of angles here so choose a business model that you’re an expert in or can quickly become one. Small business funding might be needed for some of these ideas to get off the ground. Here are some ideas for service-based businesses that can you turn into million-dollar businesses:
- Online courses: develop an online course and transform your knowledge into a business. There are online course platforms that allow you to create a course and charge for it.
- App development: teach yourself how to develop apps for iPhone or Android devices.
- Virtual assistant: support other business owners by providing a virtual assistant service that helps busy executives navigate their day.
- Wellness/help people: Post-pandemic, mental healthcare, and wellness are in the spotlight and you can provide services around this such as becoming a certified life coach.
- Bookkeeping: Provide bookkeeping, payroll, and tax services to other businesses.
- Consulting business: Transform your industry-specific knowledge and experience into a consulting business.
- Cleaning services: You don’t have to be sweeping the floors for your cleaning business, you can find local clients and orchestrate the cleaning crews.
- Landscaping: Similar to cleaning services, you don’t have to be mowing the lawns in person. You find the clients and then manage the crew schedules.
- Food truck: If cooking is your thing, a well-placed food truck can be a lucrative business.
- Personal trainer: now is a great time to be a personal trainer because your client base can be anywhere in the world. As a certified personal trainer, you can take your classes online or at a local park.
- Pet sitting/dog walking: According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 38.4% of US households own a dog and 25.4% of US households own a cat. That is a lot of furry friends who need help while their owners are away.
Real Estate Businesses
Real estate businesses can easily become million-dollar small business ideas. Out of the ideas we’ve discussed so far, real estate likely has the highest barrier to entry because selling it requires a special license. However, you don’t need to sell real estate to create a new business using real estate, you can purchase real estate, or use an existing property you own, and rent it out via Airbnb or VRBO.
This type of business likely does not require you to work full-time either. For additional information, please visit our article Can You Use Loans to Run Your Airbnb Operation?
Opening a franchise allows you to operate a business with a proven model, an established brand that resonates with consumers, and receive support from the franchisor to help you succeed. The 2022 Quick Service Restaurant Magazine annual report, which details 2021 financials of popular quick-service restaurants, Chic-fil-A, of the brand’s 1,836 U.S. free-standing restaurants outside of malls (those open and operated for at least a full calendar year, from a total of 2,023), posted average annual sales of $8.142 million. For a full breakdown of franchises, including how to secure financing, review our article titled Ways to Get a Business Loan for Opening a Franchise.
Entrepreneurship is hard. For a small business owner to turn a side hustle into a great business that makes a lot of money requires handwork, determination, and grit. There are a lot of business opportunities to choose from, and whichever idea you decide to pursue, consider writing a business plan as a first step. Think of a business plan as the foundation of your business; a pathway for how to structure, run, and grow your business. It is a way for you to think through key elements of running your business. Also, if you need business financing, writing an effective business plan can improve the chances of your loan application being approved.