Whenever there is a threat of a recession, budding entrepreneurs might be tempted to hold off on starting a business until the economy picks up.
But challenging economic times don’t necessarily mean you should delay your start-up journey opens in new window.
Many successful businesses opens in new window have started in a challenging economy, offering customers cheaper, more cost-effective solutions opens in new window or introducing new services and products into a market.
Even with the current cost-of-living squeeze, the number of new businesses opening in the UK between January and March 2023 increased by 8.2% opens in new window compared to last year.
No matter where your passions lie, opportunities exist to create successful businesses.
Ten resilient businesses you could start
For any potential business owner, the key to success depends on your circumstances and your interests.
But for those looking for inspiration, here are ten business ideas that could be better placed to weather an economic downturn and be a foundation for a successful start-up business.
1. Second-hand clothing
The fashion industry accounts for more than 10% opens in new window of the world’s carbon dioxide output, and with growing public awareness of environmental and sustainability issues, customers are seeking more sustainable options such as buying used clothing.
This has resulted in a thriving market for second-hand clothes.
Starting a second-hand clothing business opens in new window means customers can get their retail fix on a budget and extend the lifespan of items that would otherwise be sent to landfill.
Stocking and selling second-hand products could also mean your start-up may be less susceptible to disrupted supply chains.
2. Food van
Although many people cut back on luxury purchases during economic downturns, catering and food opens in new window are usually in demand.
While restaurants may see a downturn in sales, casual dining experiences such as food vans may be a viable alternative.
Street food is often cheap, and people rely on food vans for convenience amid other activities.
You might find mobile food vans at public events, such as festivals and sporting fixtures, or outside pubs and other social centres.
With a mobile kitchen that can deliver fresh food directly to customers, a food truck start-up could offer entrepreneurial chefs an ideal opportunity to generate income.
3. Cleaning services
Hybrid working has had an impact on the cleaning services industry – and has revealed potential new opportunities.
While commercial workplaces may require less commercial cleaning, there may be a growing demand for domestic cleaning services as working professionals spend more time at home.
4. Repair services
One of the most common ways that people are looking to save money is to repair worn-out and damaged items rather than replacing them.
This is where repair services can help.
There are countless different types of items that can be repaired, from shoes and watches to electronic appliances and furniture.
While a single business isn’t going to handle everything, consider specialising in a specific type of repair, such as electrical equipment.
5. Accounting and bookkeeping
For businesses facing economic uncertainty, expert financial advice can be more important than ever.
Accounting and bookkeeping services opens in new window may be great options for resilient business ideas.
Commercial accountants will need professional qualifications, though bookkeeping doesn’t require formal qualifications besides being good with numbers and financial maths.
6. Online teaching
Another great way to turn professional certifications into a business idea is online teaching.
The demand for remote tutoring skyrocketed during COVID-19 opens in new window and has remained far higher than pre-pandemic levels.
This is an ideal opportunity for anyone skilled in core subjects, such as maths, science, and English.
There could be sustainable demand for experts in these fields, and interest reliably peaks yearly around GCSE and A-level exam times.
One of the main benefits of online teaching is that it requires almost no investment or start-up cost.
Plus, it offers excellent flexibility and is scalable depending on your available time.
7. Virtual assistant
Businesses hire virtual assistants (VAs) to help carry out routine tasks that can be performed remotely.
There isn’t enough work for many organisations to justify hiring a full-time assistant, meaning VAs can work for multiple clients and split their work throughout the day.
You don’t need any qualifications to become a VA, but having professional experience in the industry can be helpful.
You should be able to demonstrate that you’re organised and have a sharp eye for detail.
For budding retail entrepreneurs who are worried about overhead costs opens in new window, there is a stress-free alternative – drop-shipping.
The business model helps protect start-ups from the costs associated with purchasing and storing stock.
Drop shipping involves selling goods on behalf of a third party, usually via a website opens in new window, with the third-party responsible for supplying and shipping the products to the customer.
You’ll usually receive a percentage of the sale price for each item you sell – such as around 15% of the cost.
Drop-shipping could be an ideal business venture for people with an eye for marketing and advertising.
Read our guide on how to set up a drop-shipping business opens in new window.
Freelancing can be a great option for people with professional experience who are fed up with the corporate world.
This describes a growing number of people, with the amount of freelancers in the UK increasing to 4.24 million in 2023 opens in new window.
Freelancing costs almost nothing to get started, and most services can be provided remotely.
It may be ideal for people in the creative fields, such as writing and graphic design, who can often begin their freelancing business alongside their day job.
If work begins to pick up, you can look to cut down your hours in your day job until you’re ready to commit full-time to the freelancing world.
10. Digital marketing
Digital marketing concerns persuading people to buy products and covers activities such as social media opens in new window, paid advertising opens in new window, and website development opens in new window.
Smaller businesses might not be able to fund an in-house dedicated marketing team and may look outside to an agency or start-up that is an expert in particular types of marketing, such as social media.
Starting an agency means you work professionally with other businesses, helping them find and persuade customers – which could be vital during an economic downturn.
Thinking of starting a business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur.
- Entrepreneurship – from ideas to reality opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window
- First steps in innovation and entrepreneurship opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window
- Entrepreneurial behaviour opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window
Plus free courses on finance and accounting, project management, and leadership.
Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.