17 Small Business Ideas for Women Entrepreneurs

The following small business ideas for women are ideas from all industries — because, of course, women can succeed in any industry in the 21st century. These ideas have been hand-selected because they are the best money-making options using skills you already excel at and enjoy doing. If marketing is your thing, there are small businesses you can start, or if finance is your thing, there are new opportunities for women within that industry. See our full list of ideas below.

The List of Small Business Ideas for Women

Women are well-positioned to succeed in each of the businesses listed below either because they have proven their dominance in the field or because more opportunities have opened up for women who want to venture into them. For instance, women lead the field of human resources at 69.30% vs. men at 30.70%.[1] In line with this statistic, women have great potential to succeed in starting their own recruiting business.

Starting your own business comes with risks, and success isn’t guaranteed. Before starting your business, craft a clear business plan, setting reasonable expectations for how much capital you’ll need and how much you may earn. Be sure to understand any legal requirements and regulations that apply in your chosen field, too. Organizations like the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) can help you find educational resources and tools to aid in the success of your business. We’ve organized the list below in terms of accessibility, success and earning potential, and startup capital required.

1. Recruiting

Recruiters are also known as head hunters, talent acquisition specialists, recruitment advisers, talent scouts, or a number of other names.

A recruiting firm finds qualified candidates for businesses that need employees. For instance, your niche could be banking. Your job would be to keep tabs on banks and find out when they have job openings. Then, you look through your talent pool for someone who both fits the job description and would enjoy the new position.

Recruiters act as professional matchmakers. Once the match is made and the employee is hired, you receive a fee. In banking, for example, the fee is often the amount equal to one-third of what the employee earns annually. (This fee comes from the bank directly, not from the employee’s actual salary. The service is free to the job seeker.) So, if you place someone who earns $100,000 per year at a bank, you would get about $33,000.

Pick an industry that is prominent in your city or region, and you can sustain a successful business. You may also want to recruit in several related fields, so your business will have more opportunities to gain clients. Keep in mind, the more money the candidates will earn, the larger your commission will be. Most people choose industries they formerly worked in because they know the industry, have a network of connections, and understand the skills candidates need to fill open positions. But, you are not confined to recruiting for any specific industry — quality talent is needed everywhere and can be hard to find.

What You Need to Succeed

  • Patience
  • Great interpersonal communication
  • Excellent phone manners
  • Organizational skills
  • Resume writing skills (or someone you can point your candidate to for help)
  • Interview coaching skills to help your candidates improve their chances for success
  • Social media savvy
  • Sales skills

Articles for Inspiration

2. Interior Design

Do you watch so much HGTV that you can practically host your own show? Are you inspired by passionate and hardworking women like Nicole Curtis and Joanna Gaines? Do you know patterns, paints, prints, pots, and plates? If so, you may be able to monetize your skills. Women can earn a steady income from owning an interior design business.

If you want to get more specialized, consider related opportunities like professional organizing, landscaping, home staging, home appraisal, restoration/preservation, interior decoratorand more. Women dominate interior design and decorating, earning nearly 90% of the awarded college degrees in the field.[2]

What You Need to Succeed

  • An ‘eye for design’ (though this is a subjective quality)
  • Certification, if required by your state.[3] The only way to get certified is by completing the prerequisite requirements and then taking the exams provided by The Council for Interior Design. You can find out more about the exams on The Council for Interior Design’s website.
  • Knowledge of local services (Note: You can contact your Chamber of Commerce to find out what businesses are in town if you’re not a local expert yet.)
  • Sales skills
  • Management skills
  • Ability to give accurate estimates

Articles for Inspiration

3. Event Planning

If you can plan and throw a great party, and you draw enjoyment from doing it, event planning might be your business. Event planning is the process of managing a social project from beginning to end. The types of events you can plan include weddings, birthdays, reunions, anniversaries, graduations, baby showers, corporate events, and more. You could even find a niche interest or industry that doesn’t have a national conference and start one yourself.

If you want to hone your talents in a very specific way, you can become a specialized type of planner, such as a wedding planner. According to the most recent data we could find, more than 80% of event planners are women.[4] Additionally, women have an inside track on the event planning industry as a whole.[5]

What You Need to Succeed

  • Planning skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Social skills
  • Negotiation skills

Articles for Inspiration

4. Tax Preparation/Accounting

If you enjoy accounting and tax prep and you’re a woman, you’ll be in good company going into business — about 70% of tax preparers are women.[1] If you want to do really well in this field, starting your own small firm has a distinct advantage over working for a large firm. That’s because the percentage of female partners is highest at smaller Certified Public Accountant (CPA) firms.[6] If your career isn’t progressing the way you’d like it to at a large CPA firm, consider starting your own small firm. You’ll be your own boss, and you can create opportunities for others as your business grows.

What You Need to Succeed

  • Accounting/tax prep skills
  • Thorough understanding of the tax code
  • To go far, you will need a CPA license
  • Organizational skills
  • Integrity
  • Initiative – it’s not so much about listening to a client as it is letting them know what they should be doing.

Articles for Inspiration

5. Blogging

If you can build an audience, you can build an income — in the 21st century, it’s as simple as that. As with social media, women are more likely than men to have a blog.[7] If you already have a blog, you’re off to a great start. For your blog to become successful, you need to be likable and relatable, as well as informative. The most successful blogs are where women help other women in a fun and engaging way. It can sound trite, but fun and engaging blogs get views.

Once you build an audience, making money while blogging becomes largely about affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is the process of advertising another company’s products or services on your blog. You then receive a commission from the company when your viewers sign up or buy the products. So, if you say you enjoy a cookbook, for instance, you can include a link for people to buy it on Amazon. You will receive a commission for anyone who buys the book via the link you included on your site. If you sell a $40 cookbook and receive a 6% commission, then you would receive $2.40 per sale. Keep in mind that you should always be honest and transparent when advertising for a company, and follow FTC guidelines for disclosing your endorsements.[8]

The commission structure varies by company, and building a strong audience that’s willing to shop using your affiliate links takes time, but there are many women earning a full-time income with affiliate marketing. If you’re a woman with the ability to grow an audience, you’re in a good spot to start the business of blogging as a woman.

What You Need to Succeed

  • A self-hosted website. Buy the domain name from a site like Namecheap and find a host, such as Wix or Squarespace.
  • Time to build an audience — this can take several months
  • An understanding of social media practices
  • Marketing skills
  • Web design skills
  • Writing skills
  • A likable, marketable online personality

Links for Inspiration

6. Upholstery Shop

According to Forbes, one of the best-paying jobs for women in 2015 was upholstering.[9] An upholsterer creates, fixes, and/or restores furniture. Think home furniture, cars, window seats, and even saddles. If you like to craft and sew, you can build a portfolio and succeed in the upholstery business.

What You Need to Succeed

  • Attention to detail
  • An interest in furniture history and design
  • An understanding and appreciation of fabric and patterns
  • Ability to take accurate measurements

Articles for Inspiration

7. Etsy Shop

Etsy is a peer-to-peer e-commerce service where you can buy and sell handmade items, vintage items, or even very specialized manufactured items. According to Fortune, 86% of Etsy sellers are women.[10] That’s why “Etsy-preneurs” are included in the list of small business ideas for women.

Since most items can be made in your home, the barrier of entry is low and the opportunities are great. What could you buy and sell on Etsy? Homemade jewelry, art prints, clothing, and mementos are all sold on Etsy. You can check out the listing categories page on Etsy for more inspiration.

Remember also that anything done on this website can be done on many other e-commerce sites as well. You can choose to start on a different platform or, once you have the Etsy formula figured out, you can take your small business to new audiences. This could mean starting a small business storefront in your town. Or, it may mean adding another digital storefront on a site like Amazon or creating a personal website. Opportunities are abundant.

What You Need to Succeed

  • An original idea of what to sell
  • Photography skills
  • Organizational skills
  • The ability to manufacture (either at home or off-site) your product quickly
  • A thorough understanding of shipping items safely/quickly
  • An understanding of patent laws – if your product is unique

See our article for information about how to turn Etsy into a full-time income.

Articles for Inspiration

8. Reputation Management Agency

Before anyone is hired at a company, the hiring manager will Google them. This can be the make or break moment when someone is either hired or dismissed.

This is a critical moment in a person’s career, and some job seekers are turning to reputation managers to ensure potential bosses only see positive information. Simply put, a reputation manager makes sure a person’s digital life is free of controversial material. Reputation agencies manage social media accounts, buy domain names, and may even manage a personal website for their clients.

Women already dominate nearly all social media platforms.[11] You can put your skills and experience with social media to work by starting a reputation management agency.

What You Need to Succeed

  • Excellent grammar (and a quick wit is very helpful)
  • Search engine optimization knowledge
  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Resume writing skills, as this is essentially what you’ll be doing for many clients
  • A firm understanding of social media automation tools (automation is essential, or else it will be difficult to acquire a serious number of customers)

Articles for Inspiration

9. Fitness Studio

If you’re physically fit, you likely put a lot of work into your personal health and fitness. Perhaps you run, lift weights, take classes, etc. You may be able to use your journey and your expertise to help other women by opening your own fitness studio. You may even choose to open a women-only fitness studio.

This small business idea has one major downfall, which is the startup capital needed to rent a space. Before making an investment, you can start out by giving private lessons at home or meeting in parks. If you don’t have enough money for a monthly lease in a new space, you can use these creative solutions to grow your client base until you can secure a space.

What You Need to Succeed

  • Startup capital or time to earn startup capital
  • Personal fitness — because people are more likely to take fitness advice from people who are fit themselves
  • A unique value-add proposition to set you apart from other local gyms
  • Ability to teach and encourage during workouts
  • Staffing skills
  • You may also want to look into personal training and/or nutrition certifications (or hire those who already have them) to boost your credibility.

Articles for Inspiration

10. Financial Planning Firm

This business idea for women is different from those listed thus far — instead of focusing on proven business ideas for women, this is an area with great untapped potential. Women make up a small but growing percentage of financial planners.[12]

A financial planner (otherwise known as a financial advisor or money coach) helps people organize their personal finances. It is often said that this career is about people, not money. Financial skills alone won’t allow you to succeed as a financial planner. You need to be able to manage relationships with clients. If you have social skills as strong as your financial expertise, this business is one to consider.

What You Need to Succeed

  • The proper licensing for what you’d like to do — most commonly it’s a FINRA Series 7[13]
  • The desire to create and manage a large portfolio of wealthy clients
  • The ability to differentiate yourself from other advisers to attract clients
  • Ability to sell

Articles for Inspiration

11. After School Program

If you have the mindset of a teacher but want your own business, consider starting an after school program. As many working parents seek after-school care for their children, these programs can have high earning potential. Starting a business like this takes a creative mind and an understanding of your community. Each community is different, and so are its needs. You could start a program based on your religion. You could also choose an educational focus, such as developing reading skills, offering homework help with amazing tutors, or offering a technological skills program.

What You Need to Succeed

  • A love of children
  • A good footing in your community
  • Ability to develop strategic partnerships
  • Either live close to a school, have a facility close to a school, or be good with transportation logistics
  • Willingness to work with state regulators
  • Planning skills

Articles for Inspiration

12. Daycare — Child or Adult

Many people are reluctant to hire men as caretakers,[14] so women already have an advantage in this industry. Daycare costs are high, so this field offers either high earning potential or the opportunity to help mothers in your community with a lower-cost option. Adult daycare is also helpful to many families who may be struggling to balance caregiving with their own jobs, appointments, and other responsibilities.

If you’re a mother, you may even be able to run a daycare business from your home, allowing you to care for your own children while earning an income.

What You Need to Succeed

  • A local market need
  • A safe environment for children or adults
  • Help – because you can’t do everything alone
  • A willingness to understand local/state/federal regulations for such a space

Articles for Inspiration

13. Matchmaking

Matchmaking is the process of matching people — usually two people, and typically for marriage. If you like pairing your friends up, this may be a good small business idea for you. The success of your business will depend on your community. Questions to ask yourself before starting this business include whether there are a large number of marriage-seeking singles in your area, whether the singles in your area can afford a professional matchmaker, and how wide of an area you’re able to market your services to, to maximize your earning potential.

What You Need to Succeed

  • Confidence — and the ability to project it on others
  • A large network of singles
  • The ability to quickly assess a person
  • The ability to do a little life coaching

Links for Inspiration

14. Real Estate

Small business ideas for women are all over TV, and real estate is always one of the most advertised and glamorized options. Instead of being an agent, consider opening your own agency. You can help others find homes and keep the commissions to yourself. Starting a real estate business isn’t as complicated or expensive as you may think. Many people start out selling mortgages, serving as property managers, or renting places to people instead of selling to them. This career has strong income potential and a low barrier of entry — you typically just need a real estate license for your state to get started.

What You Need to Succeed

  • Real estate license for your state
  • Sales skills
  • A vast knowledge of local real estate prices, how to assess a home, and answers to ‘fix-it’ questions
  • Connections with local contractors and other agents
  • Patience — commissions aren’t earned every day

Articles for Inspiration

15. Maid Service

Since 88% of maids and housekeepers are women,[15] there is an opportunity for you to not only work in this field, but also to lead a team. You can start a maid service in a variety of specialties: residential, commercial, apartment, hotel, and more. If starting a business from the ground up seems intimidating, you can also start with a franchise like Merry Maids.

What You Need to Succeed

  • An eye for detail
  • Sales skills
  • Ability to source cleaning products at low cost
  • Ability to manage large crews of skilled laborers
  • Customer service skills

Articles for Inspiration

16. Home Spa

If you enjoy beauty and wellness, starting a spa may be the right business for you. Some women begin by simply posting their services on Groupon. After several months, you may build a consistent client base and begin earning a full-time income. You can run the spa from a dedicated space in your home, such as a private and finished basement, or may want to rent a space for your business.

What You Need to Succeed

  • A knowledge of cosmetology/dermatology/massage — whatever you choose for your niche
  • Training and state license as an esthetician — contact your State Board of Cosmetology for more information.
  • Obtain the appropriate permits (sales tax, federal tax ID) and liability insurance
  • The ability to do procedures yourself — until you have the money to hire a staff
  • Startup capital for products and tools, such as a chair, massage table, or microdermabrasion wand. Start with what you need, and you can expand as you earn clients.

Articles for Inspiration

17. Life Coaching

Becoming a life coach is a profession with a high amount of variability and subjectivity. There are no real qualifications needed, but your success as a life coach will be dependent on your life experiences, your relatability, and your ability to command an audience. Audiences need to view you as someone who has been through a situation relevant to their life and emerged successfully. As a woman life coach, you can help other women by relaying your experiences and sharing your expertise in certain areas.

The amount you can expect to earn as a life coach will vary widely depending on where you are, your credentials, and your specialization. For example, career coaches follow different paths from crisis coaches and retirement coaches.

What You Need to Succeed

  • Real-life experiences and stories
  • Good stage presence (unless you plan to only do private sessions)
  • Public speaking skills
  • Actionable advice
  • It may be a good idea to get credentials in your selected area

Articles for Inspiration

You can also check out our related article on how much it costs to hire a life coach.

In Summary

With the right skills, a passion for your work, and a demand for the service you provide, women can succeed as business owners in any industry. Small business ideas for women range from interior design to financial planning to e-commerce. Success isn’t guaranteed for any small business owner, but with talent, drive, and preparation using the tips for success listed above, you can become your own boss and have a career you enjoy.

  1. http://www.businessinsider.com/pink-collar-jobs-dominated-by-women-2015-2[][]
  2. https://datausa.io/profile/cip/500408/[]
  3. https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/am-i-a-real-designer-if-im-not-licensed[]
  4. https://datausa.io/profile/soc/meeting-convention-event-planners[]
  5. http://eastofellie.com/tag/female-event-planners/[]
  6. https://www.aicpa.org/press/pressreleases/2015/pages/percentage-of-women-partners-is-highest-at-smaller-firms.aspx[]
  7. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/the-digital-gender-divide-women-are-more-likely-than-men-to-have-a-blog-and-a-facebook-profile/256466/[]
  8. https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking[]
  9. http://www.forbes.com/pictures/efld45gdmf/no-7-upholsterer/[]
  10. http://fortune.com/2015/08/02/etsy-sellers-women-2/[]
  11. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/231970[]
  12. https://www.investmentnews.com/article/20180808/BLOG09/180809930/the-rise-of-the-female-financial-adviser[]
  13. https://www.finra.org/registration-exams-ce/qualification-exams/series7[]
  14. http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/the_kids/2013/01/in_defense_of_the_manny_why_are_parents_reluctant_to_hire_men_to_care_for.html[]
  15. http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-male-dominated-industries-and-occupations[]

4 comments

  • FYI, you need to be a licensed esthetician to perform spa treatments as well as uphold required state board sanitation standards and guidelines.

    • Rebecca Turley says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi there!

      You’re right! We’ve included this important information to the article. Thank you!

  • Good article, there are some ideas here I would be interested in. Just gotta get the motivation to actually start, that’s the hardest part.

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Thank you for the heads up! Fixed.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the piece. Getting motivated is DEFINITELY the hardest part. I hear you. Here are some of my favorites books that touch on motivation:

      17 Principles of Personal Development
      Eat That Frog
      Lessons in Mastery
      Think and Grow Rich

      These are available in audio format as well.