5 Recession-Proof Small Businesses – and Why You Should Consider One

The world doesn’t stop turning when the economy tanks. Learn which businesses fare best in the worst of times.
tattoo parlour
Tattoo parlors are a great business bet during a recession. (Photo: Bruce Fingerhood/Flickr.)

Would your business weather the storm of an economic downturn – or worse, a recession? This is a key question to ask when determining what type of business you want to open. No business is immune to the fluctuations of the economy, but there are a few industries that remain stable in both favorable and challenging times.

Here are five expert-­backed recession-­proof businesses, and why they might be the right fit for you.

WHAT: Virtual assistant

WHY: Many companies are looking to outsource HR and administrative tasks, but can’t afford full­time salaries or paid benefits to fill the opening. In such cases, virtual assistants (also known as remote assistants) are a great option. As a virtual assistant, you can set an hourly rate, depending on experience, and work with multiple clients simultaneously, from the convenience of your home.

“I recommend this field because my company has hired virtual assistants and benefited from their efficient and timely work performance,” said Amrit Kirpalani, who is CEO of NectarOM, a marketing personalization platform that gives businesses tools to grow revenue, win customers and overcome competition.

WHAT: Funeral services

WHY: The services of a funeral provider are always needed. The key here, however, is you must have the skills to build and cultivate meaningful relationships with clients. In the funeral industry, reputation is everything.

Andre Bourque, a self-described tech evangelist and editor emeritus of Technorati, covering high­-growth industries, noted this opportunity in a piece for the Huffington Post. “It might sound morbid, but if you excel in service and empathy, it’s a viable option,” he wrote.

WHAT: Haircuts and grooming

WHY: “There’s a surprisingly large amount of goods and services people won’t give up,” said Marc Prosser, who co­-founded Fit Small Business, a hub for reviews, how-­tos and other resources for small business owners. Low-cost essential goods, particularly haircuts and grooming, “are going to remain in demand even when the economy slumps.”

Sure, many people cut down on these services in tight times, but they can’t – or won’t – eliminate them entirely. That’s why it’s important to cater to customers’ budgets. “Many ‘low-end’ (grooming) offerings become surprisingly in­-demand when a recession hits,” Prosser added.

WHAT: Tattoo shops

WHY: It’s no surprise why Slate Magazine recently called tattoo shops “a surprisingly great small business bet.” According to the Pew Research Center, more than a third of Americans ages 18 to 25 had at least one tattoo as of 2010. This demographic’s fascination with body art is showing no signs of waning; in fact, its exposure is only growing with the massive opportunities that social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram can provide both customers and entrepreneurs.

“People have become more educated on what’s a good tattoo, and have a greater desire to seek out the right artist and build a relationship with them,” said Alex McWatt, founder of Three Kings Tattoo, with three New York locations. “People value their tattoos as a form of self-expression, so we’ve been fortunate to withstand economic downturns.”

WHAT: Job seeker services

WHY: This idea goes right to the heart of “going where the need is.” People who find themselves out of work may need a brush-up on skills like networking, resume building and interview training. If you’ve ever been unemployed, you know this can be a daunting, confusing experience.

“If you offer any kind of service to job seekers, you’ll have plenty of clients, especially during a recession,” said Prosser. “Whether that’s helping people write resumes or offering one-on-one or group instruction in professional skills, you’ll have a side of your business that will likely find more business during a recession than when the economy’s doing fine.”

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