Profitable small business ideas and trends

11 September 2018

If you’re thinking about starting a new business in Australia, one of the first places to find inspiration are the lists of most profitable small business ideas and industry segments. Whether its online business, trade, retail, restaurant or child care business, you might be influenced to some extent by how other companies are doing in the industry you’re interested in.

Some of the success stories might inspire you, while others may strike you as possibly being over-serviced or having hit their peak.

There are a myriad business possibilities and opportunities to explore, but three important trends are becoming increasingly clear in the last few years on the path to success:

Make it personal

Take the fitness industry as an example.

Reports suggest that fitness centres are no longer the sure bet they once were – perhaps 10 years ago. Today, the market is somewhat saturated, the flow of new clients is drying up, and the cost-saving models that were introduced – 24-hour access, automated entry, and minimal staff – haven’t necessarily saved the day.

Instead, community, work and social groups are seeking new ways to re-energise and firmly relocate their commitment to fitness and wellbeing into their existing, smaller circles. This is only one example of how small businesses are becoming increasingly more personal, if not “social”.

Over two-thirds of Australian small businesses operate in the services sector. At the top of most lists of new and growing opportunities are highly customised and personalised services such as:

• Personal trainers, life coaches, career planners
• Financial and budget advisors,
• Virtual assistants, communication consultants
• In-home family supports, personal shoppers

More and more, we are inviting businesses that meet our life needs closer to our lives. And businesses that offer those services well – with an authentic personal touch – are getting ahead.

Reinterpreting the traditional

A quick scan of the ‘most promising’ or ‘most successful’ small business ventures reveals some familiar faces – albeit sporting a new look. The novel, the niche, and the quirky stand out – always with the unique stamp of the individual:

• Single-focus or themed food bars
• Customised meal preparation and delivery
• Packaged and special event personal care and beauty services (for human and animal clients)
• Holistic health and wellbeing
• Specialised gifts – novelty, extreme, fantasy or ultra-luxe

Innovation means instant delivery

If the trend is towards the personal and the ‘tailor-made’, the way to get it has to be fast. Businesses that offer solutions immediately are ruling the space.

• Retailers are ‘cashing in ‘, in a cashless society, by offering one-touch purchases, instant PayID options, and smartphone transactions.
• Instant ordering or booking online – whether it’s a meal, a vehicle service, a pet wash, or a business consultation – is the norm.
• Customers want the service without the wait. Better still if the service comes to the door.

There’s also a massive business opportunity in developing the apps and software that make all of these services possible.


The contrast between the drift-back to more personalised services and the speed of securing them might seem contradictory. The most successful small businesses will be those that can reconcile the two trends effectively and keep up with the evolving needs of their customers.

About Shift

Shift is finance on demand for business. Enabled by streaming data, Shift provides credit and payments platforms that help businesses trade, pay and access funds.  As one of Australia’s fastest-growing technology companies. 

Shift is changing the way businesses access finance. Shift has been recognised by AFR’s Fast 100, Deloitte’s Technology Fast50, Smart Company’s Smart50 and Deloitte’s Asia Pacific Technology Fast 500.