Top small business opportunities in Columbia

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COLUMBIA — Columbia's Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI) hosts an entrepreneur event, 1 Million Cups, every Wednesday morning from 9 a.m. - 10 a.m.

1 Million Cups describes itself as "a free, national program designed to educate, engage, and connect entrepreneurs."

Entrepreneurs in Columbia looking for new business opportunities have an easier way of trying to find the right type and location for their new business. 

According to LaunchScore, the top three small business opportunities in Columbia are data processing services, microbrewery and e-commerce consultants.

LaunchScore, a small business in Michigan run by Andre Laplume, started their business to help entrepreneurs find the right place and the right type of business.

“We’re professors at Michigan Tech and we realized that we could use the methods we were using – to predict what would be needed in a given city,” Laplume said.

Brittany Huhn and her husband, Scott Huhn, opened their data processing business in the middle of March.

Their company, Informed Solutions, offers computer repair, software installation and courses to help residents learn how to use computers or smart phones.

“Our main goal is to be out in the community and working with the community,” Huhn said. “We want them to use their technologies to the fullest.”

Huhn chose Columbia as the location for her business because she said there is a demand for her business.

“There’s just so much opportunity here,” Huhn said. “It’s hard not to pick Columbia.”

According to LaunchScore, they use machine learning algorithms on small business and city data to estimate the value of entrepreneurial opportunities across the United States. Laplume said they compared Columbia to similar cities.

“We compare Columbia to similar cities and their population and income,” Laplume said. “So if Davenport, Iowa, has X amount of microbreweries, we find that cities like Columbia should have X number of microbreweries too. But Columbia only has X amount, so it should have more.”

City of Columbia Business Services Manager Janice Finley said there has been an increase in the number of businesses.

“It increases every year,” Finley said. “We have about 700 new business licenses during the past license year and approximately 490 of those are located inside the city.”

Finley said they have seen a lot of Internet based businesses, massage therapies, microbreweries, restaurants, and assisted living businesses.

LaunchScore ranked the top ten small business opportunities as:

  • Data processing services
  • Microbrewery
  • E-commerce consultants
  • Corporate fitness consultant
  • Apparel-natural fiber clothing
  • Vegetarian restaurants
  • Energy conservation dealers
  • Fish and seafood markets
  • Solar energy systems dealers
  • Internet cafes

LaunchScore updates the list every three months.