You’ve spent weeks trying to think of a smart way to make money online. The harsh reality: not every online business idea has the potential to surpass the million-dollar mark.
It’s hard to distinguish the difference between a $1 million ecommerce business idea and a lifestyle business that generates passive income.
This guide walks through what makes a $1 million business idea, with examples of entrepreneurs who’ve surpassed the million dollar mark.
1. Make an existing product better
If you’re looking for a million-dollar business idea, know some of the world’s biggest businesses didn’t invent the wheel—they simply made existing products better, cheaper, or more functional.
- Geno Gym, a multifunctional workout bench that founder Will Torrez created after the COVID-19 pandemic influenced many people to buy home gym equipment.
- Skims, created when founder Kim Kardashian failed to find inclusive shapewear for different skin colors.
- PerfectDD, created after founder Alice Kim struggled to find clothing for women with a fuller bust.
In the case of PerfectDD, Alice Kim says, “Learning that the average bra size in the US is a 34DD and millions of women struggle with the same problem, I was inspired to create a solution and to be the voice for these underserved women. FYI, over 80 million women wear size D-cup and up in the US, making this easily a multimillion-dollar brand.”
2. Link sustainability
In the past year, nearly half of customers chose to buy from brands with a clear commitment to sustainability. Build a million-dollar business by finding a traditionally unsustainable business and making it better.
Take food delivery services, for example, which contribute $240 billion worth of waste in the US each year. Entrepreneur Nick Spina created Ethey as a solution. It has the same delivery functionality as mega brands like Hello Fresh and Gousto. The difference? All food scraps from the facility are sent to a worm farm, rather than landfill.
Nick says, “For the first five and a half years, we had successfully bootstrapped completely—no investors or outside capital. We kept reinvesting the cash flow of the business back in the business to be able to grow it.”
Now, Ethey has the capacity to generate more than $65 million in revenue. That’s set to reach $110 million with the introduction of its warehouse automation technology.
3. Start a wedding business
The wedding industry is valued at $160.5 billion globally. Capitalize on consumer spend by opening an ecommerce website that sells wedding products. Capturing just a small fraction of the market can help you build a million-dollar business.
Examples of trending wedding products to turn into a million-dollar idea include:
- Wedding stationery
- Local gourmet gifts
- Photography backdrops
- Wedding decorations
4. Dropship trending products
Dropshipping is a business model you can use to turn a tiny investment into a million-dollar business. Instead of paying for inventory upfront, your supplier charges you for the product once it sells. It’s the supplier’s responsibility to pick, pack, and ship the item to your customer.
Find trending products through tools like:
- Google Trends
- TikTok search
- Social listening tools
Once you’ve found a supplier for your dropshipping business, create an online store and promote your products on TikTok. The social media platform helped Tyler Macke, founder of SendAFriend, an ecommerce business that sells stuffed animals as gifts.
Tyler, an avid TikTok user himself, says, “I natively know what the trends are, what kind of videos are working well, or what kind of videos are going viral on TikTok. For me, it was fairly easy to say, like, “Oh, I was scrolling through TikTok last night and I saw all this concept and we can apply it to SendAFriend.”
5. Start a home-service business
The home-service industry is valued at $500 billion. Homeowners and renters splash thousands each year on home services. If you have handy skills, become a contractor and offer the following services to the local community:
- Interior design
Turn this into a million-dollar business by delivering on your promises—contractors are known for being unreliable—and scaling a team. The more hands you have on deck, the more projects (and money) you’ll get.
6. Create handmade products
If you’re a crafty and creative person, build an online store to sell your products. It’s a great business idea you can start from home with minimal startup costs.
Popular handmade items to sell online include:
Turn this into a million-dollar business by using finer quality materials. You could also hire people to help, freeing up space to take on more projects and reach the million-dollar mark.
Leslie Herrmann is the manager of My Way Stone, a jewelry brand that turns stones into custom jewelry. She says, “The idea came about during my wedding in 2017, when I went to the wedding location with my family and we picked up several stones that my mom made into custom jewelry for the bridal party.
“It has the potential to make more than $1 million, because of the innovative automation and family spirit behind the business. We had to do a fair amount of development to create a website that allowed our customers to really design their own jewelry. We have more products in the pipeline and are excited to continue to grow from necklaces to earrings, cufflinks, rings, bracelets, more shapes, etc.”
7. Private label supplements
Private labeling allows you to attach your own brand to another manufacturer’s products. It’s a million-dollar business idea because there’s no need to invest time and money into product development. Lean on an existing product to build your own company.
Because private labeling is easy to get into, a strong brand will be your main differentiator. Promix is an example of how to stand out in the crowded supplements market. Founder Albert Matheny used his food science background to build a personal brand around the supplements business.
“I have a gym in New York. I’ve trained people for 10 plus years,” Albert says. “I studied all this stuff for many years, and I’m an athlete as well. I really do try to live and breathe it and stay up on everything that’s happening.
“For me, that’s a point of differentiation for Promix. I can bring that to the table while interacting with customers. I still answer customer emails. I still help people with their nutrition. I know that other brands out there are not getting that level of customer service or personal attention.”
8. Package your skills into an online service
Help people who don’t have the skills you have (nor the time to pick them up) by offering services. It has the potential to become a million-dollar business that allows you to work from anywhere.
“You don’t need a million-dollar brilliant idea that reinvents the wheel,” says Alex Micol, founder of Scalers, who reportedly made $30 million last year. “If you understand the deepest depths of the social and digital ecosystems, you can bring in millions.”
Alex puts this into practice with affiliate marketing—a business model in which you get paid commission for products you sell on behalf of another retailer.
Alex says, “Choose a vertical that is a good fit for you, whether it’s because of your professional background or a personal passion, and dive into becoming an expert on that vertical while only pursuing opportunities within it.”
Other ways to sell skills online include:
- Graphic design
- Freelance writing
- Personal training
- Mobile app development
- Video editing
Offer consulting services or virtual tutoring sessions. People often pay higher rates for personalized, one-to-one sessions.
The secret to making millions with a service business is to scale. Build a team and create a mini agency. These employees allow you to take on more clients, and ultimately, make more money online.
9. Create an online course
Online courses are the natural segue for many service-based businesses, since you sell digital products rather than your time. Spend time turning your knowledge into online educational resources and sell them for years to come.
Take Jack Butcher, the owner of Tiny, a small portfolio of companies that collectively generate $100 million in revenue each year. Jack created Visualize Value, an online course to showcase his graphic design skills and turn business practices into simple illustrations. The course alone is a powerhouse of a brand, raking in more than a million dollars each year.
10. Start a YouTube channel
Viewers watch 694,000 hours of YouTube content each minute. If you’ve got a fun personality or intense knowledge on a given topic, start a YouTube channel and post regular videos.
Ways to monetize your YouTube channel include:
Take Ryan Trahan, a track and cross country athlete who started a YouTube channel. He posted videos about running, and dropped out of college with 30,000 subscribers with the determination to make YouTube a full-time career. His philosophy is: “I think all of us, as creators, have something unique about ourselves. You’re the only person that’s you. I’m the only person that’s me. And it actually matters. I think that matters a lot.”
It’s a bold move that paid off. Ryan now has more than 11 million subscribers and brand deals (including Shopify) that help him build a lucrative business on YouTube.
11. Sell corporate gifting boxes
Large corporate clients often spend thousands each year on gifts to clients or employees.
Capture this revenue by sourcing high-quality products in bulk at wholesale prices through online marketplaces like Handshake. Package a selection of items into a gift box and run marketing campaigns that convince large businesses to ship your gift boxes to their clients.
Go the extra mile with gift wrapping and customer service to make this an extremely profitable business idea. Just a $19.99 supplement for luxurious gift wrapping could bring you into million-dollar territory.
12. Start a subscription business
The subscription ecommerce market is tipped to hit $473 billion by 2025. It’s a great opportunity to build a million-dollar business, since there’s less pressure to find new customers. Those you’ve already got are billed automatically each month.
Package popular products, such as food, cosmetics, or pet toys into a subscription box. Use a Shopify subscription app like SubBox, Recharge, or BOLD to automatically bill customers each month in exchange for their box.
“I meet with every single entrepreneur we buy from,” Mallory says. “And every single one has business with a purpose. Their intention behind their products is to raise awareness, acknowledgement, change for their communities, and representation. It’s just so powerful to work with them.”
What makes a million-dollar business idea?
A million-dollar business idea is less about the idea, and more about the entrepreneur behind it.
Granted, some businesses produce more millionaires than others. But an entrepreneurial mindset helps turn standard businesses into million-dollar companies.
“Growing a profitable business is not an accident,” says Troy D’Ambrosio, executive director of the University of Utah’s Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute. “Founders must work hard to build their product, sales, and marketing. The idea is important, but it’s what a founder does with it that matters most.”
Business owners with an entrepreneurial mindset have the following skills:
- Confidence to step out of your comfort zone
The best part? These entrepreneurial skills can lead to investment that will propel your business into million-dollar territory. Take it from Jimmy Daly, founder of Superpath, who says, “The biggest thing is probably the stamina to turn a good idea into a million-dollar business.
“One of my old coworkers at Animalz recently left to start his own agency and asked if I’d be interested in investing in it. Starting an agency isn’t a unique idea, but there are plenty of million-dollar agencies. Having worked with him for a few years at Animalz, I knew he was persistent and I was happy to invest. I feel pretty confident that it’ll make $1 million per year within a few years.”
How to execute on your million-dollar business idea
Have you combed through this list of million-dollar business ideas and found one you’d like to execute? Here’s how to start your own business.
- Write a solid business plan. A business plan details every aspect of your business, from your target audience and market research to the strategies you’ll use to attract customers. Use this free business plan template to create yours.
- Create an online store. An online store allows you to sell products online and reach a global audience. Build your own ecommerce website with Shopify from just $1 per month.
- Develop a brand. A strong brand sets your business apart from the competition. Create a logo and tagline, and develop a brand story to help your products stand out.
- Market your business. The more people who know about your business, the higher your chance of turning it into a million-dollar company. Promote your small business through social media, search engine optimization, and entering awards.
Turn one of these million-dollar business ideas into a thriving company
It is possible to turn a small investment into a million-dollar business. And, the good news: You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
Solving a problem you’re experiencing, or making an existing product better, requires time and creativity—but has the potential to become a million-dollar business idea that brings massive success.
Ready to create your first business? Start your free trial of Shopify—no credit card required.
Million-dollar business FAQ
What is a million-dollar business?
A million-dollar business is a company that’s valued at more than $1 million. This calculation often totals the value of a company’s brand, inventory, and assets.
How do I start a million-dollar business?
- Find an industry with niche or mass appeal.
- Source products from a dropshipping supplier or manufacturer.
- Build a brand around your chosen products.
- Focus heavily on marketing to attract new customers.
- Expand your product line.
What are some million-dollar ideas?
- Dropship popular products.
- Start a YouTube channel.
- Create an online course.
- Start a wedding business.
- Sell a subscription box.
What businesses make millions?
- Finance companies
- Subscription boxes
- YouTube or TikTok influencers
- Wedding companies
- Dropshipping business