15 Businesses You Can Start for $100 or Less

Introduction

If you read my post on 15 businesses you can start for $200 or less you probably suspected many more that could be included. In fact, here are fifteen more, and this time I’ve cut that number in half. This list will focus on businesses you can start for $100 or less. That’s right, one Benjamin and you’re good to go.

You may recall from our last list that there are a couple keys to a cheap startup. Besides choosing the right type of business, you need to find low cost ways to make your first sales, use that money to take the next step, and then repeat the process. It also helps to keep looking for creative ways to bootstrap your way to success.

So what kind of businesses can you start with $100? The first one on our list is perhaps expected. Many internet-based businesses can be started for next-to-nothing. But the second business, and some of the others, might surprise you…

1. Website Design

The fact that you’re reading this suggests you already have everything you need to start a website design business — a computer and internet access. Of course, you also need the skills, which you can start learning that from any good tutorial on how to design a website.

Thanks to the abundance of free WordPress themes you don’t even need software to start. My wife and I have put up WordPress websites in a day or two for friends, charging them a few hundred dollars, and we haven’t spent anything yet for tools. Even our photo and image software is a freebie (IrfanView).

And we apparently undercharge for our service. One article on website design says the price for building a business website ranges from $3,000 to $32,000.

For those of you interested in the more traditional route, now there are coding schools that give you a crash course in web development in 3 – 5 months. Here’s a post about how one guy found a job as a programmer after attending Epicodus Coding School.

2. Auto Parts Sales

Yes, auto parts sales, starting with $100 or less. You see, you only need one part to sell to get started. To start with zero investment that part could be from an old car parked behind a friend’s house. Once you’ve sold it you can reinvest the money.

Impractical? Tell that to Steve Farmer, who started a business wholesaling collision parts right after graduating from Tyler Junior College in Texas, in 2006. He says, “Within two weeks, I had started my own business with $50 and built it up and ran it for almost three years.” He later sold the business and opened a candy/novelty shop.

Online tutorials explain how to sell auto parts on eBay. You can also sell on Craigslist.

3. Tax Return Preparation

As explained by The Income Tax School, a tax return preparation business has minimal startup costs. You have to register with the IRS ($50), but if necessary your other expenses can wait until you’ve been paid to do a few returns (start with friends?), at which point you’ll want to get some basic tax preparation software, business cards, etc.

You can even avoid the cost of your education by getting paid to learn on the job. A search of “tax preparation no experience” on Indeed.com turns up many tax prep jobs that don’t require previous experience. Once you’ve worked a season you can go it alone using what you’ve learned.

4. Craft Product Sales

Crafts can be large and elaborate or small and simple. The latter might be the better choice for a business startup under $100. For example, I used to buy foreign coins at a coin shop for 10 cents each, drill holes in them, add as string, and sell these pendants to kids at flea markets.

Whatever you make, you can start with a very limited inventory and open an Etsy shop to sell your creations online. Etsy charges a 3.5% fee and 3% plus $0.25 when you sell. Prior to that it will cost you only a 20-cent listing fee.

That’s a pretty low-risk way to start something with big potential. How big? Alicia Shaffer makes almost $1 million per year on Etsy selling handmade scarves, headbands, and leg warmers.

5. Yoga Instruction

If you know enough about yoga you can give classes in your home. If you don’t know enough, you can start learning from the many yoga videos on YouTube. You might start with word-of-mouth advertising, or splurge and spend $20 on business cards. And if you live too far from customers, just put your own yoga videos on YouTube and monetize them.

6. Resume Writing

If you’re the one friends turn to for help when filling out an application or working on a resume, you probably have what it takes to start a resume writing business. As long as you own a computer and printer you’re good to go. You can even use a free resume builder online to do some of the work for you.

How much can you make? According to CostHelper the price for a professionally written resume is between $80 and $349. A full resume package, with cover letters and thank-you letter written for specific employers can run as high as $700.

7. House and Office Cleaning

If necessary you can start a cleaning business with nothing at at all. Just offer your services to friends and family and use whatever cleaning materials they already have in their homes. From those first jobs you’ll have the money to buy business cards and basic supplies.

What’s the potential of a cleaning business started for next-to-nothing? Starting with just $100 Carrie Johnson built a multimillion-dollar cleaning business that employed 165 people.

8. Network Marketing Sales

MLM, multi-level marketing, direct sales, network marketing — whatever the name, it doesn’t have the best reputation. And yes, you’ll probably start by making your pitch to family and friends. But they’ll only buy your products or join your downline if they really want to, right?

In any case, these businesses fit our criteria. You can start with Mary Kay for $100. Amway has startup options as cheap as $62.

So failure isn’t too costly, but what’s the income potential if you succeed? A list of the top 200 MLM lifetime earners starts at $14 million and goes up to $450 million.

9. Lawn Care and Landscaping

Yes, a lawncare business requires things like lawn mowers and weed whackers and other tools that each can cost more than $100. But you know the routine by now; find a low-cost way to generate sales and grow from there. So you might borrow a lawn mower, do a couple jobs, buy a used mower, do a few more, and parlay that income into a riding mower and other essentials.

Can you make decent money with a lawn care business? John Hughes started in his early 20s with a used mower, and eventually Hughes Landscaping diversified and became a multimillion dollar business.

10. Pet Grooming

What does it take to wash a dog? Soap, water, a brush, a towel or two — certainly less than $100 in supplies. And yes, proper pet grooming can be more complicated than that, but washing dogs is a cheap way to get started.

Angie’s List says basic pet grooming runs from $30 to $90, and their members pay an average of $53. A nice thing about pet grooming is that there are so many related services you can offer, and most of those take very little investment. For example, you can also pet sit, walk dogs, taxi pets to appointments or park visits and more.

11. Flea Market Sales

My wife and I were flea market vendors, and I can tell you it’s fun… and a tough way to make a living. But you can start small. At the Tanque Verde Swap Meet here in Tucson you can rent a spot for $15 and have thousands of potential buyers. Bring everything from around the house that was going to otherwise end up in your next rummage sale or donated to a thrift store, and you’ve taken your first step.

At the larger flea markets we’ve talked to vendors who’ve done well in the same location for years. They generally have a large inventory of whatever products they sell, but you can work your way up to that level.

12. Homemade Soap Sales

This is one of those businesses that can start out as a hobby. That’s how it started for Anne-Marie Faiola, who went from being a corrections officer with a soap-making hobby to taking in thousands of dollars at craft shows to CEO of two successful companies, Bramble Berry (soaps) and Handmade Beauty Box (DIY projects in a box).

You can learn the basics from an online soap-making tutorial. If your first attempts are not of the highest quality at least you can use them at home.

13. Baked Good Sales

If you already bake for yourself and your family at home, you have what you need to start a baked good business. Traditional cookies and cakes are possibilities, but you could also get more creative.

For example, Missy Chase Lapine invested $39 in a food processor and started sneaking pureed vegetables and other healthy ingredients into her children’s food. Within a few years her “Sneaky Chef” creations were on the shelves of thousands of grocery stores, and her book “The Sneaky Chef” hit the New York times bestseller list.

14. Boat Cleaning Service

It’s amazing how much you can learn on YouTube. For example, there are hundreds of videos on how to clean a boat. Watch a few of them and you’ll quickly realize you can start a boat cleaning business with some relatively inexpensive supplies.

Where can you go from there? Jim Garland started a boat cleaning business from the back of his car. Eventually, his company, “Sharp Details,” transitioned into cleaning corporate aircraft, and now he does over $3 in revenue per year.

15. Publishing Kindle eBooks

I used to regularly write a book in a matter of a week or two and publish it on Kindle. My eBooks made me thousands of dollars before sales dropped off and I removed them.

That’s a small success, but the potential is huge. Joe Konrath has made $100,000 on Kindle in a span of three weeks.

Not a writer? Publish books for other people or work on a book with someone else. Konrath is actually a co-writer on some of the books he sells.

What does it cost to start a publishing business? It’s free to open a Kindle publisher account, and I didn’t spend a penny to publish my first half-dozen books on Kindle. It does take time to figure out the formatting, and I later invested $15 each on Fiverr.com to have covers made. But you can start from exactly where you are, and for far less than $100.

If you’ve started a business for $100 or less tell us about your experience. Happy frugaling!

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