According to Carlton Proctor’s article “Five businesses for a down economy” in the Cincinnati Enquirer, he quotes the following answers from two members of the University of West Florida’s Small Business Development Center:
I would focus on services-related companies and less on the retail sectors. I would look at needed services that are not discretionary.
– Dan Cavanaugh, Manager
I would look at businesses that provide necessities or high-end luxuries. Even when people are down economically, they will still splurge, especially when they are bummed.
– Larry Strain, Executive Director
With that in mind, I decided to ponder some recession-proof business ideas of my own. Here’s what I came up with:
- Niche Thrift Store
This could be an online or a brick-and-mortar store. Both have their pros and cons though. The former would have to compete against eBay (EBAY) and Craigslist.org, two formidable opponents. The latter would require a high up-front capital infusion. But what about focusing on a niche? Say, used furniture? Or used car parts? Or used computer equipment for bootstrapping start-ups?
- Local eBay Classes
Speaking of eBay, lots of people turn to selling their 63d belongings when they need a bit of cash. Some may even consider turning this into a formal business. But they’ll surely need some help. You can’t quite compete online, because there are gazillions of how-to guides for eBay. So how about posting some flyers around your neighborhood and operating locally? You can place ads at your local library, university, park, or even Starbucks (SBUX) – I’ve seen some of them offer a community bulletin board.
- Budgeting Classes
Some people just aren’t good with budgets. They may realize it’s necessary, they may read about various techniques, but sometimes they need a little more than that – a little push. Or some hands-on training to show them how to do it realistically within their current lifestyles. Don’t just tell someone how to balance their checkbook. Learn about their lifestyles and help them save money while still maintaining a similar standard of living.
- Health Care Professionals Placement Agency
Society will always need health care and health care workers, such as nurses, medical assistants, home health aides, physical therapists and medical records technicians. In fact, it’s often cited as one of the fastest growing occupations. That means an agency trained in finding and placing such professionals could do very well. Lots exist already, but the demand is still fairly strong.
- Auto Repair Services
Drivers will want to extend the life and mileage of their cars, so they’ll be going to auto repair shops. High gas prices have already been driving lots of customers there (no pun intended). You’ll have to do your homework and research a good location though. It helps to have an auto repair background of some sort too, though you can get around that if you have helpful friends who are mechanics.
- Computer Repair Services
Lots of people turn to do-it-yourself projects to save money during recessions. However, some realms are just outside of their expertise. Automobile repair is one. Computer repair is another. (Electronics repair could be a third). Although some may opt to live with glitchy hardware a little while longer, they’ll eventually need it fixed. If you can keep your costs low and market yourself well, you’ll find some good business here – especially in local markets.
- Alternative Energy Consultant
As companies work to cut costs, they’ll look to cheaper, more affordable energy sources. Or they could be looking to make their company more environmentally friendly, despite costs – just because they care. If you know much about alternative energy, as well as how to enable it operationally and organizationally (it’s not as easy as saying, “use energy-efficient light bulbs”), then you could find a nice bit of work.
- Luxury Item Rentals
I’m keeping this one broad because it could encompass many different things. Even in woeful economic times, people still like to splurge. They look for ways to cheer themselves up. Since they may not want to purchase a luxury item outright, they’ll look to renting it. You could rent vacation homes, luxury cars, fancy yachts, high-end furniture, fashion accessories, tuxedos and evening gowns, etc. The list is endless. Think of something (product or service) that people may want to splurge on and try renting it.
- Funeral Services
Though it’s a bit morbid, the cycle of life is a constant, even in economic booms and economic slumps. It actually follows population birth patterns more than the economy. On the tail end of the life cycle are funeral services like operating funeral parlors and handling estate sales. It may not be the most exciting job though, unless you’re, maybe, the Fisher family.