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20 Best Business Ideas in Illinois

Written by:

Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

20 Best Business Ideas in Illinois

Illinois has a highly diversified economy, with particularly strong agribusiness and advanced manufacturing sectors. The state hosts many Fortune 500 companies and its biggest city, Chicago, is the US’ third largest metro, with more than 3 million people.

Illinois is home to more than a million small businesses, so if you’re looking to start your own business you’re far from alone. But there’s room for more, like an event planning or catering business, or a taxi or security business. Find out about other great Illinois business ideas below.

1. Manufacturing

How to Start a Pallet Manufacturing Business

Illinois, with its strategic location in the heart of the Midwest, offers a prime opportunity for manufacturing businesses. From small-scale bespoke furniture makers to larger food processing plants, the state’s robust transportation network and diverse workforce make it an ideal spot for producing goods. Manufacturers can benefit from the proximity to suppliers and access to a broad market including both national and international customers.

2. Real Estate

how to start a real estate business

With a thriving urban center in Chicago and expansive suburban and rural areas, Illinois presents vast opportunities for real estate ventures. Professionals can engage in buying, selling, and developing properties, offering housing solutions or commercial spaces. The state’s diverse economy keeps the real estate market dynamic, promising potential for growth and investment returns.

3. Insurance

How to start a insurance agency

As the needs for financial security and risk management grow, starting an insurance company in Illinois can be lucrative. This business can cater to a wide range of customers, from individuals seeking life insurance to businesses needing liability coverage. With the right licensing and knowledge of the local market, insurance providers can build a strong client base in this populous state.

4. Graphic Design

How to start a graphic design business

Illinois’ bustling business scene is a fertile ground for creative services like graphic design. Startups to established corporations require professional branding, website design, and marketing materials, creating a constant demand for graphic design services. A graphic design firm here can thrive by offering innovative and tailored solutions to a diverse clientele.

5. Wholesale

wholesale business idea

Strategically located with access to the Great Lakes and major railways, Illinois is a prime spot for wholesale businesses. These enterprises can serve as crucial middlemen, supplying retailers and other businesses with everything from agricultural products to electronics. Wholesalers can leverage Illinois’ transportation infrastructure for efficient distribution throughout the Midwest and beyond.

6. Health Care

How to start a home health care business

With an aging population and a focus on wellness, there’s a strong need for health care services in Illinois. Entrepreneurs can consider opening clinics, home care services, or specialized health care centers to meet the growing demand. Innovations in patient care and health technology also offer new avenues for business in the healthcare landscape.

7. Tour Guide

How to start a travel agency

Illinois’ rich history, iconic architecture, and natural beauty make it perfect for tour guides who can create unique experiences. Whether it’s leading architectural digs in Chicago, historical tours in Springfield, or nature walks along the Mississippi River, guides can captivate visitors with the state’s many stories and sights.

8. Hotel

How to start a hotel

The steady flow of tourists and business travelers to Illinois makes it an ideal location for a hotel business. From luxury accommodations in downtown Chicago to cozy bed-and-breakfasts in the historic towns, hoteliers can cater to a variety of guests, ensuring a memorable stay with top-notch hospitality services.

9. Kayak Rental

How to start a canoe and kayak rental business

Illinois’ numerous lakes and rivers, including the vast Lake Michigan shoreline, offer abundant opportunities for water sports businesses like kayak rentals. Outdoor enthusiasts and tourists alike can be targeted as customers for seasonal kayak tours and rentals, promoting adventure and eco-tourism.

10. Event Planning

How to start an event planning business

With its mix of urban and rural settings, Illinois is a great place for event planning businesses. Event planners can capitalize on the state’s diverse venues, from high-end urban ballrooms to rustic barns, orchestrating events ranging from corporate functions to weddings, tapping into a market that values professional coordination and execution.

11. Catering

How to start a catering business

A catering business in Illinois can serve a wide array of events, benefitting from the state’s diverse culinary tastes and rich agricultural produce. Caterers can distinguish themselves with unique menus that feature local ingredients, providing services for business events, family gatherings, and social celebrations.

12. Craft Shop

How to start a craft business

Illinois offers a vibrant market for handmade and local goods, making it a wonderful place to open a craft shop. Such a business can become a community hub, offering locally made arts, crafts, and DIY kits while also organizing workshops and classes to engage with the local creative scene.

13. Food Truck

How to start a food truck business

The dynamic streets of Illinois’ cities are ripe for food trucks offering quick, delicious, and diverse food options. Entrepreneurs can take advantage of festivals, farmers’ markets, and busy downtown areas to serve everything from gourmet sandwiches to ethnic foods, capitalizing on the lunch crowd and late-night eaters.

14. Social Media Management

How to start a digital marketing agency

With a plethora of businesses looking to establish a strong online presence, a social media management company in Illinois can thrive. Offering services like content creation, digital marketing strategies, and audience engagement, such businesses can cater to the digital era’s demand for online visibility and brand management.

15. Hair Salon

How to start a hair salon

A hair salon in Illinois can tap into a market that values personal grooming and wellness. By offering a range of services from haircuts to luxury treatments and staying abreast of the latest beauty trends, a salon can cultivate a loyal customer base in both the metropolitan and suburban areas.

16. Security Company

How to start a security guard business

The demand for security services, both physical and digital, is on the rise in Illinois. Entrepreneurs can establish firms providing expert security solutions to businesses, events, and private residences, ensuring peace of mind in an age where safety is paramount.

17. Taxi

How to start a taxi business

Despite the rise of ride-sharing apps, there’s still a place for traditional taxi services, especially ones that offer specialized or localized services in Illinois. Taxis that provide reliable transportation, unique city tours, or access to underserved locations can compete effectively in this market.

18. Shirt Printing

How to start a t-shirt business

Custom apparel remains popular, and a shirt printing business in Illinois can cater to schools, businesses, and events looking for personalized merchandise. By offering high-quality printing services and a variety of design options, such a business can attract a broad customer base.

19. Waste Management

How to start a waste management business

As environmental concerns grow, so does the potential for waste management businesses in Illinois. Companies that offer efficient and environmentally responsible waste collection, recycling, and disposal services are essential and can build strong contracts with municipal and commercial clients.

20. Fashion Line

How to start a clothing line business

Illinois, with Chicago as a fashion hub, is fertile ground for a new fashion line. Designers can leverage local manufacturing options and the city’s diverse fashion scene to create distinctive apparel that reflects the unique style and spirit of the region, catering to both local consumers and the wider national market.

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20 Best Business Ideas in Illinois