25 Low Investment Small Business Ideas in Chicago, IL

Chicago is a major economic powerhouse, business hub, and cultural center of the Midwest. The city contains over 400,000 small businesses within its 77 distinct neighborhoods. This diverse marketplace presents many opportunities across industries for aspiring entrepreneurs on limited budgets.

As a business consultant helping Chicagoans turn their dreams into reality for over 10 years, I‘ve assisted hundreds of startups. Here are my top 25 low investment small business ideas specifically suited for the Chicago metro based on market demand, ease of entry, and profit potential.

1. Food Truck

The Chicago food truck scene has exploded in recent years. Estimates show it growing over 400% from 2017 to 2022 as the city loosened regulations. Now over 130 trucks roam the streets serving hungry tourists, office workers, and nightlife crowds.

Startup Costs: $55,000 – $100,000

Profit Potential: $100,000 – $250,000+

2. Coffee Shop

Despite Starbucks and other chains having significant presence, locally owned coffee shops thrive in Chicago‘s vibrant neighborhoods. Coffee consumption continues rising while unique rooms provide communal gathering places.

Startup Costs: $80,000-$150,000

Profit Potential: $60,000-$150,000

3. Home Cleaning Service

Busy families and young professionals in Chicago pay up for reliable home cleaning help. Building a client base starts small then expands through word-of-mouth and online reviews. Contract reliable staff to scale.

Startup Costs: $2,000

Profit Potential: $55,000

4. Fitness Instructor

The fitness industry shows no signs of slowing down, especially yoga and specialty instructors. Take your passion for health and wellness and create Loyal clientele small group classes or private training.

Startup Costs: $2,000 – $5,000

Profit Potential: $55,000

5. Resale Clothing Shop

Buy second-hand clothing for pennies on the dollar then sell for nice profits either online or via pawn shop. Focus your inventory on particular styles, designers, or decades most popular among Gen Z and Millennials.

Startup Costs: $5,000 – $25,000

Profit Potential: $75,000

6. Contract Web Designer

Every small business needs a website which provides endless web design opportunities if you have the skills. Reach out to local businesses through cold calls, networking events, walks down neighborhood commercial districts.

Startup Costs: $500

Profit Potential: $60,000

7. Makeup Artist

Hundreds of brides need professional makeup artistry for their big days each week in Chicagoland. Develop cosmetology skills then partner with wedding photographers and venues to connect with clients.

Startup Costs: $1,000

Profit Potential: $50,000

8. Residential Painting Company

Greater Chicago contains over 1 million households in need of interior and exterior painting help from qualified professionals. Market to homeowners and property management companies online and via printed flyers.

Startup Costs: $7,500

Profit Potential: $150,000

9. Garment Alterations Home Business

The large population paired with significant formal event scene provides steady demand for custom clothing alterations expertise. Market to brides, groomsmen, businessmen.

Startup Costs: $5,000

Profit Potential: $75,000

10. Corporate Catering

Chicago hosts thousands of business conferences and events annually seeking catering services. Develop menus featuring business lunch classics or innovation fusion dishes to differentiate your services.

Startup Costs: $10,000 – $25,000

Profit Potential: $150,000+

11. Virtual Bookkeeping Service

Accounting and bookkeeping assistance represents a steady demand from small business owners lacking specialized financial knowledge. Provide monthly retainers for standard reconciliation, reporting, QuickBooks help virtually.

Startup Costs: $500

Profit Potential: $60,000

12. House Clean Out Service

Help overwhelmed homeowners and those facing foreclosure or eviction clean out houses stuffed with years of clutter and belongings via hassle-free junk removal assistance. Resell goods at thrift stores or online.

Startup Costs: $10,000

Profit Potential: $125,000

13. Dog Walking Service

Over 400,000 households own dogs in Chicagoland which need daily exercise while owners work. Combine your love of animals with building a base of residential and commercial clients needing pet care assistance.

Startup Costs: $3,000

Profit Potential: $75,000

14. Social Media Consultant

Leverage social media marketing expertise to help overwhelmed small business owners lacking know-how, time, or ability to handle their Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok campaigns. Provide retainer-based services.

Startup Costs: $500
Profit Potential: $65,000

15. Freelance Writer

Quality written content remains highly in demand from online publications, blogs, marketing agencies despite proliferation of AI writing tools. Build diverse writing portfolio across industries to appeal to range of clients.

Startup Costs: $500
Profit Potential: $60,000

16. Residential Organizer

Hectic families and clutter-prone baby boomers pay premium rates for expert home organizers to tackle overflowing basements, garages, play rooms via systematic sorting and storage solutions.

Startup Costs: $2,000

Profit Potential: $65,000

17. Private Tutor

Parents spend heavily on tutors and academic coaches providing personalized instruction across subjects for grades K-12 especially focusing on math, science, test prep. Market services to neighborhood families.

Startup Costs: $500

Profit Potential: $65,000

18. Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning

Over 7,500 Chicago restaurants require quarterly cleaning services for kitchen exhaust hoods to meet fire codes which provides year-round demand. Use eco-friendly detergents to appeal to sustainability-focused chefs.

Startup Costs: $10,000

Profit Potential: $125,000

19. Event DJ Service

Your passion for music, lively personality, and ability to read crowds can translate into income via handling music, emceeing, and lighting for corporate parties, weddings, school dances in the area.

Startup Costs: $7,500

Profit Potential: $75,000

20. Gift Basket Business

Design creative gift baskets for baby showers, sympathy, corporate gifting, holidays which busy and less crafty customers appreciate. Target niche themes which differentiate your products.

Startup Costs: $5,000

Profit Potential: $100,000

21. Etiquette Coach

From executives to teens, clients seek personalized instruction on proper manners, dining skills and overall polish from credentialed professionals which translates into repeat business.

Startup Costs: $2,000

Profit Potential: $65,000

22. Furniture Refurbishment

Give new life to dated flea market finds using your skills refinishing, painting, reupholstering pieces to sell at nice markups to décor-focused indie shops, designers, and dealers.

Startup Costs: $5,000

Profit Potential: $75,000

23. Mobile Auto Detailing

Provide premium interior/exterior cleaning services at customer‘s home or work for time-strapped vehicle owners. Stand out via specialty packages like scratch removal, waxing, leather treatment.

Startup Costs: $5,000

Profit Potential: $125,000

24. Small Engine Repair

Power equipment like lawnmowers, chainsaws, snow blowers, generators, etc require periodic maintenance and repairs which you can provide via pickup/delivery at customer‘s home rather than hauling to a shop.

Startup Costs: $10,000

Profit Potential: $75,000

25. YouTube Channel Monetization

By 2021 over 11 million content creators share videos on YouTube full-time or as a lucrative side business. Film tutorials, product reviews, gaming playthroughs or comedy sketches viewers crave on niche topics you enjoy.

Startup Costs: $1,500

Profit Potential: $100,000+

While this list focuses on lower budget small businesses to launch in the Chicago area, the possibilities are truly endless for aspiring entrepreneurs. With passion, grit, market research and proper planning nearly any idea can become a thriving company. I wish you the very best pursuing your dreams and building something amazing in this world-class city.