Even during an economic downturn, there are several recession-proof business ideas for online businesses that can allow you to turn a profit. If you’re looking to start a recession-proof business or adapt your existing business idea to make it more recession-proof, the best ideas are:
- Food and beverage business
- Hygiene products and toiletries
- Healthcare products
- Pet care business
- Retail therapy
- Home repair, auto repair and cleaning services
- Education and training
- Financial services
- Courier services
- Real estate
- Technology support
- Software as a Service (SaaS)
- Freelance services
As you develop your recession-proof business idea, remember that crime—including online crime—tends to increase during a recession, so it’s more important than ever to have a secure global payment gateway and a merchant gateway provider that offers round-the-clock merchant services. Once you’re set up with a secure platform, you can start making serious money.
Top Recession-Proof Business Ideas
1. Food and Beverage Business
No matter how bad things get, people still need to eat. That’s why many of the best recession-proof businesses to start are in the food industry. Rather than opening a fine-dining restaurant, however, think of recession-proof businesses that cater to families that are trying to save money:
- Affordable long-life food items
- Grocery stores with online orders
- Fast food delivery
- Subscription boxes for cooking at home
2. Hygiene Products and Toiletries
Consumer staples like hygiene products, toiletries, cleaning products and baby goods do well in an economic downturn because people tend to spend the little money they have on the bare essentials and cut spending on “extras” instead. In an economic crisis, consider selling things like:
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Soap and body wash
- Dishwash and laundry detergent
- Wet wipes
- Toilet paper
To save money, some families opt for reusable rather than disposable goods. Affordable cloth nappies and baby-friendly laundry powder could sell especially well if you also provide instructional videos on care and use.
3. Healthcare Products
Other top recession-proof businesses can be found in the healthcare industry because healthcare services are non-negotiable—you can’t put them off until another time! For online business ideas that don’t depend on the economy, consider selling healthcare products that people always need, including:
- Tablet grinders
- First Aid accessories
- Medical equipment
- Diabetes testing equipment
Talking about healthcare products, contraceptive products tend to be especially popular during a recession as people put off starting a family (or growing their family) until their economic situation improves. People are happy to spend money on contraceptives if it will help to prevent a significant long-term cost.
4. Pet Care
The pet industry tends to remain stable during an economic downturn because people still need to care for their pets. Pet ownership in Europe grew significantly between 2010 and 2020 and in December 2021, the European pet industry was worth €21.2 billion. To move into this growing industry, small business owners might consider selling pet essentials, including:
- Pet food
- Pet supplements
- Pet grooming equipment and shampoo
- Kitty litter and doggie bags
While veterinary services are usually done in person, many clinics have websites promoting the clinic and some even take bookings online. Entrepreneurs could sell pet products online in conjunction with a veterinary clinic to increase their earnings.
5. Retail Therapy
While it may seem counterintuitive, retail tends to weather recessions fairly well because people still feel the need to treat themselves every now and again. Rather than buying high-quality, mid-market goods, however, people tend to look for cheaper alternatives to the products they usually buy.
For a recession-proof business idea, consider selling:
- Discounted goods
- Factory seconds
At the other end of the spectrum, luxury goods can be more recession-proof than you might think because wealthy people who are used to maintaining an elegant appearance will keep up that aesthetic at all costs. Moreover, fine jewellery has a perceived inherent value that is not lost during a recession.
6. Home Repair, Auto Repair and Cleaning Services
The first thing that many people tend to do after being made redundant is to spend time repairing the home. Online recession-proof businesses can capitalise on this trend by selling home and auto repair parts, DIY kits and short courses on performing repairs.
On the other hand, essential services like plumbing, electrical repairs, auto maintenance services and commercial cleaning services are things that can’t be put off until finances improve, so offering an online booking platform for these services is a great idea for maintaining a healthy cash flow during a recession.
7. Education and Training
In tough economic times, many of the people who are losing jobs look to retrain and start over in a more recession-proof career. Online entrepreneurs can seize on this opportunity by providing virtual training courses that help these people switch industries or start their own businesses.
If you have experience and an interest in teaching, consider offering courses in:
- Make-your-own beauty products
- Do-it-yourself (DIY) repairs
- Digital marketing
8. Financial Services
Financial and accounting services are always needed—no matter the economic situation. Even in an economic downturn, businesses and individuals still have to file taxes, pay bills and pay back the money they owe to the bank. Economic uncertainty can even increase people’s interest in financial planning, tax planning, risk assessment, the stock market, budgeting and debt reduction. The following recession-proof business ideas could prove lucrative in hard times:
- Financial planning
- Tax services
- Accounting services
- Stock market advisor
- Debt counselling business
9. Courier Services
Courier services are always needed, even in a recession. Businesses frequently send and receive contracts and other important documents and need a dependable company to complete the task quickly. While courier services are ultimately performed in person, running a 24/7 online platform where businesses and individuals can book a courier and track their parcel delivery is a great recession-proof idea.
10. Real Estate
Real estate tends to boom in an economic downturn because investors can buy income properties at a discount and make a significant profit later on. Specialized companies like AirDNA provide investors with intelligence about market trends for investment properties. People who are on a limited income will tend to look for property to rent if their income no longer permits them to buy. For a recession-proof online business idea, you could offer an online platform advertising properties for sale or rent and charge a small fee for each listing.
11. Technology Support
Constant technological advancements mean that businesses always need tech support, regardless of the state of the economy. There will always be breakdowns, bugs in software and systems that need updating, and much of the work can be done online. One of the best things about tech support is that you can work for companies anywhere in the world and take advantage of markets where the economic recession isn’t as severe.
12. Software as a Service (SaaS)
Software as a service (SaaS) is like utility services; even in the worst economic situation, businesses still need software. If you want to start your own business, consider offering digital subscription services that solve a problem businesses face, such as:
- Website security services and fraud prevention software
- Online payment processing
- Customer service plugins
- Accounting software
- SEO keyword software
13. Freelance Services
In a similar vein, the need for freelance services continues through recessions and can often be done for clients outside of the affected area. As long as online shopping and other online industry types (such as SaaS) continue to be offered, businesses will need:
- Content writers
- Graphic designers
- Video content creators
- Web developers
- Programming experts
- Digital marketing
- Email marketing
- Social media campaigns
Avoid: Mid-Market Goods and Services
In general, the best recession-proof businesses sell low-cost essential items for people seeking to save money or luxury goods for those who are least affected by economic crises. Those who purchased discounted items before the recession will continue to do so and middle-income earners who can no longer afford mid-market goods and services will turn to more cost-effective alternatives instead.
If you previously sold mid-market goods, you’ll need to adapt your business ideas to cater to the new demographic. This could either mean developing a line of lower-cost options or switching your product line entirely to focus on the sellable “essentials”.
The Right Time to Start a Business Is Now
It might seem like a crazy idea to start your own business in the midst of a recession. But starting a business when things are tough could actually be the best thing you ever did. Many businesses that do well when the economy was strong end up going out of business during a recession.
As people’s needs and priorities change, they aren’t able to adapt. However, if you start a business successfully when the chips are down, there’s only one way to go—and that’s up.