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The 12 best business ideas to start in 2020

As we enter a new decade of possibilities, Startups spotlights 12 hot business trends for 2020, including non-alcoholic fun, urban farming, and CBD

Another decade over, a new one just begun. And what a decade it was…

As we saw in 2010, the UK was still feeling the effects of the second-worst economic downturn in history.

The Great Recession had far reaching consequences, triggering political shockwaves that look destined to ripple on through the 2020s.

But it also provided fertile ground for innovation…

An unstable job market gave rise to the gig economy, with the likes of Deliveroo, Uber, and Upwork capitalising on the growing demand for flexible work, or, some would say, exploiting those in precarious financial situations.

A new generation of disruptive startups emerged to challenge the supremacy of big businesses that, for too long, had not worked in the interests of consumers.

And, as our shopping habits moved increasingly online, we witnessed the slow decline of the high street.

While we can’t predict exactly what the next decade has in store for businesses, we’ve conducted extensive research and quizzed leading industry experts to bring you what we think will be the defining business trends of 2020.

One thing's for certain, whether it's non-alcoholic fun, urban farming, eco-beauty, or CBD, the twin shadows of sustainability and Brexit loom large. That’s why, for the first time, we’ve assessed the extent to which each idea can be considered sustainable and Brexit-proof.

And so to you a happy New Year, let’s hope it’s a good one, when you can finally start that business idea.

Startups.co.uk’s 12 best business ideas for 2020 are: 

1. Non-alcoholic fun

Are you ditching the booze for January? A growing number of us are giving up for even longer, and sometimes all together. Around 47% of British drinkers have reduced their consumption in the last year.

As our drink-obsessed nation becomes increasingly abstinent, the market for alcohol-free drinks and experiences that don’t (necessarily) involve drinking has grown significantly.

Read the full article on non-alcoholic fun.

2. Urban farming

Even as urbanisation eats up available land for agriculture, the number of people that needs feeding in the UK continues to grow.

But there is a solution: Urban farming.

Underground, overground, indoors, or even vertical, an increasing number of people are finding ingenious ways to grow food in limited urban spaces, in the interests of self-sufficiency, or even as a commercial enterprise.

Could you start your own commercial urban farm? Or supply urban farms?

Read the full article on urban farming

3. Tailored pet nutrition and premium pet food

We’ve become far more health-conscious over the last few years, but what about the health of our pets?

Many of us now recognise that cans of processed food aren’t best for their wellbeing, giving rise to more premium products, personalised pet diet plans, and even vegan pet food.

According to PDSA’s latest PAW report, 50% of UK adults own a pet, with around ten million dogs in the UK and 11 million cats. That’s a huge market for innovative pet food brands to target, and plenty of opportunity for growth.

Read the full article on tailored pet nutrition and premium pet food. 

Interested in starting a business? Building a website is a great way to get started.

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With Startups you can use the discount code GIMME10 at checkout to save 10% on any plan.

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4. CBD

Creams, oils, edibles – CBD seems to be making its way into all manner of products, with many shaky claims made for its effectiveness as a treatment for everything from joint pain to insomnia.

What can’t be disputed, however, is that this already huge market is going to get bigger and bigger. By 2025, the UK CBD sector is expected to be worth around £1bn.

According to the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC), 45% of products tested had illegal levels of THC (the chemical that gets you high), and 38% had less than 50% of the advertised CBD content.

It’s clearly a market that needs regulation, but honest players with consumer interests at heart stand to reap great rewards.

Read the full CBD article here. 

5. Podcasting

It’s been around 125 years since the invention of the radio, but our appetite for audio content is bigger than ever. There are now over 700,000 podcasts available in 100 languages, and one in eight of us listen to a podcast every week (a 24% increase in the last year alone).

With growth like that, it’s not surprising that advertisers are taking the podcasting medium more seriously – 75% increased spend in 2019.

Unless you’ve got a significant listenership, it will be hard to raise enough from advertisers to make a living from the off. But get the content right first, build a following, and you could open up a number of revenue streams, including merchandise, listener support subscriptions, and ads.

Read the full article on Podcasting. 

6. Smart tech to help the elderly

Ensuring our elderly relatives are safe and well is a daily concern for people across the UK. And as the country’s population continues to get older, it’s a growing problem.

Smart tech isn’t just helping ensure their wellbeing, it’s helping the elderly enjoy independence for longer, and easing the burden on strained care services.

With smart tech products, smart home installation, or even smart home design, we see opportunities aplenty in this growing sector.

Read the full article on smart tech to help the elderly. 

7. Modest fashion

Often connected with faith (although not always), modest fashion is becoming more and more mainstream.

Both H&M and ASOS have launched modest clothing lines in the last couple of years, and a number of modest fashion vloggers have attracted hundreds of thousands of subscribers online.

Could you set up your own modest clothing line? Become a modest clothing influencer? Or start an agency representing modest fashion models?

Read the full article on modest fashion.

8. Eco-beauty

The beauty industry is no longer able to ignore its ugly record on the environment.

It’s a sector that’s been heavily reliant on plastic, but with 83% of consumers saying they would choose a brand based on its sustainability, more environmental alternatives could be big winners in the UK’s £2.7bn beauty sector.

From refillable products, to skincare that uses waste materials like coffee grounds, the sector is already seeing a surge in planet-saving innovation.

Read the full article on eco-beauty.

Interested in starting a business? Building a website is a great way to get started.

Squarespace is a great choice for new businesses. It's easy to use and great for designing a good looking site.

With Startups you can use the discount code GIMME10 at checkout to save 10% on any plan.

Find out more about Squarespace now.

9. Craft teaching

As consumers crave more ‘authentic’ experiences, and ecommerce sites like Etsy open up the market for independent handmade goods, the popularity of craft workshops and craft teaching is booming.

Research from Eventbrite shows that the number of events offering lessons in everything from crochet to glass-blowing increased by an astonishing 350% from 2014 to 2018. Many craft fans espouse the therapeutic benefits of working with your hands.

Upcycling furniture, candle making and jewellery making are set to be growing craft areas in 2020.

Read the full article on craft teaching. 

10. Rum

What was created by slaves in the Carribean, played a central role in the American revolution, and was given to Royal Navy sailors as a daily ration until 1970?

Rum, of course!

We had the “ginnaissance”, and now it looks like it’s time for a “rummaissance”. 35 million bottles of this diverse spirit were sold in 2018, driven by experimental millenials in search of new tastes.

Like the craft beer and gin revolutions, flavour innovation and demand for more premium products are fuelling growth in the sector, and there are still plenty of opportunities for bold new market entrants.

Read the full article on rum.

11. Sustainable transport

The global economy relies on transportation, but it’s one of the worst offenders when it comes to the environment. Transport was responsible for 33% of all CO2 emissions in the UK in 2018.

Meanwhile, online sales are booming, having doubled over the last seven years. That means a lot of vehicles on the road fulfilling orders.

But sustainable transport options are growing. Carbon-neutral delivery services and low-emission courier fleets are saving the planet one trip at a time. Could you join the effort?

Read the full article on sustainable transport. 

12. Convenient and connected fitness

As January rolls around again, the nation’s gyms expect another surge in rarely-used memberships, resulting in an estimated £4bn in wasted subscriptions.

Wouldn’t it be easier if you could get the same results without leaving your house?

Solutions that make getting fit more convenient and accessible for all are seeing a surge in popularity, including live exercise classes streamed into your living room, and short, drop-in sessions.

Could you make big gains in 2020 with a connected fitness business?

Read the full convenient and connected fitness article. 

Henry Williams
Henry Williams

Henry has been writing for Startups.co.uk since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also contributed to many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Young Guns, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides. Before joining the team, he reviewed films for a culture website, and still harbours ambitions of being a screenwriter.