How to make money in a small town

How to make money in a small town

Forget NYC, here’s how to make money anywhere in the world

Look, we all want to make money. And if you’re still in a small town, it can seem like there aren’t many opportunities to make good money.

What if I told you that there was actually a ton of untapped opportunity in the rural areas? That there was huge markets to be entered, only if you changed your frame of thinking?

In addition, not only would you be able to start a successful business, but you would be able to start a business that would drive real value and impact to your small town.

Today’s blog post began through a lot of research online for the current wisdom for small town entrepeneurship. Unfortunately, I found that there was a lot of the same things.

“Start a coffee shop”

“Work from home doing surveys”

“Try to be a virtual assistant”

Now, I’m not knocking these hustles. I think each of these has the opportunity to become an honest income, and can generate a respectable income.

But the problem is that these are often generic paths to take. Whenever you do a generic solution, what everyone else is doing, then you shouldn’t expect outsized returns.

Now - for today’s post, I’m going to take a second path.

First - I have to set expectations. I’m not promising that this will necessarily be the solution for your small town, nor that you will find the business idea you are looking for. But what I do promise is that this framework, if applied correctly, will hopefully drive you towards the right direction. By moving in the right direction, you will eventually stumble on the right path.

Start with the the problem

Look at the chart below:

The best way to make money is to solve a problem. Better yet, solve a really hard problem.

One way to think about this is the difference between painkillers and vitamins. Both aim at the same purpose, which is a sense of healing or prevention of pain. However, human nature dictates that people are far more likely to pay when they are experiencing discomfort than they will to prevent.

So when we are thinking about small towns, we should look at the problems that people most have. The two criteria we will liike at are:

  1. What buckets have a high % of people saying it is a major issue
  2. What buckets have a higher increased % of people saying it is a major issue

When we do that, we find that the following issues are the biggest problems:

  1. Affordable Housing
  2. Access to public transportation
  3. Access to grocery stores
  4. Access to high speed internet

Let’s break these down and see what this means:

Affordable Housing

This can be identified in two major ways.

First, this can be a problem on the buyer’s side. Perhaps incomes are not high enough for most houses. There can also be issues with accessing mortgages and loans for certain houses.

In this case, the business opportunities are likely on the order of access to capital. Try to see why access to capital is not easy. Perhaps start with your local bank and ask them what the biggest barriers to accessing mortgages are. Likely, there are services or gaps that banks and lendees are not trackling, and can be something for you to explor.

On the other hand, the problems can be on the seller’s side. Housing prices are not appreciating in a manner that is justifying people to invest in them. Or, people are not finding enough buyers in the market.

This is a little bit harder to tackle, but I would look into the local real estate agency. Ask them what problems they find with purchasing property. Perhaps there is a way you can help in driving up the liquidity of the local town. The good thing is that given the smaller nature of the market, you can build a business around improving the real estate scene. Some ideas here could include building a hyperlocal listing site for real estate, being a speciality housing photographer or rent furniture to local real estate agents.

Availability of Jobs

Access to jobs can be broken down to either two main problems. First, there might not be enough jobs. Second, there might not be enough qualified people to fill the current jobs.

For the first bucket, try to understand what the bottleneck is. Small town jobs might not be easily accessible for everyone, so one action you can take is to figure out how to aggregate all the small town jobs into one, easy to access place. Previously, this role was filled with newspapers, but with the advent of the internet, you can likely build a hyper local version that is focused only on your small town. None of the big players in the space will optimize at that level, so this can be a place where you can really excel.

In addition, there are always tax and loan benefits to offering new jobs in rural areas and small towns. Many of these loans are offered to drive economic activity in an area, but often there is a disconnect between the government and the small and medium sized businesses in the area. If you are able, you can study these statutes, and see if you are able to work with a local accountant and tax lawyer in the area to drive up the adoption of these programs in your area.

On the other hand, the problem could be that there aren’t enough locally trained people to adopt that job. In this case, the opportunity you can have is in offering training to people in your town to help qualify them for jobs.

One way to make this really successful is to approach local businesses and see if they can help build the curriculum with you, in order to really craft the curriculum and skills needed to really succeed.

The other potential opportunity is to build a local apprenticeship program. Often, when people think about apprenticeship programs, they think of very rigid, professional programs for unions and skilled trades. However, there is likely an opportunity to build a program that replicates this training and rigidity, but for small businesses and service jobs in your area.


Now, there are likely many ideas not covered in this paper that will work best for your small town. But that’s not necessarily what I hope you take out of this blog post. Instead, what I hope you take out of this is the importance of frameworks.

The goal, hopefully, is that you begin to look around you in your small town, rethink the problems you see around. Hopefully, you see these problems as potential markets, and as opportunities to build businesses.