19 Profitable College Town Business Ideas with Low Startup Costs

If you live in a college town, whether you’re a college student or you just happen to live near a college or university, you may have thought about starting your own business. In fact, you’re in a unique opportunity to start a business that specifically caters to college students and recent graduates. With the right business idea, you can make a great living taking advantage of where you live!

While there are plenty of businesses, like a coffee shop, food truck, or beauty salon, that would do well in a college town, this article will focus on ideas that have a relatively low startup costs. Keep reading for college town business ideas and valuable information on how to get started!

Cell Phone Repair Business

College students love their phones! I mean, we all do, right? But they are expensive! So it would make sense that many young people would rather opt to fix their phones rather than upgrade, especially if they’re a typical college student on a budget. Cell phone repair businesses offer repair services for damaged or broken mobile phones.

To start a mobile phone repair business, you’ll need technical skills to diagnose and repair phone problems and supplies and equipment such as replacement parts and tools. Honestly? You can find many instructions for different phones online to start learning this craft before you start.

Computer Repair Business

College students rely heavily on their computers for taking notes, research and staying connected with friends and family. So a computer repair business is kind of a no-brainer when it comes to profitable business ideas that will be successful in college towns.

With the right skills and equipment, you can offer repairs for laptops, desktops, and other types of devices that college students use every day. Not only will your services be valuable to those who need them, but they can also be quite profitable as well!

Used Bookstore

While this one does require a little more capital because you will need to get a retail space, a used book store business can be a super profitable college town business idea. This is especially true if you advertise that you buy books and textbooks. Certain courses often need the same books each semester so if a student can buy it used then come back and sell it to you to sell to another student next semester, you can definitely make a good profit.

But you don’t have to just sell text books or books required for college courses. Believe it or not, there are still plenty of people who like to buy actually books rather than reading digitally, so this can be a great business. Plus, if you make sure to have more of a relaxing, inviting atmosphere, rather than a thrift store vibe, you may even end up with a much larger customer base than just college students.

Personal Training

Personal training is a great business in a college town! College students often want to stay fit and healthy, so they might hire someone to help them with their fitness goals. Get your personal trainer certification to ensure you know the latest techniques and can help your clients reach their goals and start advertising for your first few clients.

You can work from home or rent a space at a local gym. From there, you’re ready to start making money! And you can make your own hours! It may take some time to build up your client base, but you can offer the first session free or offer up packages to get people back because they see the value in your help.

Vending Machine Business

College students love snacks! This business does have some definite start up costs, unless you can get your hands on cheap vending machines, but it’s still cheaper than many other options out there. Plus, it’s pretty hands off, making it a great idea that gives you plenty of free time!

To start a vending machine business, you’ll need to purchase vending machines, stock them with products that college students enjoy, and find smart locations to place them. Some places may require a small fee, while others may not. Once you get a few locations to place your machines, you can start making money!

Dorm Room Cleaning

Let’s face it, college students are often bogged down with academic work and extracurricular activities, leaving them with little time to clean their living spaces. This is where a dorm room cleaning business can come in! It’s a niche market, but there are students that are more than willing to pay for someone to come and clean their dorm or other housing.

The real money will come toward the end of the school year. When the semester is over, students will often pay someone to clean their dorm room before they leave. Whether it’s because they have to catch a flight, start a road trip home, or they simply don’t want to, it’s definitely a service that some students would be happy to pay for.

Of course, you could expand to more cleaning services, but this is just one type you can offer to make good money.

Pet Boarding

While not all college goers have pets, there are plenty that do! Sometimes they need to go out of town, or simply need to spend a few days focused on studying for a big exam. By starting a pet boarding business, you can take on their dog, cat, or other pet for them while they’re unable to care for them.

For this business, you’ll need a safe place to keep pets in your home, unless you have the funds to rent commercial space. If you want to try it out, apps like Rover are a great way to get started gathering clients and trying out the pet service business.

Thrift Shop

College students love a good deal and in recent years, thrifting has become more common and less of a taboo. Starting a thrift shop is an affordable and easy brick and mortar business to start in college towns.

To start a thrift shop, you’ll need to consider how you’ll get your inventory. Many college students will donate their furniture and a lot of their belongings upon graduation so they don’t have to move them and you could offer free pick up.

During other parts of the year, you could advertise to regular households and offer to pick up the items for free. You might even get in touch with a local charity and agree to donate a portion of proceeds and get donations that way.

Airbnb Business

Starting an Airbnb business can be a low cost startup business if you already have property to offer up. If you have to go and buy a house, it might not be the right option for you. Some of the more successful business ideas are those that take advantage of something is hard for people to get. In this case, if you have an extra room, guest house, or RV you can park in your yard with hookups, this may be a great way to make an extra $50-$100 per day!

Why is this good in a college town? Because loved ones visit college students on a regular basis and those people need somewhere to stay.

Resume Writing

College students coming up on graduation may need a resume to start looking for their first jobs so a resume writing business can be a great, extremely low cost business to start. To start a resume writing business, you’ll need strong writing and editing skills, knowledge of different industries and job markets, and the ability to market and promote your services.

Photography Services

From graduation photos to special events in college towns, there is always a need for photography services. To start this business you’ll need to invest in basic equipment like a camera and lenses, but the cost to start should be relatively low compared to many businesses. Of course, if you don’t already have photography skills, you’ll need to learn the basics and practice to build up your portfolio.

DJ Services

College students are always planning local events and parties, and a good DJ can make or break the atmosphere. From fraternity and sorority events to campus-wide celebrations, there is a high demand for talented DJs as college students are very into having an active social life. In fact, if you’re a college student yourself, you have the advantage of being in the same demographic as your potential clients which gives you insight into the music they want to hear and the vibe they’re going for.

The equipment for this is probably going to cost quite a bit upfront, but once you buy it, you’ll be able to use it for years, across hundreds of gigs.

Tutoring Business

Where there is a college, there is always going to be a great opportunity for tutoring. If you have extensive knowledge of a particular subject, you may be able to make a good income tutoring university students who need a little help to get the grade they want. To start a tutoring business, you’ll need knowledge of academic subjects along with good teaching skills.

Furniture Rental

It may sound weird, but furniture rental can be really lucrative in cities with big colleges! Many college students can’t afford, or don’t want to buy, expensive furniture. Offering good, modern furniture that students can pay for while they need it, and then give back when they’re done, is a great way to make money. To start this business, you’ll need to invest in the furniture and have somewhere to store it when not rented out. But you could easily do this out of your garage or a storage unit so you don’t have the expense of a storefront.

Bike Rental

If you know anything about bikes, you know they can be expensive! Many people don’t want to invest hundreds of dollars in one if they’re only going to need it for a few months. Starting a bike rental business is a great way to fill this need while making some extra money. All you’ll need are some good quality bikes, a space to store them, and a way to promote your bike rental service.

Bike rentals can be a good side hustle, but could easily turn into a full time business as well. If you start with 10 bikes at $500 each, you’re investing $5,000. But if you rent them out for $100 per month for 12 months? That’s already over $14,000! Add more bikes, or find good deals on used bikes to make even more profit!

Bike Repair Shop

If the college campus near you is bike friendly, opening a bike repair shop can be a great way to make some extra money. To do this, you’ll need knowledge of how to fix bikes, some basic tools and supplies in addition to the space for your shop. This is easily something you could start out of your garage and move into a storefront as you increase your business.

Meal Prep

There’s that stereotype that college students eat ramen and PB&J’s, but there are plenty of college students that prefer to have real, healthy meals. But most college students living in a dorm, spending all their time in class or studying don’t necessarily have lot of time for cooking.

To solve this problem, you can start a meal prep service that offers ready-made, healthy food that college students can pick up or have delivered to their dorms. Depending on where you live, there might be some licensing or food handling certification you need, so make sure to check on this, but it can be a really lucrative business.

Moving Services

College students are always on the move. Whether it’s from one dorm to another or from college to home for the summer, there is always a need for moving services in college towns. To start this business, you’ll need some strong helpers and a truck, or at least somewhere to rent a truck for the day for your local market if you don’t have the funds to purchase one just yet.

Used Furniture Store

Secondhand furniture stores are great business for college towns. College students are often frugal because they’re on a tight budget and don’t want to spend thousands on furniture. Start off by picking up used furniture from thrift stores, estate sales, or liquidation sales. You can even offer a delivery service for an extra fee to save them the hassle of having to pick it up.

Car Rentals

Not all college students have a car because it’s not always necessary, or they simply can’t afford the payment or insurance. If you have a car that you can offer up, a car rental business can be a great side hustle. Some even take this full time, using their profit to purchase more cards. The most important thing to double check for this business is that you have the right insurance on your car.

Apps like Turo are a great way to get started because they already have an established platform for you to use. All you need is a car and the willingness to rent it out!

Hopefully, this article gave you some good college town business ideas! Whether you’re a student or just happen to live in a college town, these great business ideas can help you make some extra money while also serving the local college community.

If you’re ready to get started, start researching the college town business ideas that look best to you and get a business plan together!

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