Women business owners are on the rise.
That’s according to the 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, which finds that female entrepreneurship has increased by an impressive 3,000 percent since 1972. And between 2017 and 2018, women started an average of of 1,821 new ventures per day.
What kind of businesses are all of these women starting? According to our own research effort, 1,000 Stories, personal and professional services — think dog walking, law and beauty — are frequent choices, as is selling goods online.
So, in honor of National Small Business Month, we’ve outlined some popular startup ideas with great growth potential. After all, there are ample reasons to start up — seeking work/life balance or financial stability, or wanting to be your own boss — and milestones to work toward, like expanding from a home-based business to having a brick-and-mortar location.
Whatever your reasons or goals, here are some industries you can look to launch in.
1. App Developing
Women are designing apps used by thousands that solve a range of problems — from booking beauty appointments, combating street harassment or safely chauffeuring children to addressing the isolation that new mothers or employees at large firms sometimes feel. Of course, starting up in a male-dominated industry like tech can be tricky for women — just ask Shaan Kandawalla, founder of educational app maker PlayDate Digital. But with a client list that includes brands like Play-Doh, My Little Pony and Transformers, she proves it’s possible to find success all the same. Watch her statup video below.
2. Online Retail/Wholesale
The power of technology meets the desire to sell a physical product. We’ve spoken with women who run websites selling bras, high-end watches, eco-friendly clothing, baby supplies for parents of multiple children, and much more. And many of them are thriving doing so — especially in the case of immigrant entrepreneur Anna Metselitsa, a chance to thrive in a new country. She launched her online boutique, Haute Rogue, not long after arriving in the United States with just $300 in her pocket. Today, she sells thousands of garments each month.
3. Financial Services
Who doesn’t need help with money? (Well, probably not you, if this is an industry you’re considering). A number of female founders have built sturdy ventures helping artists, retirees, homeless people and more regain control of their finances. In particular, we have seen numerous business owners help their fellow women find financial clarity. Others, meanwhile, found success by looking to the future — like Kelly Peeler, whose fiscal education platform, NextGenVest, uses tech to teach Generation Z about the risks around student loans. Her firm was acquired by CommonBond, a tech company that uses data to lower education costs, proving just how in-demand a financial business can be.
4. Agriculture and Farming
For nature lovers, this could be the perfect startup area. Kristy Allen certainly made it work. Her business, The Beez Kneez, sells freshly made honey and teaches paid beekeeping classes to Minneapolis residents, and makes hundreds of thousands of dollars every year doing so. The Piggery’s Heather Sandford is also thriving — her humane pig farm makes millions every year selling bacon, sausage and other pork products
5. Dog Walking and Pet Services
One word: puppies! If you’re a dog lover, and wondered how you could turn that into a money-making venture, Becky O’Neil can show you the way. Becky’s Pet Care is a multimillion-dollar venture that walks thousands of dogs every month. It also boasts several locations. Despite the parade of cute dogs, the business is hard work. But “it’s absolutely a wonderful way to change your life,” O’Neil says. (Note: You can also cater to (wo)man’s best friend in other ways, like, selling all-natural dog food or offering grooming services.)
6. Cooking, Catering and Restaurant Management
Like tech, the food industry can be tough for women to navigate — just ask chefs Jody Adams and Ana Sortun. They run successful Boston-area eateries, but had to rise up through sexist work atmospheres. But if you have a knack for cooking, or baking, you can turn that idea into a profitable venture. Just turn your best pound cake, health food, quiche or truffle recipe — or whatever else you can whip up — into a product to sell. (You can also turn your love of food into an app, if that’s more your speed.)
7. Marketing and Public Relations
Have a way with words, and people? Put it to good use! There are plenty of businesses that could use your services to get the word out to customers. Whether you’re a storyteller, a video producer, or a true visionary, people need their narratives told and their products sold. Why not be the one to help them out?
Capturing a place or moment in time is a unique — and potentially profitable — skill. Photographers can build studios that document weddings, vacations and growing families for clients eager to remember those moments with beautiful imagery. Or, you can think outside the box like Maureen Erokwu. Her Google-backed business, Vosmap, takes pictures of businesses so that their prospective customers know what they look like before arriving.
9. Law Firm
When a person needs legal assistance, trust is paramount. So if you are an experienced, savvy lawyer looking to set out on your own, opportunity awaits. Whether your concentration is immigration, entertainment, maternity or conflict resolution, there are opportunities to turn your legal mind into profits. (And if you’re a lawyer looking to shift gears while starting up, that can work out, too!)
10. Life Coaching
Are you the person people turn to for advice? Why not turn that clarity of thought and ability to guide others into a business? Plenty of women have. Whether you’re best suited to counsel clients on their careers, health, businesses or mental well-being, there are opportunities to start and grow a venture based on your talents.
This is a booming industry, with lots of ways to break in. Whether you start an app like Melody McClosky of salon-booking app StyleSeat, craft skincare product like Daisy Jing of Banish and Funlayo Alabi of Shea Radiance, sell perfumes like Carina Chaz of DedCool, or do hair and makeup for special events like Takia Ross of Accessmatized, you can find a lovely future for yourself in this sector.
12. Human Resources/Staffing
If you have a contacts list a mile long and a knack for making connections, you should consider starting up in this space. Kristine Jones did, and now her firm, New England Flagger Services receives government contracts for the safety staff she trains. Nina Vaca, meanwhile, has made a billion-dollar business out of tech staffing firm, Pinnacle Group. And it’s not just money you can make — Dr. Uma Gautam’s female executive headhunting firm, HeadPro Consulting, is also making a difference for women’s representation in India’s c-suites.
13. Medicine and Health
What’s more important than one’s health? Creating a business in this space requires expertise, to be sure. But if you have it, consider following in the footsteps of women like Future Family’s Claire Tomkins, Pandia Health’s Dr. Sophia Yen, Neurocern’s Dr. Anitha Rao, or Whole Women’s Health’s Amy Hagstrom Miller. Each found creative ways to assist people with complications surrounding infertility, birth control and abortion access, and dementia. Grit’s Tish Scolnik also found her calling in health, putting her engineering skills to use to design “the mountain bike of wheelchairs.”
If you believe laughter to be the best medicine, owning a comedy club could be for you. Amanda Austin and Caroline Hirsch have made livelihoods out of it, and their spots — the Dallas Comedy House and Carolines on Broadway, respectively — are now storied institutions in their respective cities. It can be a tough road for a female founder to travel, but these two women entrepreneurs prove it’s possible to succeed all the same.
15. Educational Products
An education is a powerful thing. Stacy Ratner’s social enterprise, Open Books Ltd., has turned her understanding of this fact into a firm that improves literacy rates among Chicago children. She’s not the only one finding success in teaching others, either — Xiaoning Wang of ChinaSprout, Tiffany Ard of Nerdy Baby, and Supriya Hobbs and Janna Eaves of Miss Possible thrive by teaching culture, science and history through their products. And it’s not just for kids. Rita Robert Otu of Beau Haven Farms is helping rural women in Nigeria by teaching them how to work the land.
16. Eco-Friendly Products and Services
There are many great ways to go green in business. We recently reflected on some of our favorite environmentally friendly women-owned ventures for Earth Day, with founders like Lynn Julian and Chance Claxton of U Konserve and Ann and Jenny Siner of My Sister’s Closet making the list. There are also services you can provide in this space, like Traci Phillips of Natural Evolution, who is hard at work tackling our collective e-waste mess.