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23 small manufacturing business ideas you can use

Here is the ultimate list of small manufacturing business ideas to guide you on your path to working in the manufacturing industry, including market size and real-world examples of the different sectors.

June 5, 2024
40 min read
James Humphreys

James Humphreys

Senior Content Manager

If you’re looking to start your own business but don’t know the best idea to pursue, you’ve come to the right place. 

You’ll be happy to know there are tons of great small manufacturing business ideas for budding entrepreneurs such as yourself to break into ⁠— hundreds in fact. But hundreds? Hundreds make it seem so overwhelming.  

That’s why we’ve looked into all the different small manufacturing business ideas you can invest in and narrowed it down to the 23 best.

However, unlike other guides available on the same topic, here you can find:  

  • The best small manufacturing business industries  
  • The market sizes so you can understand the potential of each idea  
  • Real-life case studies  

So, without further ado, let’s jump straight in. 

1. Candle making

Making candles is one of the greats for small manufacturing business ideas.  

You can make beautiful candles to sell at local craft fairs or online with a few supplies and some creativity. Candle-making is a relaxing hobby that can easily be turned into a profitable business. Here’s what you’ll need to consider when getting started:   

  • Choosing the right wax   
  • Choosing the right wicks   
  • Melting the wax properly   
  • Sourcing fragrance oils    
  • Molding the melted wax    
  • A space for cooling    
  • Trimming the wicks properly  

Once you can answer these small problems, you can consider yourself well and truly in the candle-making game.    

The market value of the candle-making industry

In 2020, the scented candles market size was valued at $533.5 million globally. Over the next several years, market value predictions suggest continued growth at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.3%.  

2. Craft-making

craft-making business is one of the small manufacturing business ideas that also focuses on creating handmade items.   

Many people start a craft-making business because they have a passion for crafting and want to share their creations with others. First, you’ll need to determine what type of crafts you want to make. There are many different options available, so it’s important to choose something you’re passionate about and feel confident in your ability to create.   

Here’s a small list of niches to get you started:   

  • Designer Bindi making  
  • Jewelry manufacturing  
  • Woodworking  
  • Glass Bead Production  
  • Embroidery 

The market value of the craft-making industry

In 2021, craft-making had a market value of $241.1 billion in the United States alone. By 2027, this is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.14% — which will be around $429.3 billion.   

3. Food and beverage production

Small manufacturing business ideas such as food and beverage production is the process of creating, you guessed it, food and beverages.   

The food and beverage industry is a large and complex sector that covers everything from agriculture to manufacturing to food inventory management to retailing. It employs millions worldwide and generates billions in economic activity each year. The industry is also one of the most important users of natural resources, including water, land, and energy.  

Here’s a list of nutty food production ideas you may have never even considered:   

  • Food coloring   
  • Potato powder   
  • Soybean meat   
  • Bakery  
  • Banana wafer manufacturing  
  • Iodized salt manufacturing  
  • Mineral water   
  • Packaged drinking water   
  • Baking powder  

Food production and beverage businesses come in all shapes and sizes, but all have at least one thing in common:

The need to produce safe, high-quality food.

The market value of the food and beverage industry

The global market size of the food and beverage industry in 2020 reached $258.80 billion. By 2028, that market share is expected to increase to $529.66 billion with a CAGR of 9.5%. That’s a lot of cheddar cheese. Fancy grabbing yourself a piece? 

Real-life manufacturers in food production — Hornby Organic

Hornby Organic makes organic energy bars which they sell via their online stores and at multiple retailers.  

Why should you care? They originally started their business producing and selling from an old garage. If your manufacturing startup ideas involved getting started with food production, Hornby Organic proves that action — even if it means working in a garage — is better than daydreaming about starting your business.  

Read all about Hornby Organic here. 

See Katana in action

$529.66 billion market value in the food and beverage industry. That’s a lot of cheddar cheese! Fancy grabbing yourself a piece? Request a demo and see how Katana can help.

4. Textile producer

How about some manufacturing business ideas that involve supplying other manufacturers? Now that’s going off the beaten path.  

A textile-producing business manufactures textiles and materials made from natural or synthetic fibers. The most common textile fibers are:  

  • Cotton 
  • Linen 
  • Wool 
  • Silk 

These fibers can be used to make a variety of products, including clothing, upholstery, and carpets. 

Textile production is a complex process that involves spinning the fibers into yarns, weaving or knitting the yarns into fabric, and then finishing the fabric to achieve the desired properties. The type of fiber, the kind of yarn, the type of fabric construction, and the finishing treatments all play a role in the final performance of the textile. 

The market value of the textiles industry 

Even though the industry’s market share in 2022 was $42.4 billion, there’s been a downward trend in the market’s growth over the past few years. Between 2017 and 2022, it decreased by 1.4%.   

5. Apparel and footwear manufacturing

When considering the optimal manufacturing business to launch, one that’s not only straightforward to set up but also highly recommended, many experts direct attention to the apparel and footwear manufacturing industry. This sector encompasses establishments that craft all sorts of apparel inventory, like clothing, footwear, and accessories, including managing essential aspects such as jewelry inventory.

Here are just some items you can consider manufacturing to become the next Tim Gunn:    

  • Belts  
  • Garments   
  • Jeans  
  • Jute bags   
  • Leather goods    
  • Clothing production  

The market value of the apparel and footwear industry

The apparel and footwear manufacturing industry is a major contributor to the global economy.

Retail sales of apparel and footwear goods worldwide exceeded more than $1.5 trillion in 2021. The forecast of this figure is expected to increase to $2 trillion by 2026.  

6. Brewery production

Brewery production, or microbrewing, is a small, independent brewery that produces a limited amount of beer.  

These small-scale manufacturing ideas are usually family-owned and operated and often sell their beer directly to consumers.  

There are many benefits to starting a microbrewery business. For one, you will be able to create unique beers that reflect your taste. You’ll also be able to build relationships with customers and get feedback about your products. Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to grow your business over time by expanding your brewing operations and selling your beer in more locations.  

The market value of the brewery industry

In 2021, the beer market share reached $100 billion in the US. However, what will be interesting for you to know specifically — as someone who wants to turn small manufacturing business ideas into a reality — is that 13.1% of that market share came from small and independent brewers.  

Cheers to small-manufacturer beers! 🍻  

7. Sports equipment manufacturer

Small manufacturing ideas like a sports equipment manufacturer typically design, manufacture, and sell sporting goods equipment.   

This can include everything from balls and bats to gloves and protective gear.  

In many cases, a sports equipment manufacturer will specialize in a particular type of sport or group of sports. For example, some companies focus solely on baseball or football equipment. Others may produce a wide range of products for different sports.  

Sports equipment manufacturers often work with professional athletes to design products that meet their specific needs. In some cases, the manufacturer may even produce custom-made equipment for an athlete — ensuring that the athlete has the best possible gear for their sport.  

The market value of the sports equipment industry

In 2022, the revenue of the sports equipment industry reached $17.44 billion in the US, with the market expected to grow annually with a CAGR of 4.86%. One thing to keep in mind is that the Chinese market is massive in the industry, accounting for $34,610 million in revenue in 2022.  

8. Furniture maker

furniture maker is one of those manufacturing opportunities that produces and sells furniture for your home, office, and anywhere else you can think furniture is required.  

The furniture maker may use various materials to create the products in their furniture inventory, including wood, metal, glass, and upholstery. Some furniture makers also offer custom-made furniture services to their customers. Furniture making is a centuries-old craft that has been passed down through generations.   

There are many different types of furniture that you can make. Some popular options include:  

  • Chairs
  • Tables
  • Beds
  • Dressers
  • Cabinets
  • Picture frames
  • Jewelry boxes (it surprised us too)

If you offer custom-made furniture services, your customers can choose their furniture’s style, material, and finish. This allows you to create one-of-a-kind pieces that they will cherish for years.  

The market value of furniture-making

In 2022, the furniture-making industry’s revenue reached a massive $25.7 billion in the US. However, since 2017, there has been a decline in the market size by 1.6%.  

Real-life manufacturers in furniture production — NatureWall

All-natural wall paneling, from Slatwall to 3D paneling, is sustainably manufactured by NatureWall.   

What can you learn from them? Certain e-commerce platforms, such as Shopify, cater more to small manufacturing businesses just starting. According to NatureWall, 90% of their business came from that platform.   

Read all about NatureWall here. 

9. Papermaking

Papermaking is one of those manufacturing startup ideas that many people wouldn’t consider — the process of turning cellulose fibers into paper.  

Cellulose fibers are derived from plants, and paper made from these fibers is recyclable and biodegradable. Most paper is made from wood pulp because it is cheaper than other plant fibers. Paper can be recycled several times before it needs to be replaced.  

And that recycled paper can be used to make new products such as: 

  • Notebooks 
  • Envelopes 
  • Packaging boxes   
  • Paper carry bags  
  • Disposable paper plates 
  • Even toilet paper 

Paper is also compostable, which makes it an environmentally friendly product.  

Paper can be used for various purposes, from wrapping gifts to covering walls. Paper is an important part of our everyday lives, whether it’s for writing, wrapping, or decoration.  

The market value of the paper making industry

In 2021, the market value for the pulp and paper making industry was valued at $351.53 billion globally. By 2029, with a CAGR of 0.72%, this industry’s market value is expected to reach $373 billion.  

While more modest than other small-scale manufacturing sectors, it’s still worth a shot if papermaking is your jam.

Real-life manufacturers in papermaking— Paper Republic

“I created Paper Republic six years ago, and to be honest, I’m not sure if at that time I had a very clear idea of what I was doing. I had just quit my job and was about to become a father. I had no experience whatsoever with paper or leather. Everyone was creating apps, and I was betting on paper. Companies were outsourcing to China, and I was committed to producing in Europe. The only thing I knew is that I wanted my freedom back — the freedom to do things that I thought were right, to be accountable for my successes and failures, and find meaning in what I was doing.” — Jérôme Bacquias.  

Read all about Paper Republic here.  

10. Health and beauty

health and beauty business involves manufacturing business ideas that produce products designed to improve skin, hair, and nail health and appearance.  

The business may also produce other health-related products, such as:  

  • Dietary supplements  
  • Cotton buds   
  • Diapers  
  • Ginger oil extracts   
  • Soaps   
  • Detergent powders   

Health and beauty manufacturing businesses typically have a team of scientists who develop new products and formulations. The business may also employ marketing and sales staff to promote the products to consumers. Some businesses may also operate retail stores or sell products through other retailers.  

Health and beauty manufacturing businesses must comply with regulations from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when producing cosmetics, skincare items, and other health-related products. The FDA has strict guidelines that businesses must follow to ensure their products’ safety. Businesses must also obtain a license from the FDA to manufacture these products.  

The market value of the health and beauty industry

In 2022, the global revenue of the health and beauty industry reached $534.00 billion. This revenue is expected to keep growing at a pace of 5.86% CAGR — probably due to the mass epidemic of self-consciousness created by social media platforms (to hazard a guess).   

11. Pharmaceutical manufacturer

It might not be as entry-level as making candles, but you could consider a career as a pharmaceutical manufacturer — a company that produces medications and other healthcare products.   

These products may be prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, medical devices, or biological products. Pharmaceutical manufacturers may also conduct research and development into new medicines and therapies.   

Pharmaceutical companies are regulated by government agencies such as the FDA. They must comply with strict safety and quality standards such as GMP to ensure that their products are safe and effective.  

The pharmaceutical industry is vital to the health and well-being of people worldwide. These companies provide lifesaving medications and therapies that improve the quality of life for millions of people. 

The market value of the pharmaceutical industry

It might be possibly one of the most intimidating industries where you can start a business. However, this is where you can find the big bucks if all goes well. In 2021, the pharmaceutical industry saw a total of $1.42 trillion globally.  

12. Chemical production

Manufacturing business ideas like chemical production typically refers to a company that manufactures chemicals used in various industries.   

Several steps are involved in chemical production, from raw material sourcing to final product packaging. The manufacturing process usually begins with mixing various ingredients in large vats or reactors. Once the desired mixture is achieved, it is then transferred to smaller containers for further processing or packaging.  

Chemical production businesses must adhere to strict regulations regarding the handling and storage of their products. They must also take care to avoid contamination of their products. Chemical production businesses must have proper safety procedures in place to ensure the safety of their employees and customers.  

The market value of the chemical production industry

In 2021, the global revenue of the chemical production industry was over $4.7 trillion — assuming you don’t break bad. 

13. Automotive parts manufacturing

Small manufacturing ideas like automotive parts manufacturing produces various components and systems used in vehicles.  

This can include anything in automotive inventory, from engines and transmissions to electrical systems and wheels. Automotive parts manufacturers typically supply both original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and the aftermarket. 

Numerous types of automotive parts can be classified according to their function or location in the vehicle. Some common examples include: 

  • Engines and engine parts⁠  
  • Transmissions and transaxles ⁠ 
  • Chassis components ⁠ 
  • Interior components ⁠ 
  • Exterior components ⁠ 

The market value of the automotive parts industry

In 2022, the automotive parts manufacturing industry revenues reached $62.2 billion. However, since 2017, the market size in the US hasn’t been so fast and furious and has decreased by 3.3% each year.   

Real-life manufacturers in automotive parts manufacturing — GJ Motorsports

Looking to upgrade your pickup truck? Then look no further than GJ Motorsports.   

Why should you check them out? GJ Motorsports handles a huge volume of products and materials, while only a few items are sellable. This business is a great source of inspiration for learning how to get your inventory under control.   

Read all about GJ Motorsports here. 

14. Health and safety

Manufacturing opportunities are everywhere, especially for health and safety manufacturing businesses — companies that produce products or services designed to improve the safety of people in their work environment.  

These businesses may make safety clothing, equipment, or signage products. They may also provide services such as consulting on workplace safety issues ⁠— another way for you to earn some extra money.  

Health and safety manufacturing businesses play an important role in keeping workers safe on the job.  

The market value of the health and safety industry

In 2021, the health and safety industry’s market size globally reached $6,125.2 million. By 2028, with a CAGR of 10.8%, this is expected to increase to $11,333.3 million. 

15. Toy making

Not all manufacturing startup ideas have to be intense. How about Toy making? The process of creating toys and games for children.  

This can be done by hand or using machines. The first step in toy making is to create a prototype of the toy or game. This prototype is then tested to see if it is safe and fun for children to play with.  

Toy making is a global industry worth billions of dollars each year. It employs millions of people worldwide and provides enjoyment for children of all ages.  

The market value of the toy making industry

In 2022, the market size of the toy making industry reached $308.21 billion globally. By 2030, with a CAGR of 4.7%, it is expected to reach $439.91.  

16. Plastic manufacturer

Suppose you’re considering small manufacturing business ideas that are outside the box. Why not create the box as a plastic manufacturer — a company that produces and sells containers or other items made from plastics.     

Most plastic manufacturers use injection molding to create their products.   

This process involves melting the plastic and injecting it into a mold. The mold can be of any shape, but most companies use molds that create cylindrical or rectangular containers. Once the plastic has cooled and solidified, it’s removed from the mold, and the manufacturing process is complete.  

Stuck for ideas? Here are just some of the items you can produce with plastic as a raw material:   

  • Water bottles   
  • Pens   
  • Toothbrushes   
  • Shower curtains   
  • Storage containers   
  • Disposable syringes   
  • Disposable cups 

The market value of the plastic manufacturing industry

In 2022, the plastics market globally was valued at $457.73. With a CAGR of 5.0%, this figure is expected to increase to $643.37 by 2029.   

17. Electronics manufacturing

Small manufacturing ideas include electronics manufacturing — a process of making electronic components and assemblies for use in various products.  

It involves a wide range of activities, from the design and development of new electronic devices to the mass production of finished products. The electronics manufacturing industry is a critical part of the global economy and plays a vital role in many sectors, such as:  

  • Telecommunications  
  • Computing  
  • Automotive  
  • Aerospace  
  • Consumer electronics  

The sector is also one of the most dynamic and rapidly changing industries, with new technologies and processes constantly being developed.  

The market value of the electronics manufacturing industry

In 2022, the revenue created by the global electronics manufacturing industry reached $1.6 trillion. The industry is seeing growth in the market share. Since 2017, it has increased on average by 1.7% each year. 

Looking for the perfect platform to manage your electronics business?

Katana’s cloud inventory platform equips you with all the tools you need to manage your electronics business. Everything from inventory planning to serial number tracking to barcode scanning.

18. Pet food and supplies

You could look into small manufacturing business ideas that aren’t catered for humans. The pet food and supplies manufacturing industry comprises establishments that make foods and snacks specifically for pets, as well as products like:  

  • Leashes 
  • Beds 
  • Toys 
  • Other accessories 

This industry also includes companies that make pet supplements. 

A few key trends have driven growth in the pet food and supplies manufacturing industry in recent years. The first is the increasing humanization of pets. As more people treat their pets like family members, they are willing to spend more money on premium food and products. 

Another trend is the growing demand for healthy and organic pet food. 

Consumers are becoming more aware of the importance of nutrition for their pets, and they are willing to pay a premium for products that meet their standards. 

The market value of the pet food and supplies industry

In 2022, the market size value of the pet food and supplies industry was $99.10 billion. In 2030, this figure is forecasted to increase to $139.29 billion, with a CAGR of 4.4%.   

Real-life manufacturers in the pet food and supplies industry — Puppy Cakes

Puppy Cakes aims to have its customers treat their pets as one of the family.  

Is your doggo’s birthday coming up? Get them a delicious cake that they can eat problem free. It doesn’t have to be extravagant— Puppy Cake also provides PA Department of Agriculture-approved food for your pets.  

Why should you take notice? If you’re hip and on TikTok, videos of dogs eating cakes and wearing clothes are all the rage. And all these TikTokers need to get these goods from somewhere. 

Read all about Puppy Cakes here.

19. Industrial repair

It could be argued that the best manufacturing business to start is producing products for industrial repair.  

This can include any MRO inventory, from replacement parts to new tools and machinery. Industrial repair product manufacturers work with various clients, including:   

  • Businesses  
  • Governments  
  • Organizations    

Industrial repair products manufacturing is a vital part of the industrial economy and is responsible for creating products that keep businesses running smoothly.   

Without these products, companies would have to replace their equipment more often, costing them money and time. Industrial repair product manufacturers play a vital role in keeping the industrial economy running smoothly by providing the products needed to repair or maintain equipment. 

The market value of the industrial repair industry

In 2021, the global market size of the industrial repair industry reached $40.25 billion. With a CAGR of 7.9%, this figure is expected to reach $72.46 billion by 2029.  

Real-life manufacturers in the industrial repair industry — Sylmasta

Sylmasta provides both B2B and D2C customers with adhesive repair tools.   

Why should you check them out? Firstly, many people and businesses have equipment that needs fixing, and Sylmasta provides them with a solution. Secondly, they sell to all clientele types, meaning they must separate and monitor different inventory levels.   

Read all about Sylmasta here.   

20. Cosmetics

Cosmetic manufacturing is one of those small-scale manufacturing ideas that refers to the process of creating cosmetics and personal care products.  

This can involve various processes, including:  

  • Formulation  
  • Packaging  
  • Labeling  

Cosmetic manufacturers must adhere to strict regulations set by government agencies to ensure that their products are safe for consumers. This includes ensuring your products are correctly labeled, there are no known irritants, and your cosmetics inventory is stored properly.

In addition to government regulations, cosmetic manufacturers also have to consider consumer preferences regarding packaging, labeling, and formulations. But don’t let all that discourage you. 

Here is a brief overview of some of the most popular categories: 

  • Foundations 
  • Concealers 
  • Blushes 
  • Eye shadows 
  • Mascara 
  • Lip glosses 
  • Setting sprays 
  • Herbal hair oil 

The market value of the cosmetics industry 

In 2022, the market size was valued at $262.43 billion. With a growth rate CAGR of 5.3%, this industry is forecasted to reach as high as $363.80 billion by 2028.

21. Coffee roasting

Small manufacturing ideas like coffee roasting businesses take raw coffee beans and roast them to produce various coffee products.  

These businesses may sell their coffee products wholesale or retail or provide coffee roasting services to other businesses. Coffee roasting businesses typically have a high degree of control over the quality of their products, and they may specialize in producing specific types of coffee.  

Coffee roasting businesses are typically small, independently owned businesses.  

The value of the coffee roasting industry

In 2022, the market value of coffee roasting reached $430.5 billion. Trends highlighted by the International Coffee Council suggest that coffee consumption will increase over the coming years due to South and East Asia demand for coffee on the rise. By 2032, with a CAGR of 5%, the market value for this industry is expected to reach $701.24.   

Real-life manufacturers in the coffee roasting industry — Raw Coffee Company

Some suppliers of coffee beans, which you will have to rely on as a coffee roaster, are less than savory, to put it lightly. 

This is why Raw Coffee Company ensures that their materials are ethically sourced from suppliers that treat coffee farms and their families fairly and pay them a sustainable wage. What should you take from this? You might be excited to get started and look overseas for the best deal on supplies, but make sure that your ambition isn’t putting someone else at risk. 

Read all about Raw Coffee Company here.  

22. Firearms

When it comes to manufacturing startup ideas, anything is up for consideration, like firearms production 

They may produce:  

  • Pistols 
  • Rifles  
  • Shotguns 
  • Other types of firearms 
  • Ammunition   

Firearms producers typically have a license from the government to operate their businesses. In some countries, producers must also have a license to sell firearms. 

There are several steps involved in manufacturing a firearm.  

The first step is to create the design for the gun.  

This includes deciding what materials will be used and how the gun will be put together. The next step is to procure the necessary materials. Once all the materials are gathered, the producer will begin assembling the gun.  

This process can vary depending on the type of gun being made.  

After the gun is assembled, it must be tested to ensure that it is safe and functional. Once the gun passes all safety tests, it can be sold to consumers. 

The market value of the firearms industry

Given the controversy surrounding these products, since 2017 and 2022, the market size of the firearms industry has grown 10.3%, and the market value in 2022 reached $19.6 billion in the US. Compared to the Consumer Goods and Services sector overall, the market size increased a lot faster than others. 

23. Cannabis

Let’s mellow out with the final entry to our collection of small manufacturing ideas — cannabis manufacturing.  

The cannabis industry is a rapidly growing sector focused on the cultivation, production, and sale of marijuana products. The industry has seen a surge in growth in recent years as more states have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. This growth has created a need for new businesses and jobs in the cannabis industry. 

The cannabis industry is comprised of a wide range of businesses, from small mom-and-pop shops to large-scale growers and retailers. These businesses are involved in all aspects of the supply chain, from cultivation of the plant to managing cannabis inventory to production and retail sales. The industry also includes ancillary businesses that provide services to the industry, such as legal and financial services.   

The market value of the cannabis industry

As more countries relax their stance on cannabis, you’ll soon discover this won’t be an industry that’ll… go up in smoke. 

In 2020, the market size of the cannabis industry reached $20.47 billion — it doesn’t seem like much. But, with a massive CAGR of 32.04%, by 2028, the market size of the cannabis industry is expected to reach $197.74 billion.  

James Humphreys

James Humphreys

Senior Content Manager
James Humphreys has produced content on manufacturing and inventory management practices for 5+ years. He began his journey into writing via the creative industry, writing and producing plays, some of which toured the UK and Europe.

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