If you’re thinking of starting a mobile business or considering new ideas to expand your business, now may be the perfect time to put the pedal to the metal.
While the pandemic forced many shops to close their doors, it also created fresh opportunities for entrepreneurial Americans, who’ve been opening new businesses at the fastest rate since 2007.
It’s a new era for mobile businesses as many brands found success bringing their goods and services to their customers during the pandemic. Mobile businesses are uniquely equipped to meet the post-pandemic needs of consumers, who are placing a higher value on convenience, seamless digital experiences, and luxury.
7 popular mobile business ideas
Need some inspiration for your own mobile business venture? Here are seven popular mobile business ideas that serve modern customer needs.
1. Food truck
Food trucks aren’t new, but business owners are putting a fresh spin on the food truck model to meet changing customer expectations.
The food truck industry is rising to meet the growing consumer demand for high-quality food at affordable prices, and it comes with lower startup costs than opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant. A food truck allows you to meet your audience where they are, with the flexibility to move your location based on consumer interest.
When the pandemic kept people from going to their offices, Evan Kidera was able to pivot his Filipino-fusion food truck business, Señor Sisig, by moving his trucks to the communities where more people were working from home. Kidera considers this a major factor in their success, noting on Talking Squarely, “We had the flexibility to pivot that maybe some other businesses might not have.”
2. Mobile salon or barbershop
The cost of starting (or transitioning to) a mobile hair or beauty business may present a lower barrier to entry than a brick-and-mortar salon. Mobile haircare professionals only need to worry about the cost of equipment, making it a feasible business option for a solo stylist.
You can travel to clients’ homes for appointments, or operate from your own outfitted vehicle — giving you access not only to private residences, but also offices, plazas, or other popular public settings during peak times.
READ MORE: How to Open a Salon >
This is what Darius Davie, better known to his clients as the Groom Guy, started doing during 2020 to serve clients who couldn’t go out and get a haircut. Thinking beyond house calls, Davie began setting up his showroom inside the lobby of a popular hotel, and his business took off from there.
“The mobile business has really taken a life of its own,” Davie says. “It’s meeting new demand for private service that’s growing steadily. From haircutting services inside apartment complexes, wedding venues, hotels, and various commercial spaces, we’ve quickly evolved from a mobile service of ‘on-call haircuts’ to being fully immersed in the hospitality industry with our new system,” says Davie.
3. Mobile pet grooming
Pet parents are as serious about taking care of their pets’ silky locks as they are about their own (if not more). For pet groomers, making house calls can pay off in a big way. Convenience is a major value-add in the pet care industry, and many pet owners are willing to pay more for the ease of skipping the trip to the groomer.
This remains true, even if you’re not doing the grooming for them. Self-service pet washing stations are gaining popularity, offering pet parents access to a professional tub and all the supplies they need to get their pet squeaky clean on their own — without bringing the mess into their house.
4. Flower truck
A mobile floral business is equipped to easily travel to weddings, parties, business events, and venues of all sorts. This brings cost savings on both sides, as mobile florists don’t have to account for both physical overhead and travel expenses in their event pricing.
With a flower truck, you’re also equipped for making deliveries straight out of your shop. Brittany Sarhage, owner of Rudy’s Flower Truck, tapped into this flexibility to pivot her business during the pandemic, she shares on Talking Squarely. “Once this happened, all of our places shut down. And so, we had to transition over into a delivery-focused business, which we were already set up to do.”
Running your business on the go is not only convenient, but comes with the ability to build intrigue. Some flower trucks operate as pop-up locations, appearing at local events and hot spots with short notice to their customers. They keep up buzz and attention through social media, giving the special sense of being “in the know” for those who follow their whereabouts.
5. Coffee cart, traveling tea shop, or ice cream truck
Combining the global love of food and drink with the whimsy of splurging on a special treat, mobile businesses for coffee, tea, and other indulgences are picking up steam.
Starting a mobile coffee shop or tea business can offer a more boutique experience than the chain down the street. Coffee is a year-round product with plenty of demand no matter the season, and a coffee cart adds a personal touch to an already comforting beverage.
As a mobile business, a coffee cart is flexible enough to fit into your lifestyle as a side hustle or part-time gig. Even if you work a different job during the week, you could operate your mobile coffee truck on weekends, or even mornings when coffee demand is at its highest.
6. Auto mechanic
Mobile auto repair services are rising to remove the common pain point of getting a car serviced. As a mobile mechanic, you can make house calls — or garage calls — to perform simple repairs, oil changes, and other maintenance. All you need is a vehicle that can carry the necessary tools and equipment.
A mobile car repair shop, auto detailing service, or similar business not only has lower startup costs than a brick-and-mortar shop, but it also removes the challenge of physical space to hold all customer cars currently in service. You don’t need to worry about storing client vehicles when you come to them, and your clients don’t need to worry about having their car out of commission while it’s in the shop.
7. Mobile fitness business
Mobile gyms and personal trainers are removing the most common obstacle to fitness goals: getting to the gym.
You can bring the gym directly to your clients with the right vehicle outfitted with workout equipment. Or, as a personal trainer, you can coach clients from the comfort of their own homes. This not only adds convenience, but allows you to give each client a highly personal experience that’s catered to their lifestyle.
As a mobile business you may also offer outdoor workout classes, traveling between popular locations, making it easy for people to join a class nearby.
A mobile business can drive home your value to customers
No matter what industry you’re in, if you take your business to the street, be sure to highlight the unique value that you bring to your target market. How does your audience benefit from your business being on wheels? Do you add convenience, luxury, cost savings, or perhaps a high level of personalization that they won’t find at a brick-and-mortar competitor?
When Michael Weiss and Victoria Roedel started their joint social media agency and ice cream truck venture, they quickly noticed how much their customers valued the convenience of a digital payment system. Knowing that traditional ice cream trucks accept cash only, Weiss and Roedel found that their investment in modern payment technology was a big hit.
“When people see we have the Square Reader or we accept cards and they don’t have enough cash, it’s really easy to do that transaction,” says Roedel.
Consumer expectations have changed since the pandemic, and mobile businesses are well-positioned to meet them. Invest in the aspects that offer your audience the most value: convenience, smooth multichannel experiences, personalization, and luxury.
Square has the tools to run your business — on your own terms. To help celebrate businesses paving their way forward, we partnered with Forbes on the Next 1000 initiative to spotlight bold entrepreneurs and share their most valuable lessons. By sharing firsthand experiences, we’re helping businesses celebrate resilience, build skills, and explore what’s next. See how Square works, and get more expert guidance for the next era of small business.