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Considering Buying or Investing in a Small Business?

Considering Buying or Investing in a Small Business? Discover the Most and Least Profitable Industries

Are you thinking about buying or investing in a small business but unsure where to start? Navigating the world of small business investments can be daunting, especially with the vast array of industries to choose from. The fear of pouring your hard-earned money into a venture that might not yield the desired returns is a common concern.

To help you make a more informed decision, we’ve identified the five most and least profitable industries. Understanding these can be a game-changer, providing you with the insight needed to steer your investment in the right direction.

Whether you’re a first-time investor or looking to expand your portfolio, this guide will help you navigate the complexities of small business profitability.

Profit, Profit, Profit: The Cornerstone of Business Success

Sustained profit is the lifeblood of any successful company. However, profitability doesn’t exist in a vacuum. When evaluating a business opportunity, it’s crucial to consider several other key factors to ensure a wise investment. These factors include:

  • Current and Anticipated Market Trends – Understanding where the market is headed can help you gauge the long-term viability of a business. Are the industry and its demand growing, stable, or declining? Staying ahead of trends can significantly impact your business’s success.
  • Projected Profit Margins on Products and Services – Not all revenue is created equal. Assess the profit margins of the business’s offerings. High-revenue items with low margins might not be as beneficial as lower-revenue items with high margins. Look for a balanced portfolio that can sustain profitability.
  • Scalability Potential – A business with the ability to scale efficiently can grow without a proportionate increase in costs. Evaluate whether the business model supports scaling up operations, increasing production, or expanding services with minimal additional expense.

Considering these factors is essential whether you’re eyeing a trendy restaurant that’s generating buzz or a niche business like a shop that customizes silk neckties with your dog’s pawprint pattern. Here’s how you can get started on making a more informed and strategic purchasing decision:

  • Conduct Market Research – Dive deep into the industry and market conditions. Use industry reports, competitor analysis, and market forecasts to gather valuable insights.
  • Analyze Financial Statements – Review the business’s financial health through its income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. Look for trends in revenue, expenses, and profit margins.
  • Assess Growth Opportunities – Identify opportunities for growth within the business. This could be through new product lines, entering new markets, or improving operational efficiency.
  • Consider the Competition – Evaluate the competitive landscape. Understanding who the major players are and what differentiates your potential business can help you identify its strengths and weaknesses.
  • Evaluate the Business Model – Look at how the business operates. Is it dependent on seasonal trends, or does it have a steady stream of income year-round? Does it have a loyal customer base or rely heavily on new customer acquisition?

By taking a comprehensive approach to assessing a business opportunity, you’ll be better equipped to make a decision that aligns with your financial goals and risk tolerance. Investing in or buying a small business is a significant commitment, and understanding these key factors will help you navigate this complex process with greater confidence and clarity.

Understanding Profit Margin Formulas

When business owners talk about “profit,” they typically refer to the net profit margin ratio. Now, here’s how you can compute it:

  • Total Revenue: This is the total amount of income a business generates from its operations.
  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS): This represents the expenses directly associated with producing goods or delivering services.
  • Gross Profits: Subtract the COGS from the total revenue.
  • Gross Profit Margin: Divide the gross profits by the total revenue.

The net profit margin ratio is a straightforward calculation, but it’s important to recognize that various industries and business models can influence this metric.

For instance, a service business operating on a subscription model will have different cost considerations compared to a manufacturing company.

Additionally, businesses often incur operating expenses that aren’t directly tied to production but still impact profit calculations. When you subtract these operating expenses from the gross profits, you get the operating profit. Dividing the operating profit by the total revenue yields the operating profit margin.

With these foundational concepts in mind, let’s explore specific categories and industries to understand their unique profit dynamics:

The 5 Most Profitable Small Businesses

Cleaning Services: Clean Up with Big Profits

The global home-cleaning services industry is set to soar from $7.5 billion in 2022 to $14.6 billion by 2030. These businesses often start with low overhead costs, enabling them to become profitable quickly.

Whether you focus on residential cleaning or specialize in niche areas like eco-friendly cleaning, the demand for reliable cleaning services remains strong and growing.

Accounting: Adding Up the Benefits

The demand for Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) is on the rise due to a shortage of new CPAs to replace retirees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 4 percent annual growth rate for the industry.

Moreover, CPAs earn an average salary of $78,000 per year, significantly higher than the average college graduate’s salary of $52,000. With businesses and individuals constantly needing tax preparation, auditing, and financial planning services, accounting remains a lucrative field.

Food Trucks: Feeding the Need for Profits

Food trucks offer a profitable venture with a lower initial investment compared to traditional restaurants. While the upfront costs include a truck, equipment, food, licensing, and insurance, the market is expected to grow from $2.2 billion in 2022 to $6.6 billion by 2028.

Food trucks have the advantage of mobility, allowing them to serve different locations and adapt to customer demand, though competition in urban areas can be intense.

Online Teaching: Get Schooled in Profit

The online teaching industry is booming, with revenues expected to reach $148.22 billion by 2027. After the initial investment in a high-quality internet connection, professional webcam, microphone, and lighting, the overhead costs remain low.

The key expenses are primarily related to marketing your courses. Whether you offer live classes or recorded sessions, the flexibility and scalability of online teaching make it a highly profitable business.

Consulting: Turning Advice into Dollars

Consulting is a thriving sector with an expected growth rate of 10 percent by 2032, according to the BLS. Management consulting, the most prevalent type, involves advising on various business strategies, from sales tactics to organizational restructuring.

While formal education credentials like an MBA or other management certifications can enhance credibility, they are not mandatory. The potential for high earnings and the ability to work with diverse industries make consulting a profitable choice.

These businesses offer diverse opportunities for profitability and growth. Whether you have a knack for numbers, a passion for cooking, or expertise in a specific field, these industries provide robust potential for small business success.

The 5 Least Profitable Small Businesses

Restaurants: A Recipe for Challenges

Running a restaurant is an arduous endeavor that requires more than just culinary passion and talent. The industry is plagued by huge startup costs, high overhead, and fierce competition. In 2024, 45% of restaurant owners cited competitors as their primary challenge.

The demanding nature of the job—long hours on your feet, managing staff, and staying abreast of fleeting dining trends—can quickly diminish initial enthusiasm. The financial burden, coupled with the need to constantly innovate to attract and retain customers, makes the restaurant business one of the least profitable ventures.

Hotels and Motels: Room for Profit?

The hospitality industry, especially small hotels and motels, faces significant challenges. These establishments must compete with large chains and price aggregators, which often offer more attractive deals to consumers.

The economic unpredictability further exacerbates the situation, leading to an average annual loss of about 2% for small hotels. While real estate appreciation can provide some relief, it doesn’t address immediate cash flow issues or payroll needs. Maintaining profitability in this sector requires a strategic approach to cost management and differentiation in a saturated market.

Brick-and-Mortar Retail: Struggling with High Overhead

Physical retail stores face considerable financial hurdles. High ongoing costs, such as rent and inventory, make retail a capital-intensive business. The location of the store is critical—choosing the wrong spot can lead to failure.

Additionally, the rise of e-commerce giants has intensified competition, putting further pressure on profit margins. Despite the potential for high sales, the significant expenses associated with maintaining a physical presence often result in lower profitability compared to other business types.

Grocery Stores: Thin Margins and High Anxiety

Grocery stores operate on extremely thin profit margins, averaging just 2.2%. The need to maintain large stores and manage massive inventories of perishable goods significantly cuts into profits.

Like restaurants and retail shops, grocery stores are heavily influenced by location and consumer demand. The large-scale operations of major supermarket chains make it difficult for smaller grocery stores to compete, leading to financial stress and minimal returns for owners.

Auto Dealerships: Profits in Neutral

Although car prices for both new and used vehicles remain strong, auto dealerships face ongoing financial challenges. The constant need to invest in inventory ties up significant capital, reducing overall profitability.

Additionally, the cyclical nature of the auto industry and the pressure to meet sales targets can strain financial resources. While some dealerships thrive, many struggle to maintain a steady profit due to high operational costs and market fluctuations.

Making Informed Business Decisions

If you’re considering buying or investing in a business, it’s essential to understand that profitability varies widely across different sectors. Conducting thorough research and due diligence can help you make more strategic and informed choices. While the allure of owning a business is strong, it’s crucial to avoid impulsive decisions and thoroughly evaluate potential risks and rewards. By understanding the specific challenges and financial realities of various industries, you can better navigate the complex landscape of small business ownership and investment.

Key Considerations for Choosing a Profitable Small Business Venture

When deciding to invest in or start a small business, profitability is a critical factor, but it’s not the only one. To make a well-informed decision, consider various elements that can influence the success and sustainability of your business venture. Here are key considerations to keep in mind:

1. Market Demand and Trends

Understanding market demand is fundamental. Research current and anticipated trends in your chosen industry to gauge future viability. For example, the rise in remote work has significantly boosted the demand for home office supplies and online collaboration tools.

On the other hand, businesses heavily reliant on foot traffic might struggle in a world increasingly dominated by e-commerce.

2. Startup and Operating Costs

Evaluate the financial requirements for starting and maintaining the business. Some industries, like tech startups or online teaching, often have lower initial costs and overheads, making them attractive options.

In contrast, businesses like restaurants and retail stores require significant upfront investment in real estate, equipment, and inventory, which can strain finances from the start.

3. Competition and Saturation

Analyze the level of competition in your desired market. Highly competitive industries can be challenging to enter and sustain due to price wars and the need for continuous innovation.

For instance, the food truck market, though profitable, is becoming increasingly saturated in urban areas, requiring unique offerings and aggressive marketing strategies to stand out.

4. Business Model and Scalability

Consider the scalability of the business model. Scalable businesses can grow revenues without a proportional increase in costs. Service-based businesses, such as consulting or online teaching, often scale well since they don’t require significant additional investment to serve more clients.

Conversely, businesses like grocery stores face physical and logistical limitations that make scaling more challenging.

5. Risk and Regulation

Assess the risks associated with the business, including regulatory requirements. Highly regulated industries, such as healthcare and finance, may involve complex compliance issues that can incur additional costs and legal liabilities.

Additionally, businesses with high exposure to economic fluctuations, like hotels and auto dealerships, can be riskier investments.

6. Location and Demographics

For brick-and-mortar businesses, location is crucial. A prime location can drive foot traffic and sales, while a poor location can lead to business failure. Demographics also play a significant role—understanding the local population’s needs, preferences, and spending habits can help tailor your offerings to meet demand effectively.

7. Technological Integration

In today’s digital age, integrating technology into your business operations can streamline processes and enhance customer experience. Whether it’s using customer relationship management (CRM) software, setting up an e-commerce platform, or leveraging social media for marketing, technology can provide a competitive edge and improve profitability.

8. Customer Acquisition and Retention

Acquiring and retaining customers is vital for business success. Develop a strong marketing strategy to attract customers and implement loyalty programs to retain them. Businesses that rely on repeat customers, like subscription services or retail stores, benefit significantly from effective customer relationship management.


Choosing a profitable small business venture involves more than just looking at potential earnings. It requires a thorough understanding of market dynamics, cost structures, competition, scalability, risks, and customer needs. By carefully considering these factors, you can identify opportunities that align with your skills, interests, and financial goals, setting the foundation for a successful and sustainable business.

While no venture is without risk, informed decision-making can significantly increase your chances of achieving profitability and long-term success. For those looking to secure the necessary funding to start or expand their business, partnering with a reliable financial provider is crucial.

GoKapital, a private lender offering business loans and real estate financing, can provide the financial support needed to navigate these challenges. With GoKapital’s flexible financing solutions, you can secure the capital required to invest in a promising business venture and drive it toward profitability.

In the end, making a well-informed choice and securing the right financial backing can pave the way for a thriving and lucrative small business.



GoKapital offers business owners alternative working capital solutions through our various funding programs for business loans.