What Small Business Industries Are Successful in a Recession?

Small business owners face unique challenges during a recession, but today’s rapidly shifting consumer preferences and safety regulations have made entrepreneurship considerably more difficult. Thousands of businesses have closed as a result of the pandemic, shutdowns and low sales.

Some have managed to successfully pivot a small business to suit new customer demands. In fact, a recent study found that 54 percent of Americans would switch to a new store that had contactless payment systems.1

But what industries have managed to find success in today’s challenging environment? Some are more resilient and able to weather the storm than others. Read on to learn about seven small business industries that are thriving today.


1. Online Grocery

The online grocery industry recently hit record-breaking numbers as more people avoid restaurants, in-store experiences and cook at home. The industry includes pick-up and delivery services that are popular with people looking to save time and/or stay out of stores.

While it may be difficult or impractical to operate an online-only grocery business, existing grocers able to add an online ordering component may have an advantage.


2. Professional Cleaning Services

Recent demand for professional cleaning services has grown as more businesses, healthcare facilities, schools and public buildings adjust to increased cleaning and safety protocols. These businesses vary, but are typically hired to travel to and clean a particular business, building or facility on a repeat basis.

While the relatively low overhead costs and high demand may tempt entrepreneurs to open their own cleaning services, health and safety is paramount. Read the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines to learn more about the latest cleaning industry health recommendations to keep employees safe.


3. Courier and Delivery Services

Brick-and-mortar businesses that don’t have the means to deliver or ship goods may lose out on potential sales, but courier and delivery service businesses can help support increased demand for delivery while also helping other local companies stay afloat in challenging times.

While big-name businesses capture a large portion of the goods delivery market, small companies still have the opportunity to fill the gaps when it comes to express local delivery, like grocery, courier and restaurant delivery, depending on the location.


4. Online or Private Tutoring

Online education is a great way to continue school safely from a distance, but it’s not an ideal learning environment for some students. And busy, work-from-home parents may also have children who are also pursuing at-home education during the day.

As a result, the need for high-quality online or personal tutors has grown. While many students prefer digital sessions, some companies still offer in-person courses to cater to different learning styles.


5. Telehealth

Similar to online tutoring services, telehealth is another growing industry that captures the demand for web-based services. Telehealth professionals see patients via web camera in place of or to supplement traditional office visits. Licensing and professional requirements will vary by state and specialty.


6. Home-Based Health Services

Home-based health care providers administer services at a patient’s home rather than at typical healthcare facilities, such as offices or hospitals. A home-based healthcare provider may be an alternative for seniors who prefer not to live in a retirement or assisted living facility.

These businesses must also comply with any local, state or federal regulations, including safety and licensure requirements. Use this guide to learn more about home healthcare state licensure.


7. Digital Fitness Courses and Equipment

Consumers may have an aversion to gyms, in-person classes and fitness centers for the near future, but many have found a digital alternative. Although digital fitness classes have been around for a while, factors like social distancing, limited activity and more time spent at home is driving an increase in the digital fitness industry.

Fitness equipment sales, like weights, yoga mats and other gear that enhances workouts has also increased as more people adapt their homes to suit their workout needs.1


Since many of the industries on this list offer a digital-first customer experience, selling your product or service online can help you reach customers who may not have visited your store. If you already have a website, you can take steps to improve your site’s SEO.


1Ludwig, S. (2020). 20 Small Businesses Thriving During Coronavirus.

2Visa. (2020). The Visa Back to Business Study.


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