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10 of the best UK small business ideas

5-minute read

Sam Bromley, Jessie Day

22 July 2020

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2020 has been a challenging year for small businesses and the self-employed, but entrepreneurs looking to navigate the rest of the year can get started with these small business ideas.

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Food and drink small business ideas

Food and drink businesses have had to adapt and pivot throughout the coronavirus outbreak. Many independent cafes and restaurants began selling produce from their space or went takeaway only, for example. It’s changed how we eat out in the UK and many of us have been inspired by the focus on local, seasonal produce.

But what’s the best business to start? We’ve picked out a couple of inspiring ideas.

What business should I start?

1. Bakery and desserts brand

Like many businesses, bakeries have felt the effects of Covid-19. But demand has remained relatively high for baked goods, and two thirds of businesses have managed to stay open, according to figures from the Craft Bakers Association.

As high streets get started again, there’s a spot for businesses selling quick take-away bites and treats. And in warmer weather, customers might call on these businesses for their picnics, opting to pack their own food rather than book a table for lunch.

Inspired? Head to our 10-step guide to starting a baking and cake business for what to do next.

2. Takeaway and delivery

Following the Summer Statement announcement from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, VAT is set to drop from 20 to five per cent up for food, accommodation and attractions until January 2021. The move is designed to support recovery in these industries and encourage demand.

It’s up to individual businesses whether they decide to pass the cut on to customers. But adding delivery or takeaway as an option has been a lifeline for restaurants, cafes, pubs and customers during lockdown.

Thinking of setting up a takeaway or delivery business? Read our guide to opening a takeaway business and check our coronavirus guidelines for restaurants and cafes,which includes food to go.

You can also check food and drink industry insurance information.

Green and eco small business ideas

The CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, pledged billions earlier this year to fight climate change, calling it the biggest threat to our planet. Here are some small business ideas to consider if you’re interested in helping tackle the environmental emergency.

What business should I start?

3. Plant-based food

The BBC quotes a University of Oxford study that says if everybody cut meat and dairy from their diet there could be a “49 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from food production”.

And April Preston, director of product development at M&S, said at the beginning of 2020 that plant-based food “has shown absolutely no sign of slowing down. Our customers are adopting flexitarian lifestyles and we’ve a pipeline of new plant-based products planned, including a no-chicken kiev.”

While restaurants and stalls might be harder to set up right now, direct-to-customer (in the form of online retail and delivery) business models are simpler to navigate. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, the Retail Times said that consumers crave convenience, and “still want quality foods whether they are on the go, dining at their desk, cooking at home or ordering takeaways”.

4. Vintage and second-hand

The same opportunity for moving online exists for the re-use and second hand market. While bricks and mortar shops are in difficulty, selling online could be a smart move.

Vintage and second-hand items lend themselves well to social media – read about how to sell using Facebook Shops here.

Whether it’s selling second-hand clothes, upcycling old products or simply repairing them, is there a business you could open with sustainability in mind? Read more about how to set up an online shop.

Pet small business ideas

A 2018 Mintel study revealed that 54 per cent of British millennials would rather cut back spending on themselves than their pets. With consumers ready to put their pets first, what small business ideas could you consider?

What business should I start?

5. Dog walking business

You need to love dogs and know how to handle them, so consider training first if you like this small business idea. But it could be lucrative if you walk several dogs at once, as you can expect to earn between £6-10 per dog for walks that last between 30 minutes and an hour.

Read about how to start a dog walking business.

6. Pet food and products

This taps into how much owners are prepared to spend on their pets – trend analysis from has reported big rises in online delivery for pet food and specialist diet options, with Covid-19 ‘only hastening’ these changes.

If you’re an animal lover, and prepared to get super-knowledgeable, a pet food delivery business could be a great direction to consider. Read about pet business insurance.

Hair and beauty small business ideas

Businesses in close contact services, including hair, beauty and nail businesses, can reopen, as long as they’re following the government guidelines.

With plenty of people forgoing a homemade cut, there have been plenty of queues outside the barber shop, and high demand for mobile hairdressing.

What business should I start?

7. Barber services

When barbers reopened on 4 July, we all saw queues down the high street. And while this is thanks to over three months of home grooming and dodgy haircuts, you might have been inspired to set up your own services.

Barber businesses are easy to make unique, whether you’re opting for green product technology only or going for a particular slice of the market. Whatever you do, make sure you’ve read up on opening a close contact business during Covid-19.

8. Mobile hairdressers

It’s the same story for general hairdressing businesses. With customers staying at home but desperate for a quality cut and blowdry, opportunities for talented mobile hairdressers are on the up. If you’re trained and know the industry but finding salon culture slow to pick up, setting up your own mobile business could be a game-changer.

Read about business insurance for mobile hairdressers, and hair professionals cover.

Home business ideas

In 2019, The Guardian reported on the UK’s rise of ‘slashies’ – people pursuing a side business as a choice, not a necessity, and as a way to work on a passion. A side business can be a way to turn hobbies or skills you already have into income. What skills do you have that could help you become your own boss, setting up a business from home?

What business should I start?

9. A copywriting business

With words appearing everywhere from a company’s blog to its social media accounts, great content is in high demand. And according to ProCopywriters, nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of copywriters run their own business – would you consider going freelance?

Read about copywriters’ insurance.

10. A design business

While there are different routes into graphic design, it can also be a great business to start on the side if you have the skillset. It’s creative and you’ll get to use imagery, illustration and typography to help businesses develop a visual identity.

Read about how to become a freelance graphic designer.

What are your top small business ideas?

The small business ideas in this article are designed to give you inspiration. If you want to explore an idea, make sure you treat it as a business, carrying out the right research and planning – writing a business plan is a great place to start.

Let us know about your favourite small business ideas in the comments below.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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