25 Part-Time Businesses To Start Today!

Looking to earn some extra cash in your spare time? We've got 25 great ways to get started!
Magazine Contributor
13 min read

This story appears in the June 1997 issue of . Subscribe »

Ever of running a part-time while keeping your day job? Want to operate a sideline business along with your current business? Or are you simply curious about , and want to BODY the waters before you commit to the world of ? Whatever your reason, here are 25 sure-fire ways to get started today with your own part-time business.

Business writer Carla Goodman clued our readers in to 25 of selling in the April issue of Business Start-Ups.

25 Part-Time Businesses

Espresso Cart

Brew up profits day after day! Specialty coffee drinks generate gross profits of 55.1 to 61.5 percent per cup, says the Specialty Coffee Association of America. So brush up on your coffee drinks, buy or rent an espresso cart, and head for sporting events, concerts and farmers' markets in your community.

Plant Leasing And Maintenance

Got a green thumb and a delivery van? You're all set to service corporations, home builders, health clubs and other businesses who want fresh greenery. Develop a steady clientele with a regular watering, pruning and fertilizing program and a full replacement guarantee.

Personal Chef

What's for dinner, honey? Great home-cooked meals for working parents and busy professionals who hire you as a personal chef. There's plenty of demand for this specialized service. So plan your menu, make out your shopping list, and go to work to satisfy your hungry clientele.


If you're an artist in search of a medium, why not make T-shirts your canvas? Paint, draw, bead or appliqué your designs on plain T-shirts, and spend your weekends showcasing your art-to-wear at farmers' markets and crafts fairs.

Office And Home Organizer

Attention all neatniks: Help packrats, overworked executives, and other organizationally challenged individuals clean out messy closets, straighten files, and throw out the excess clutter. Putting your knack for neatness to part-time use is bound to arrange some tidy profits for you.

Luggage Rental

Families who don't want to buy expensive luggage for a weekend getaway or a cross-country trip can rent from you. Start with quality luggage from a name-brand manufacturer, and a storage unit. Spread the word about your luggage-rental business with hotels, travel agencies, tour groups, event planners and your local media.


Make new money from old treasures and have fun doing it! Scout garage sales, estate auctions and flea markets for great buys on antique furniture, toys, clothing and other treasures from the past. Rent space at antique cooperatives, or set up booths at weekend fairs to sell your antiques.

Color Consultant

Are you a "winter" or a "spring" when it comes to fashion colors? Whatever your season, make money helping fashion-conscious consumers select the colors and hues that are best for them. Training in color analysis, makeup application, and basic fashion design are musts. To get started, drop off fliers at men's and women's boutiques and beauty salons, and advertise in shopper publications.

Mobile Window Tint

With some training and basic equipment, you'll be seeing plenty of green with your mobile window-tinting business. For best results, have a pager and van ready to help car, van and truck owners prevent heat damage to their vehicles' interiors. Other hot markets: homes, high-rise condominiums and office buildings.


If it's broke, you can fix it. Your phone will ring off the hook with calls from homeowners, senior citizens and others who don't want to fix it themselves. Advertise in shopper publications and on bulletin boards, and drop off fliers at real estate offices. Then start repairing everything from leaky faucets to broken windows.

Medical Transcription

Work as an important member of a medical team without leaving your homebased office. There's big demand by hospitals, doctors, dentists, chiropractors and veterinarians who need outside help transcribing patient medical records. Training in medical terminology and linguistic skills will keep your business healthy.

Records Search

Using specialized databases, you'll search public records on your computer to help your clients find lost loves, check out questionable suitors, track down debtors, verify a contractor's track record, or dig up facts on a business opportunity. Clients include attorneys, businessowners and individuals.

Custom Jewelry And Accessories

Put your creative talents to work designing custom jewelry and accessories. Whether you work with sterling silver or recycled metals, clay or papier-mâché, there's a market for your custom earrings, pins, bracelets, necklaces and belt buckles at art shows, crafts fairs and holiday boutiques.

Computer Tutor

Whether you're an expert at Windows, Lotus or Word Perfect, you can help anyone enhance their computer skills. Start promoting your computer-training services by teaching classes through organizations in your community which offer adult education courses.

Restaurant Delivery

Whether it's macaroni and cheese or a five-course gourmet meal, at-home meal replacement is fast becoming the newest way to dine. When customers want their restaurant orders "to go," you'll be "on the go" with your restaurant delivery service. A great way to make your late afternoons and weekends extra-profitable!

Personal Trainer

Pumping iron; pumping profits. Americans of all ages, sizes and shapes want to keep fit, trim and healthy, and they're willing to hire their own personal coach to exercise correctly. Spread the word about your physical-fitness expertise at health spas, running, swimming and biking clubs, and other athletic outlets.

Wallpaper Hanging

Help residential and commercial clients turn drab walls into works of art with your wallpaper-hanging skills. Build a growing business with great referrals and repeat customers. Drop off fliers at paint and wallpaper stores; also, advertise in shopper publications, in homeowner-association newsletters, and on bulletin boards at local supermarkets and malls.

Yoga And Tai Chi Instructor

In today's hectic, fast-paced world, parents, business owners and students alike can benefit from the deep-breathing, relaxation and centering techniques you can teach them. Get started by offering classes at health clubs, through your city's recreation and parks department, or on your own.

Home Inspection

Buyers need not beware when they hire a home inspector to conduct a complete physical checkup on their home. You'll inspect the house for structural problems and refer your clients to the contractors or handymen who can make the repairs. Knowledge of construction and your local building codes will get your business off the ground.

Mobile Home-Entertainment Service

When it's dirty, disconnected or in need of repair, you'll save the day for homeowners who want their stereo, compact-disc player or videocassette recorder in working order. Brush up on your electrical and wiring know-how. Door-to-door fliers and calls to retail-store managers about your services will get your business off to a great start.

Business Profiles

Karen Reinholt, Karen Reinholt Presents

Karen Reinholt takes clowning around seriously. As owner of Karen Reinholt Presents, the Portland, Oregon, entrepreneur entertains as Peppermint the Clown at children's birthday parties, company picnics, store promotions, fairs, festivals and holiday parties.

"I love what I do. It's fun. I'm my own boss, and I love working with children," says Reinholt, who started "clowning around" in 1980 as a volunteer at church events. "I felt children were bored, and parents could have a better time without kids tugging at their sleeves. So I came up with some entertainment to keep them happy and occupied."

In 1984, Reinholt, a full-time mom, took mime classes at a local college taught by a man who trained with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. "There wasn't any real clown training in Oregon, so I looked around," says Reinholt, "and learned about Phoenix Power and Light Interfaith. It's a church-related organization which conducts workshops and an annual convention for jugglers, clowns, dancers and other entertainers. That's where I learned fire-eating."

To promote Peppermint the Clown, Reinholt advertises in the Yellow Pages and various parenting periodicals, including Portland Parent. Most of her comes from a steady stream of past clients and referrals. For a one-hour children's birthday party with 10 participants, Reinholt charges $100 for a magic show, games, a puppet show, and balloon animals. To entertain at corporate events and company parties, Reinholt charges between $250 and $325.

Growing demand for her services has prompted Reinholt to expand Karen Reinholt Presents from a part-time business into a full-time business. She also operates Entertainment Booking Services, a referral service which connects clowns, magicians, jugglers and face painters with entertainment opportunities. Reinholt sees continuing opportunities for herself and other clown professionals. "In the past, anyone wearing a rainbow wig, baggy pants and a red nose was considered a clown," she says. "We're getting rid of that myth, because we are getting highly skilled and trained clowns regardless of their dress. We're showing that clowning is professional entertainment."

Luke Breen, Z-Rang

When the snow piles high in Minneapolis, selling bicycles and riding accessories can be difficult for Luke Breen, owner of Calhoun Cycles. But rather than let the snow freeze his business revenues, Breen started a part-time business: selling his own line of handmade boomerangs, Z-Rangs.

"I'm not an aeronautical engineer, so there was a lot of trial and error involved in the ," says Breen, a longtime boomerang enthusiast. "How the weight is balanced is important. I balanced mine with more weight up high on the boomerang, which allows it to spin faster and better. Then the boomerang doesn't have to be thrown as hard to get the same lift, which is what makes it turn."

The Z-Rangs are made of aircraft-grade Finnish birch, a high-quality, 12-ply wood used in airplane propellers. When finished, each is painted in bright neon colors and flight-tested to guarantee return to its sender. Prices range from $15 to $40 each and include a flying manual.

To promote his sideline product, Breen used his bike shop's customer base to create a mailing list for a Z-Rang catalog. He advertises in local newspapers, participates in sports expositions and trade shows, and demonstrates how to throw boomerangs at summer "throwing nights" at a field near Calhoun Cycles. He also produced a video demonstrating how to throw and catch boomerangs. "Z-Rang is a fun part-time business," says Breen, who calculates sales of about $20,000 over five years since starting his part-time venture in 1991.

Christy Porter, Urban Herbalist

When Christy Porter finishes her workday as manager of a state of California recycling program, she goes to work again-this time at the Urban Herbalist, a small Sacramento, California, herb shop she opened in 1994. While her civil service job offered many benefits, Porter was attracted to . "I wanted to make a living, help people, and do something I enjoyed," says Porter, who figured her college background in chemistry and physiology and her study with local herbalists-those trained to instruct others in the proper use of herbs-would be helpful in starting Urban Herbalist.

The transition to entrepreneurship was gradual. Porter took a demotion from her state job so she could work fewer hours and concentrate on setting up her business. She wrote her business plan and attended a free, one-day workshop on entrepreneurship offered by the Administration's Small Business Development Center. She interviewed herb-store owners for information on suppliers, employee wages, and successful customer relations. She visited herb shops in other cities to see what products they were selling and how they were displayed, and carefully studied her future competition: several well-established health-food stores and a popular natural-foods co-op.

Porter concluded Sacramento was a market large enough to support the Urban Herbalist. "It seemed like a market niche that needed to be filled," she says. Porter was right. Sales reached $80,000 her first year and have been climbing ever since. In 1996, Porter quit her state government job to work full time at her business.

The Urban Herbalist sells herbs, aromatic oils and lotions, natural body-care products, medicinal teas, jewelry, handmade herbal wreaths, and books. Porter offers classes on herbs and conducts herbal walks to teach her customers how to identify herbs and become familiar with them in their natural habitat. Porter is glad she made the transition from paid employee to entrepreneur. "I'm doing something I really enjoy," she says.

Bruce Stjernstrom, Game Day Souvenirs

For the past decade, Bruce Stjernstrom has been collecting dolls-hundreds of hand-painted ceramic and papier-mache dolls with bobbing heads that were popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Some resemble baseball, football, hockey and basketball players and mascots; others bear the likenesses of John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro, and other political figures. Another part of his collection contains advertising and entertainment figures, like characters from the Peanuts gang, and Bob's Big Boy (the mascot for a restaurant chain on the West Coast).

After collecting more than 500 Bobbing Head dolls, Stjernstrom decided to turn his interest into a part-time business, Game Day Souvenirs, which he runs from his home in Costa Mesa, California. Rather than sell the dolls from his collection, Stjernstrom sells brand-new Bobbing Head baseball dolls, which he purchases through an East Coast distributor. Since introducing his mail order catalog in 1995, Stjernstrom estimates he's sold about $50,000 worth of dolls.

Stjernstrom got the idea for his part-time business while attending an Anaheim Angels baseball game. "These dolls were very popular in the 1960s and 1970s, so I was inspired when I saw new versions of the Bobbing Head baseball dolls for sale at the game," he explains. "I figured there were plenty of people who didn't live near baseball stadiums who would want to buy these dolls. There seemed to be an opportunity for a mail order business, here."

Stjernstrom advertises Game Day Souvenirs in Baseball Weekly and uses an answering service to take customer calls. He accepts credit cards and ships orders via United Parcel Service. Presently, Stjernstrom plans to maintain the business part time. "Before I started Game Day Souvenirs, I made a commitment that I wouldn't let it affect my regular job. It's been very manageable under these terms for now," says Stjernstrom, whose full-time day job is as the manager of the Kawasaki Professional Motocross Racing Team in Irvine, California.

Judy Sullivan, Go West

Judy Sullivan works full time in a chiropractor's office and helps her husband raise horses on their Lotsawork Ranch in New Windsor, Illinois. In her spare time, she designs custom Western shirts under her own label, Go West, and sells them to individual clients and Westernwear boutiques. The experienced seamstress got the idea for a part-time business when the shirt she designed for her son's college rodeo appearance got rave reviews from his buddies.

"Within a week after the rodeo, I had six orders for custom shirts from his college friends," recalls Sullivan, who later took 40 of her designs to an International Professional Rodeo Association-sanctioned rodeo. She sold 37 shirts at $70 each and took orders for 20 more. "I figured this business might fly."

A one-of-a-kind Go West shirt, which sells for between $60 and $90 each, is usually made of 100 percent cotton and is decorated with metallic or sequined fabric, chiffon or lace, and appliqué or quilting on the cuffs and yoke. Seamstresses, working as independent contractors, cut pattern pieces, do the appliqué work, and sew the finished garments. Sullivan markets her shirts at Westernwear trade shows.

While Sullivan could expand Go West into a full-time business, she's happy with her part-time status, which produces an annual net income of $10,000. "This amount of work keeps me busy," she says. "I can supply my customers without worrying that I can't meet a deadline. I can control my production and do what I set out to accomplish: offer my customers something that's really unique."

Business writer Carla Goodman clued our readers in to 25 of selling in the April issue of Business Start-Ups.

Contact Sources

Calhoun Cycle, 1622 W. Lake St., Minneapolis, MN 55408, (612) 827-8231.

Go West, P.O. Box 155, New Windsor, IL 61465.

Karen Reinholt Presents, P.O. Box 13187, Portland, OR 97213, (503) 281-7393.


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