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What Are 2021's Top Small Businesses?

Some of the top businesses to start in 2021 cater to our changing behaviors as a society, including things like meals-to-go businesses, gardening companies and digital consultancies.

By Lauren Garcia1851 Editor
Updated 2:14PM 09/21/21

A pandemic can really bring out the entrepreneurial spirit, forcing Americans to think outside the box and find new streams of revenue better suited to an altered consumer landscape. Specialty services like virtual assistants, copywriting and dropshipping are on the rise

In fact, new business applications were the highest on record in 2020, according to the Census Bureau. Nearly 4.5 million applications were filed by the end of 2020, which is a 24.3% increase from the previous year. 

It makes sense, too, as once-standard operations like dine-in restaurants and in-office meetings have given way to curbside pickup and Zoom video calls. With all our COVID-influenced new behaviors in mind, here are 10 of the most common emerging types of small businesses we’ve seen opening up in 2021. 

Digital Consultant

Anyone with expert knowledge on a specific topic can act as a consultant, but in today’s world, offering digital services is a huge benefit. For example, plenty of companies are lost when it comes to social media marketing. Becoming a consultant for a platform like Instagram could be lucrative, as clients will pay for services like caption and copy creation, comment response and creating ads. 

Online Education

This type of small business casts a wide net. All sorts of employees are interested in continuing education, so consider teaching skills for specific programs like navigating spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel or producing videos in Apple Final Cut Pro. Teachers with experience can find fulfilling opportunities with online tutoring centers like Sylvan Learning*’s, or teach English immersion classes online with popular platform VIPKid

College prep courses are always a valuable resource for students, and recently reported the size of the testing and educational support industry in 2021 is $17.9 billion. Focus on specific tests like the ACT or SAT and advertise services to high school seniors.  

Cleaning Service

Overhead for a cleaning service is minimal. All that’s necessary is a mode of transportation, cleaning supplies and someone to use them. The national average for house cleaning is $40 to $65 per hour, per cleaner. Consider cleaning everything from one-bedroom apartments to commercial buildings, if the price is right and the cleaning products are plentiful. 

Content and Copywriting

Bill Gates knew what he was talking about when he said “content is king” way back in 1996, and that still rings true today. Any company or influencer with an internet presence needs content or copywriting, and there are countless websites and Facebook groups to connect freelance writers with customers. 

Meals-To-Go Service or Food Truck

When COVID shut down most indoor dining, food trucks endured. Customers can visit in an outdoor setting and socialize at a distance. 

Another food-related option for anyone with talent in the kitchen is a meal-to-go service. Sure, there are the big names like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. But local home cooks or trained chefs interested in additional income can find resources to start their own to-go service. Check out The Kitchen Door for a listing of shared-use kitchens to collaborate with other like-minded chefs. 


An entrepreneur interested in dropshipping would be able to run an e-commerce site without actually keeping any physical products in stock. Instead, they’d set up an online store and partner with suppliers who keep everything in stock and then ship to customers. Search “dropshipping” in a mobile device’s app store to find helpful apps, like Shopify, to get started in this field.


After many people postponed weddings and important events due to the pandemic, the industry is now booming in 2021, creating a heightened demand for wedding vendors. As far as vendors go, the photographer is typically going to be the most mobile and have the least amount of overhead, needing only a camera and a car to get them to the venue on time. Or skip the weddings and just get out and about with a camera, taking photos of everything and anything. Stock photo websites like Shutterstock will pay royalty fees for downloads from their platform. 

Gardening or Landscape Service

Homeowners interested in gardening and lawn care hit record numbers in the spring and summer of 2020, and Axiom Marketing research showed that 86% of homeowners planned to keep gardening into 2021. Nearly half of those polled said they’d be planting more and expanding their gardens. 

Anyone with a green thumb and a passion for plants can run a flora-focused business, like teaching gardening classes or offering lawn care services. 

Pet-Sitting or Dog-Walking

Pet adoption hit record highs during the pandemic. Fox Business reported the pet industry generated $103.6 billion in annual sales in 2020. Right now, any pet-related business should prosper with demand that high. Try advertising services as a pet sitter or dog walker. Or visit an online platform like to get started. 

Virtual Assistant

With all these new small businesses opening, entrepreneurs are sure to need some help. The latest trend to help manage someone’s home business is hiring a freelance virtual assistant, someone to schedule meetings and stay organized. Check out listings on sites like FreeUp or Virtual Assistant Jobs to find clients in need of assistance. 

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