San Francisco is the financial, commercial, and cultural hub of Northern California. The fourth most populous city in the state of California is the home to some renowned businesses and brands such as Levi Strauss & Co, Gap Inc., Dropbox, Mozilla, Craiglist, and Wikimedia Foundation as well as a startup nursery!
In fact, the city is better known as the epicenter of internet startup companies. The small business startup environment is extremely encouraging, as 85% of the businesses in the city are small with less than 10 employees.
San Francisco is also a popular tourist resort, with world-class hotels and convention centers. The city with its business-friendly environment and economic exuberance is the best place to start a low-cost business. Being the City by the Bay, San Francisco is also famous for its creative energy, and here are some helpful creative and quick business ideas for starting up a low-cost business in San Francisco. And before you read on, you can read the California government guide on San Francisco Business Portal – it’s a city guide on opening a business in the city.
26 Business Ideas in San Francisco Requiring Little Investment
1- Food Truck
Food on the move is one good idea for starting up a quick business in big cities like San Francisco. If you are a foodie and love cooking food and hold expertise in cooking you can utilize your skills into a steady income.
All you need in terms of investment is a food truck and food items. Have some good menu ideas and San Francisco should love it! A city is a place of multicultural diversity; you can add up ethnic Latin and Chinese food items and attract a large number of customers.
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2- Specialty Food Shop
A specialty food shop can be set up in your kitchen or in your home front, all you need is to come up with a special food item with the potential of attracting every food lover’s attention.
Everyone can bake cakes but only a few know the skills involved in baking the perfect cake. If you know the best skills involved in baking, cooking, preparing freezable snacks, or just anything special with food, you can easily set up a shop in your kitchen.
3- Baby Food Business
One home-based business idea that can do wonders for you in San Francisco is to make organic baby food. Organic baby food is in great demand in San Francisco, and you can with ease establish a small-scale set up right in your kitchen. All you need is fresh organic food items and insight into baby taste buds.
4- Online Discount Service
Since the majority of the businesses in San Francisco are online, you can go for a Groupon-like website. You can limit your scope by just offering discounts on books, or kids’ wear, or anything that is convenient for you to manage. This business idea is a big winner in a city like San Francisco.
5- Beauty Shop
If you already have a beauty parlor you can supplement your sales by adding up cosmetics sales. You can display items for your customers, who will surely be delighted to buy them.
In case if you do not have a parlor, you can always sell this stuff online; set up a Facebook page, upload pictures and descriptions with pricing, run some ads to market your products, receive orders, and deliver them!
6- Summer/ Holiday Activity School
If you are a teacher or have the skills, summer, other holidays and weekends are the best time slots to supplement your income by arranging activities for toddlers and small children. You can arrange different activities for the kids from arts and crafts, to yoga classes. It can be one good way of utilizing your skills as a teacher in the generation of capital.
7- Online Content Production
For starting an online content development business all you need is a computer and a stable internet connection. As an online content developer, you can utilize your writing skills in generating a handsome amount while working from the comfort zone of your home. You may also outsource the production and focus yourself on getting new business.
8- Online Retailer
Since online businesses have boomed in the past years in San Francisco, you too can take advantage of this shift by setting up your own online retail business. You can start up by selling anything from handmade jewelry, or books to buying something unique from local supermarkets and selling them worldwide!
9- Web Design Service
With every other business having an online presence, you can lend your services for web designing, as every startup and small business needs websites at least! As a web developer, you can easily help novice businesses in having an online presence.
10- Pet Sitting
Pet sitting and walking is one lucrative business option for wannabe entrepreneurs in San Francisco. Everyone loves to have pets but taking good care of pets is a time-consuming and hectic job. You can lend your services to pet sit and earn well for a job well done.
11- Driving Service
Since Sans Francisco is a tourist and business travelers hub, you can easily establish a driving service by using your own vehicle. The city is a good place to start a driving service and grow it into something bigger and a stable source of income.
12- Designer Cloth Shop
There is always a demand for up-to-date and modern dresses, San Francisco being an active hub of tourists and business travelers, attracts people from all over the world, who love buying souvenirs. You can design dresses featuring the rich history of the city. This is one lucrative small business idea that can generate a definite positive market response.
13- Gadget Repair Shop
If you are good at repairing broken mobile phones, tablets, and other gadgets, why not let the world know and you get paid for your skills. It’s a painful experience to have a broken screen and most of the time, people prefer getting their broken devices fixed over buying new ones.
14- Online Food Delivery Shop
Get some food outlets onboard, get orders from people where delivery service is not efficient, and deliver food. The scope of expanding your food delivery business is really promising in a fast-paced commercial hub like San Francisco if you get some unique restaurants onboard that in another way do not deliver farther!
15- Healthy food Vending Machine Business
Wending machines are part of the American lifestyle, you can bring a twist to the standard vending machines, by introducing healthy food in vending machines. Healthy snack and meal ideas will certainly revolutionize the way people see vending machines as only carrying junk food. San Francisco will certainly love a healthy food vending machine.
16- Personal Trainer
If you’re a trainer already working with some fitness center, you can start your own personal trainer business. There’s a huge market in San Francisco for this type of business as a massive working class and business executives have a hard time staying fit.
17- Home Based Gourmet Mushroom Growth Business
Did you know that you can grow your own gourmet mushrooms through recycled coffee grounds? Oyster mushrooms can be grown using a simple ingredient known as coffee. This idea will make you an urban farmer, you can sell the mushrooms besides using them yourself.
18- Juice Bar
You can set a fresh fruit juice bar, where you can serve fresh juice of seasonal fruits. This low-cost business idea is a sure winner. As everyone loves to sip fresh juices, you can also put fresh organic fruits on display for the customers to buy them as well.
19- Grocery Delivery Service
You can start a grocery delivery service by delivering groceries in your neighborhood. Once the news of your business travels from the word of mouth to new customers you will start reaping the true benefits of your initiative.
20- Online Tour Operator
You can start an online travel site, where you can provide prospective tourists with cheap and affordable travel packages. Join airline and hotel affiliate programs to get discounted deals for your clients!
21- Paying Guests Service
If you have some extra rooms, you can rent them out to tourists, or locals at affordable rates, since the rent rates have raised to alarming levels in San Francisco. It can be one lucrative way to set up a small business in San Francisco.
22- Art & Craft Store
You can set up an art and craft store for art enthusiasts. An art store is one of the best business ideas for San Francisco due to its creative community. The items you can sell can range from stationery items, pens, and stamps. You can also add up the feature of giving classes in unique art and craft making to the visitors.
23- Ice Cream Truck
You can launch your own ice cream truck, offering creamy icy delights. You can add up a twist to ice cream by providing your customers with freshly frozen fruit ice cream, without using any sugar, cream, or milk. Add special pure banana and honeydew ice cream on the menu, this will surely bring crowds to you. Feel free to experiment with flavors and change it up every once in a while!
24- Surf Shop
Since surfing is part of the San Francisco culture and character, you can set up a small surfing shop, where you can sell boards, surfing apparel, and gear. Think about it—all you have to invest in this business is rent and a bit of equipment to sell. It will be up to you to decide whether you want to sell more expensive, high-quality equipment or lower-quality equipment that’s more universal.
It could especially be a successful startup in Bay City, where surfing is one of the most-valued pastimes!
If you’re looking for some good small business ideas for San Francisco, look no further than the procurement industry. Why do we say this? Well, it’s no secret that San Francisco and adjacent communities are gigantic tech hubs. If tech companies and startups aren’t able to find good deals on quality equipment, it could be catastrophic to their business plan!
This is where you come in. Procurement is exactly what it sounds like—companies need supplies and the best ones at that! Many companies will outsource this kind of task to a procurement company, which will leverage partnerships and carry out market research to find them the best supplies for their needs. Every business is different, and while your tasks might be similar within certain industries, it’s important to have a framework to analyze the business’ individual procurement needs.
26- Advertising Agency
With so many startups, marketing is a huge necessity and one of the lowest investment business ideas for San Francisco. If you know your way around marketing, social media, and content development, you could practically have a business on your hands already.
If you can run ad campaigns or create content/blog posts regularly for companies, you could be looking at commissions that could get pretty big. Once you build a name for yourself, you can hire employees that will take care of the brunt of work. Then, your focus can switch to increasing your reach!
The Bottom Line
We hope that this list of the best business ideas for San Francisco helped you decide which niche you’ll choose. Keeping investment low in a city like San Francisco is essential, so take this into account! Best of luck in your endeavors and we’ll see you back here in a week.