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14 Best Business Ideas in Illinois

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Published on September 16, 2022

Updated on September 16, 2022

14 Best Business Ideas in Illinois

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14 Best Business Ideas in Illinois

Illinois has a highly diversified economy, with industries ranging from agribusiness to advanced manufacturing. The state hosts Fortune 500 companies as well as small businesses. Its biggest city, Chicago, is the third largest metropolitan area in the US with over 3 million people.

There are more than a million small businesses in the state. If you’re looking to start your own business in Illinois, you’re not alone. But there’s room for more, like an event planning or catering business. You can also start a taxi or security business. Find out about other business ideas in Illinois below.

1. Tour Guide

Tour Business

Do you love to travel and see new places? Why not start your own tour business? It’s a lot of work, but it can be a very rewarding endeavor. The US tour industry was expected to recover in 2021 after total revenue fell below $6 billion in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Earnings were predicted to increase to more than $8 billion in 2022 due to pent-up demand for travel. Both land and air borders of the US have been reopened to vaccinated tourists. 

Tour operators are primarily responsible for arranging tour packages that they offer to tourists and travel agencies. Because of the pandemic, demand is rising for tour packages in the countryside, national parks and the outdoors. Before you can start operating, you need to pick a niche, choose your target demographics, and understand the competition. You also have to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations, such as the seller of travel laws, that tour operators, travel agencies and other tourism-related businesses must follow.

2. Hotel

Hotel Business

The hotel and lodgings market took a massive hit during the pandemic, but now as our economies are opening up and people are moving around again, it’s coming back strong! The industry is expecting double-digit growth in 2022 and beyond, so if you’re interested in hospitality and helping people enjoy their time away from home, now is the perfect time to ride this wave.

Opening a hotel can be a very rewarding experience, but it will require hard work and a considerable investment. The most crucial element, of course, will be the hotel building itself. Assuming you do not plan to build a new hotel yourself, which would likely cost millions of dollars, you’ll need to either buy an established hotel or find a building that can be purchased and converted into a hotel relatively easily. Once that’s done, you’ll want to launch a strong marketing campaign to attract your first guests. 

As long as you provide excellent service and a great stay, you’ll be on the path to success.

3. Kayak Rental

Kayak Rental
andreonegin / Shutterstock.com

As more people explore the outdoors in a post-pandemic world, investing in a kayak business makes sense. It can be a great way to make money while you’re getting some exercise and enjoying the great outdoors. Sales of kayaks are seen to grow steadily through 2026 while the accessories market is projected to expand to nearly $300 million by 2027. So, why not start setting up a kayak rental business now?

Aside from offering kayaks for lease, a kayak rental business should also carry accessories like paddles, apparel and helmets, storage bags, seats, life jackets, and safety gear. Selecting the location of your shop is important. It will have to be near the coast, a river or a lake. There should be high foot traffic. You’ll need a substantial investment to set up your shop and stock up on the kayaks and accessories. Finally, it’s a good idea to promote your business and let people know about your offerings.

4. Event Planning

Event Planning

The biggest events — weddings, reunions, graduation parties — are often moments that people never forget. You can play a key role in making memories for countless people by starting your own event planning business. As the pandemic recedes, the industry has been growing fast and is now worth $3 billion in the US alone, so the opportunity is real. If you enjoy organizing and planning, this could be the perfect venture for you — and now’s a great time to do it. 

More and more people are looking to plan long-delayed major events, from weddings to reunions to memorials and more. You can grab a piece of this growing market with a bit of training, confidence and organizational skills. Starting an event planning business requires little investment, and event planners often make 15-20 percent of the total cost. So just imagine how good you’ll feel working from home while planning a $100,000 wedding reception!

5. Catering

Catering

Do you have great culinary skills? Have you always dreamed of making your delicious dishes for hundreds of people? Now is a great time to start a catering business. The industry is seeing strong growth as the pandemic recedes and more and more people plan major events, like weddings and corporate affairs. 

The crucial first step will be nailing down an initial menu. Do you favor traditional American dishes? Are you obsessed with Italian? Or maybe Mexican, Thai or Middle Eastern food is more your thing. Once you decide, fill out the menu with appetizer options, second courses, soups and salads, and a selection of entrees and desserts. And don’t forget Americans’ dietary issues — be sure to include low-fat, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options. 

Next you’ll want to nail down your product offerings. For example, some caterers today are providing box lunches for in-office events. You should also consider embracing technology, as today’s top event planners often use apps to book the best caterers. Lastly, it’s crucial that you acquire all the necessary licenses and permits, as food businesses are strictly regulated. 

Now you’re ready to get in the kitchen and start making a lot of smiling faces, and a lot of money.

6. Craft Shop

Craft Business

Do you have a creative hobby? If it involves some sort of craft, you might want to consider turning your favorite at-home pastime into a business, and potentially a major revenue stream. With people stuck at home for months on end looking for something creative to do or something interesting to buy, the arts and crafts industry has exploded since the start of the pandemic. In 2020 alone, the revenue of the leading online arts and crafts marketplace Etsy more than doubled, to $1.72 billion. That means right now is a great time to start your own craft business, provided people with wonderful products and ride this wave to prosperity. 

You’ll be your own boss, working at home at times that are best for you. You’ll be able to embrace and express your creativity, producing goods that could be sold around the world. But you will need to decide which products to focus on. This could be anything from crocheted blankets and clay jewelry to embroidered handkerchiefs and knit hats. Whatever you choose, be sure to research what’s already out there and offer a unique twist on existing products. Building a strong brand will be key to the success of your craft business.

7. Food Truck

Food Truck

Who doesn’t love food trucks? They seem to be everywhere these days, at parks and street fairs, music festivals, beaches, private parties and community events. Industry revenue in the US tripled in the years before the pandemic, and now food trucks are coming back strong as the pandemic recedes. Now’s a great time to start your own food truck business and provide your community with delicious meals while grabbing a share of this growing market. 

The first step, of course, will be settling on a menu. The possibilities are endless, from burritos to barbecue, from burgers to sausages, and from smoothies and milkshakes to pad thai and pizza. You could even go seasonal, and offer frozen desserts in summer and gourmet soups in winter, and be able to draw a crowd year-round. The next major hurdle will be acquiring the necessary licenses and permits, which are absolutely crucial for any food-related business. 

Last but not least, you will need the food truck itself. It’s sure to be a significant investment, but you might be able to find a reasonably priced used truck to keep costs low. With a little luck, soon enough you’ll be up and running and making a nice return on that investment.

8. Social Media Management

Social Media

Social media is among the world’s fastest-growing industries, with its 20% annual expansion in the last five years expected to increase to stunning 25% annual growth through 2026. By then it will be nearly a trillion dollar industry, which means that now is a great time to get in on the action and ride this wave.

Starting a social media business can be as simple as starting a blog about the media industry on LinkedIn or as complex as creating a fully-fledged Instagram business with lots of people using your content and products. With any social media business, the marketing will be absolutely crucial. The primary goal will be to connect with your target audience on the relevant platform. This means that before you even get started, you should do some research and experimentation to decide which platform and its user profile best fits you and your interests. From there, you’ll just need to find your niche to start building a respected brand.

9. Hair Salon

Salon Business

Hair is big business, worth more than $46 billion in the US alone. More importantly, it’s set to grow nearly 40% by 2027, which means there’s no shortage of opportunity for bold and talented entrepreneurs. If you’re good with hair and have a strong sense of style, you could start your own salon and help people look better and feel more confident while making a good living. 

It can be a very rewarding experience, but it’s not without its challenges. Assuming you don’t plan to be a mobile salon and make house calls, your first order of business will be to find a great space, preferably in a location with good foot and vehicular traffic. Next, you’ll want to build it out in a way that suits your personal style and provides a comfortable place for your clientele. Finally, you’ll want to decide on your products and services — will you offer only styling, or also shampooing and dying? Maybe you’ll want to offer added services like nails and head massages? 

Once you’ve decided all that, and gotten your required licenses and permits, you’ll just need to do some strong marketing across social media and in your area to get those first customers coming through the door.

10. Security Company

Security

Everybody wants to feel secure, which is why the US security industry is worth $46 billion after more than a decade of steady growth. The market expansion is expected to continue in the years ahead, especially with people spending more time at home these days. You could get in on the action by starting your own security business and make a good living while making others feel more at ease about their safety and their valuables. 

You’ll likely need a security license, for which you should apply to your state. You’ll also need to know how to install and operate security systems, so if you’re not experienced with that you could find some affordable online courses to get you up to speed. Once you’re confident in your skills, start advertising your services on platforms like Angie’s List and you might be able to bring in a few clients, if your prices are right. 

It’s probably wise to focus on home security systems when you’re starting out, and move on to bigger jobs as you gain experience. As long as you deliver quality service and reliable security, your business reputation should steadily improve.

11. Taxi

Taxi Business

Considering all the ride-sharing apps out there, you might be surprised to know that old-school taxis are not only surviving, but doing quite well. The US taxi and limo market is worth more than $66 billion and expected to see steady growth in the coming years. If you don’t mind driving and enjoy meeting strangers, starting a taxi business might be the right move for you. 

Getting started will require some real effort and investment. You’ll need to buy a reliable car, if you don’t already have one, plus reliable insurance and all the necessary permits. In some cities the car hire license can be a major expense, for instance a New York City taxi medallion costs $80,000. In other places, like $300 in Cleveland, not so much. Once you’ve all set up, it’s a good idea to build a website so people can find you, and you might want to offer an app as well, as most car services nowadays offer on-demand ordering. 

Finally, get creative with your marketing to stand out in a competitive market, provide excellent service and steady driving to your first few clients, and the good reviews and revenues should start pouring in.

12. Shirt Printing

Shirt Printing Business

Shirt printing is a lucrative industry that continues to grow in popularity especially among the young population. If you’re looking for a new business opportunity, look no further than a shirt printing business. The global custom tshirt printing industry is anticipated to grow steadily and approach $8 billion in market size by 2028. Rising disposable income and increasing preference for customized shirts are expected to drive growth. 

Anyone can start a shirt printing business. But in order to succeed and grow your business, it’s important to be knowledgeable in silk screen printing and updated with the latest printing technology such as direct-to-garments, sublimation, and more. You may come up with packages that already include the shirts as well as the design and printing services for the convenience of your customers. Another way to do it is to come up with your own designs and sell shirts with these designs. With the right skills and resources, you can build a successful business.

13. Waste Management

Waste Management Business

You can make money from garbage and, with the correct technologies and equipment, help preserve the environment at the same time. The global waste management market is seen to reach more than $700 billion by 2030. More than half of the waste produced globally is in North America, especially the US, where many of the world’s large waste management companies are also based. If you want to cash in on trash, you might consider setting up a waste management business in your area. 

First, decide on a niche market. You can deal with either municipal solid waste, industrial waste or hazardous waste. You’ll need to adhere to zoning regulations, licensing requirements and insurance needs. It’s also important to establish collection points, transfer stations, material recovery facilities, and other waste management facilities. If you’re prepared for these challenges and have a clear plan of action, starting a waste management business can be a very profitable venture.

14. Fashion Line

Fashion

You might think being a fashionista means just splurging on the latest clothes and accessories, but did you know that you could turn your passion into a thriving business? The global fast fashion market, which refers to clothing collections that move quickly to the stores from the catwalk, is expected to surpass $210 billion by 2030. Whether you’re dreaming of launching your own line of clothes or engaging in a buy-and-sell business, there’s a huge market waiting for you. 

You can start small by just selling to family and friends. As your business grows, you might want to do digital marketing and even hold live selling sessions, the latest trend in online shopping. During live selling, you will not only get to model your clothes on an imaginary catwalk in your home, but you will also be making a lot of sales. Before you start, however, it is important that you scope out the market, prepare some initial capital, decide whether to put up a physical store or stay online, and comply with government regulations.