Dreaming of starting a business and wondering what kind it should be? We can’t answer that, but we can tell you the types of businesses other entrepreneurs are most interested in starting.
Every month, more than a million people visit Bplans and search among sample business plans for more than 500 types of businesses. And every year, Palo Alto Software, which owns the site, tracks which searches are most popular and publishes the top 10. It’s a fascinating look into the types of businesses most of us dream of starting, and how those dreams have changed over time.
Top 10 business-plan searches for 2014:
- Restaurant, CafÃ©, and Bakery
- Retail and Online Store
- Medical and Health Care
- Bar and Nightclub
- Farm and Food Production
- Wholesale and Distributor
- Construction and Engineering
It’s a no-brainer that Services tops the list, says Sabrina Parsons, Palo Alto Software CEO. “It’s always the top one, because you can be a one-person business,” she explains. “If someone has the skills, they are the easiest to start because they’re usually not capital-intensive. You probably don’t need a bank loan or other financing.”
Restaurant, CafÃ©, and Bakery has stayed in the No. 2 slot for each of the past three years. “Everyone wants to do them, but I always caution people,” Parsons says. “They’re difficult to start, they take a lot of money, and they go out of business at a higher rate than most others.”
So which industries does she recommend for new entrepreneurs? Farm and Food Production first appeared on the list at 10th place a few years ago and has been climbing ever since–it’s in sixth place so far in 2015. That makes sense, Parsons says, given growing concerns about GMOs and factory farming, and the preference for locally sourced foods. “It’s an industry that’s very interesting and ripe for innovation,” she says.
Medical and Health Care, which has been consistently in fourth place for the past few years, is another excellent choice, Parsons says. “As an entrepreneur, if you don’t have the health science or medical background, you can team up with someone who does. With the new health care laws, there are a lot of problems that need solutions. People are living longer, and there are so many baby boomers. It’s the kind of business that can carry you through a recession.”
Which industries are missing?
What isn’t on the list is just as interesting as what is. Real Estate, for instance, once a popular industry, disappeared from the top 10 list with the Great Recession, says Parsons. It’s been making a comeback, though. “I’ll be surprised if it’s not in the top 10 by the end of this year,” she says.
And though just about all of the highest-profile entrepreneurs head technology companies, technology never makes the top 10 list for aspiring entrepreneurs on Bplans. “It really shows that entrepreneurship isn’t all about building apps,” Parsons notes. “If you’ve got a great idea, there can be good opportunities, but you need to bring that tech background to the table, and if you don’t have it you’ll need a partner who is a tech person. You really need to think about the feasibility and the investment side. Will you need angel investment and venture capital? Only about 4 percent of startups in America are funded by those means. It can be a difficult, competitive landscape.”
It just goes to show that the popular image of the tech entrepreneur is the exception rather than the rule, she adds. “While the Silicon Valley tech scene has produced some incredibly successful businesses that have been game changers,” Parsons says, “it’s really the traditional Main Street businesses that are driving economic growth.”