Businesses of any size can scale up to claim greater market share or enter new markets. Many of the best scalable business ideas come from small business owners. International floral brand, FTD is one such example, starting as a group of 10 florists, who, together pioneered the idea of flower delivery. Today, it delivers around the world, from the US to Chile to Singapore, and achieved this reach through a scalable business model.
If you’ve been looking to expand your business, or start one that has room to grow, here are some business ideas that can scale up to become profitable and sustainable.
Table of contents
What is scalability?
Scalability refers to the ability of a business to handle an increasing amount of growth without negatively affecting its performance, efficiency, or quality. A company can rapidly grow when its leaders pursue a scalable business idea and have the products, services, and underlying infrastructure they need to expand while still maintaining the qualities that helped them thrive in the first place.
Scalability means a business can respond to demand surges. A scalable business can adapt and expand in response to increased demand without a significant decline in the operation’s overall effectiveness.
Scalable businesses can often become more efficient and profitable with growth. A scalable business can accommodate more customers, transactions, or operations while maintaining efficiency, profitability, and customer satisfaction. In some cases, its efficiency, profitability, and customer satisfaction may even improve with growth, perhaps owing to an expanded supply of workers, equipment, merchandise, and real estate.
8 scalable business ideas
- Direct-to-consumer ecommerce sales
- Online courses
- Online marketing
- Online content creation
- Renewable energy solutions
- Event planning
- Virtual reality and augmented reality solutions
- Personalized fashion and styling services
You don’t need to own a large corporation to pursue scalable business ideas. Entrepreneurs can start a scalable, highly profitable business if they think concretely about growing and entering new markets without sacrificing quality. Here are eight scalable business concept:
1. Direct-to-consumer ecommerce sales
An ecommerce business sells products and services directly to its consumers, which means lower operating costs than brick-and-mortar retail. You can quickly scale up your online store with little more than server space for growing web traffic, a reliable supply chain, and efficient shipping operations.
Low overhead makes direct-to-consumer ecommerce a great business idea for entrepreneurs who’ve set their sights on growth.
2. Online courses
You can sell online courses to students or adults interested in lifelong learning. Once you’ve filmed videos, recorded audio, and written course material for an online course, you can rapidly scale up by releasing content to anyone who signs up. Try using an online course creator to help you design and launch your class.
3. Online marketing
Online marketing takes various forms, including email marketing, social media marketing, and affiliate marketing (where you earn commissions for sales that begin with a referral from your website or social media page). You can create an online marketing business with minimal upfront investment and scale up as you win more clients.
As you scale up, you’ll probably need to hire staff, like a dedicated social media manager; however, your increasing income should offset these costs.
4. Online content creation
Like digital marketing, online content creation is a scalable business where you can use your skills to provide a service. An online content creator specializes in content writing, graphic design, or web development. They assist online marketing efforts by providing engaging content to place in front of potential clients.
Small business owners can scale up a content writing or web design business without major investment. You’ll just need to hire the right amount of staff to keep up with client demand.
5. Renewable energy solutions
Renewable energy solutions include installing solar panels, windmills, and car chargers. Renewable energy is a growing industry, and as new laws encourage sustainable development, more potential customers enter the market.
Renewable energy requires heavy infrastructure, which means significant upfront investment. Such a business is scalable not because it is cheap but because the target market of customers is rapidly expanding, and the underlying technology is becoming more standardized.
6. Event planning
An event planner helps clients stage parties, galas, and other social gatherings. You can run a successful business as an event planner with minimal investment.
Most of your work will involve using rented spaces, rented items (like tables and chairs), and temporarily hired professionals (like live bands and caterers). As such, it’s possible to scale up an event-planning business with limited capital, raw material, or staff.
7. Virtual reality and augmented reality solutions
VR and AR are transforming many industries, from gaming to AR-powered ecommerce stores. When selling VR and AR software solutions, you’ll create core software applications that you can sell to clients online. You’ll be able to meet increasing demand with relatively little additional investment.
8. Personalized fashion and styling services
Some fashion-forward entrepreneurs find success working as style consultants or personal shoppers for a self-selecting roster of clients. This is a service-based industry, and you can scale up as long as you can manage your client load—and eventually hire more consultants and personal shoppers as you grow.
What makes a business scalable?
- Business idea
- Market demand
- Supply chain and logistics
- Financial structure
- Human resources
- Technology infrastructure
- Company operations
- Regulatory considerations
Some business concepts are inherently scalable, and others are not. The factors determining a business’s scalability include:
Some business concepts lend themselves particularly well to scalability. For instance, selling software as a service (SaaS) can scale up fairly quickly because it doesn’t heavily rely on physical infrastructure. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) ecommerce can also scale up quickly and smoothly if you have reliable suppliers and shipping vendors.
Businesses with built-in market demand, such as health care products or children’s clothing, may scale up more easily than niche businesses that can only serve a sliver of the general public.
Supply chain and logistics
Scalability requires a streamlined supply chain and logistics system to handle increased product demand and distribution without delays or disruptions. A brilliant scalable business concept will only thrive if your supply chain can handle demand surges.
Businesses can scale more quickly if they have adequate funding sources to support business growth. You can prepare for scaling by building a financial model that allows for efficient use of capital and minimizing unnecessary expenses while focusing on generating revenue and achieving growth.
Many scalable businesses prioritize a workforce that can scale up or down based on demand. These companies use contract workers, freelancers, or part-time employees, as needed.
Scalable businesses increasingly use cloud computing, robust databases, and software to handle increased workloads without performance degradation.
Business leaders strive to create standardized and streamlined processes that they can easily replicate and automate as the business grows. Standardizing operations lets a company scale up without needing continual human intervention. You can also use computer software and automation tools to handle routine tasks, thus increasing operational efficiency.
A business must play by the rules established by local and national lawmakers and regulators. Businesses must adapt and comply with changing regulations, industry standards, and local laws when they scale up or expand to new markets, regions, or countries.
Sell internationally in minutes with Shopify Markets
Shopify Markets helps you sell to multiple countries and scale your business internationally—all from a single Shopify store. Manage store localization, shipping, duties, and compliance all in one place.Discover Shopify Markets
Scalable business ideas FAQ
How do you choose a scalable business?
Choose a scalable business by thinking about the potential for growth and the ease of that growth. The most scalable businesses can quickly ramp up their operations to meet surging customer demand.
Why does scalability matter in business?
Scalability matters in business because companies must meet a continued standard for excellence as they grow and enter new markets. If growth causes a dip in business quality, the business’s reputation will take a hit.
Are there specific industries or sectors that are more conducive to scalability?
Yes, many industries lend themselves to scalability. Online businesses like SaaS and DTC ecommerce tend to scale well.
Can you start a scalable business with limited resources?
Yes, you can start a scalable business with limited resources. Scaling up can be particularly quick if you run a dropshipping business or offer a service like event planning, personal shopping, or online tutoring. As you scale up, you can invest more in your company and enjoy the financial freedom of a successful business.