If 2020 was the year small business owners scrambled to adapt to a pandemic, 2021 might be described as a year of frustration marked by a tumultuous economic recovery. Will 2022 be the year of cautious optimism?
Last year’s vaccine rollout was met with a sense of relief and hope that restrictions would ease, people would get back to work and we could embrace a new normal.
Some of that happened, but the rise of the delta and omicron variants, ongoing supply-chain disruptions and staffing difficulties continued to test business owners and thwart momentum.
However, the news was not all bad.
Early reports of job growth paint an encouraging picture for continued economic recovery. Despite the struggles, many small businesses found ways to grow and thrive amidst the uncertainty.
Here’s a look at some of the fastest-growing small businesses in recent months.
The pandemic took a toll on the construction industry as many large-scale projects were canceled or delayed. But the combination of a resilient real estate market (thanks to historically low interest rates) and an uptick in home improvement projects is driving a boom in residential remodeling jobs.
Since it's impractical for most major corporations to perform home improvements on a national scale, skilled construction workers are in demand.
If you’re wondering what types of jobs are available in your area, ask your local general contractor, carpenter, electrician and landscaper how their schedules look. In some regions, they are booked months in advance.
Large-scale projects are also driving growth in some cities. Learn more in our report on “Best U.S. cities for construction jobs.”
Home health care
Home health care was already one of the fastest-growing industries before the pandemic, and this trend is likely to continue. Traveling nurses and other in-home caregivers willing to assist the elderly and patients with disabilities with basic living needs can earn a comfortable wage, even with little education.
As the U.S. population ages and medical costs for long-term care facilities rise, families will be looking for less expensive alternatives to caring for their family members at home.
The COVID-19 pandemic might also have a lasting impact on the healthcare industry and how people view in-home support.
Because many home health aide and personal care assistant jobs require only a high school diploma and job opportunities are expected to grow by 33%, this field will be in-demand for many years to come.
Animal care and services
Before the pandemic, Americans were obsessed with their pets, spending billions on their furry friends. And with pet adoption soaring in the past few years and the U.S. pet industry poised to nearly triple to $275 billion by 2030, this market has many opportunities.
Animal care and service workers hold various jobs in veterinary clinics, kennels, zoos, animal shelters and stables. Aspiring entrepreneurs can also build their own businesses through dog walking or pet grooming services and opening pet supply stores.
Generally, many jobs working with animals have a low barrier to entry, requiring a high school diploma and then learning on the job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in this field are expected to grow 33%, making it an in-demand career if you have a soft spot for the four-legged.
When the world went into lockdown in early 2020, many businesses had to find solutions that would allow employees to continue working in a virtual environment. Organizations moved in-person meetings, conferences and other large-scale events online, leading to a boom in the online event industry.
Although many in-person events will continue to resume, virtual meetings and events offer convenience and flexibility that many people aren't willing to give up. With research from LinkedIn citing that 75% of the marketers anticipate continuing to host virtual events over a year from now, online or hybrid meetings aren’t going anywhere.
Compounded annual growth in the virtual events market is expected at a rate of nearly 24% from 2021 to 2028.
When vaccines arrived, and governments lifted capacity restrictions in 2021, the wedding industry came roaring back to life. And it's expected to grow even more in 2022 and 2023.
Not only are wedding vendors helping newly engaged couples plan the wedding of their dreams, they're still catching up with couples who postponed their weddings.
There’s so much demand that vendors can’t keep up, making it a great option if you’re looking to start your own business.
Neighborhood or online nursery businesses
When forced to stay inside for the better part of a year, thousands of people decided to beautify their spaces with houseplants. Today, this interest has developed into a full-blown lifestyle, with 66% of consumers in the U.S. owning at least one houseplant.
Although the plant trend was already gaining steam pre-pandemic, it isn’t slowing. Millennials and Gen Z continue to enjoy the benefits of gardening with online communities like Reddit’s r/houseplants attracting 956,000 members and TikTok’s #plantsoftiktok hashtag reaching 4.3B views. Spending on ornamental plants is expected to grow to $27 billion by 2025.
Today, neighborhood garden centers aren’t the only places to buy plants; online nurseries are popular with digital savvy buyers. If you have a green thumb, and some space to grow plants, you can launch your own in-demand plant business.
Tutoring and online learning
Most schools across the country reopened to full-time, in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year, but the impact of last year is still being felt.
Students are an average of four to five months behind academically. And the learning loss among minority and low-income students is even greater.
With a return to mostly in-person learning, some parents and school districts are looking for tutors to help their kids close the gap. If it’s a career choice you’re interested in exploring, you can learn more in our article about how to start a tutoring business from home.
While many students (and their parents) are happy to be back in a classroom, online learning isn’t going away. E-learning platforms are an easy and convenient way for anyone to learn new skills.
Spurred by demand from academic, corporate and government organizations, the e-learning market is expected to quadruple by 2027— if you prefer to stay virtual.
COVID-19 has driven incredible growth in the food delivery market, which was already skyrocketing before the pandemic. By 2025, the online food delivery industry is projected to grow by nearly 20% to reach a whopping $200 billion in annual sales.
While there are already established players in the market, such as Uber Eats, GrubHub and DoorDash, you can capture a piece of this financial pie by subcontracting with one of these major delivery players.
Or you could leverage your local relationships and compete on a local level by offering cheaper, faster delivery and undercutting the service fees of the national conglomerates. It’s a competitive market, but there is potential to start a food delivery business in this fast-growing industry.
You could also expand beyond just food delivery by becoming a personal shopper or fulfillment specialist for services like Instacart or other e-commerce delivery services. Demand for these jobs is skyrocketing — up 73% since 2019.
In-person and digital fitness
Gyms across the country shut down in response to the pandemic, sending millions of Americans to exercise in their living rooms. Though gyms in most areas are now open for business as usual, many people are unwilling to give up the safety and convenience of at-home workouts.
If you’re a fitness enthusiast who’s good with technology, digital fitness can be an opportunity as growth for the industry is expected to grow by 18.5% worldwide by 2026.
In the United States, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth for fitness trainers and instructors to increase by 39% through 2030 — much faster than average across all job categories.
With no advanced degrees required and a median wage of nearly $20 per hour, becoming an online fitness trainer has a low barrier of entry for health-conscious entrepreneurs.
Digital content creators
Digital content creation isn't new, but as businesses continue to rely on digital marketing to attract and retain customers, the industry is expected to see steady growth over the next few years.
Businesses need help with podcasts, writing, graphic design and video production. If you have experience in one or more of these areas, you can leverage your skills to start a content creation business.
Start-up costs are relatively low. Often, all you need is a computer, internet connection, phone and some software to begin. And you can run this type of fast-growing small business from your home.
The demand for cybersecurity services has skyrocketed as virtually everyone has increased their time online, whether it’s a small business in need of IT consulting solutions or individuals looking for help after a security breach.
If you’re an IT consultant with a security background, the time is ripe for developing your business and finding your niche.
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