If you want your company to keep good company, start a business in Louisiana. Nearly half a million small businesses call the Pelican State home, and 99.5% of all Louisiana businesses are small businesses. Together they employ over 900,000 workers — 53.2% of the state’s workforce.
The boot-shaped state puts a big kick into the economy. World-renowned events such as Mardi Gras can pump over $1 billion into the New Orleans economy alone. Plus, the state’s 32 inland and coastal ports comprise one of the most extensive shipping hubs in the world, valued at billions of dollars for state and national economies.
Why These Businesses Made Our List
How did we find the best businesses to start in Louisiana? ZenBusiness did the legwork for you, analyzing the state’s economic trends and diving into the latest U.S. census data to track down underserved business types within the state.
In other words, when we scratched below the surface of the state’s data, we spotted a number of great business opportunities ready for entrepreneurs like you to dig into today. So read on, get inspired, and get started. Then, let us know when you’re ready to lock down the details on your new business.
Ready to work up your business plan and own your own business? Start by seeing our How to Create an LLC in Louisiana guide. Then, no matter the products and services, there’s plenty of opportunity to build new local businesses in Louisiana (see Louisiana State Fees and Cost for Applying for LLC). That’s especially true for trending businesses such as:
- Real estate
- Digital marketing
With a mixture of rural areas and close-knit small towns and cities, Louisiana has metropolitan areas with some of the most successful entrepreneurs, and 5 major cities have populations over 100,000:
- New Orleans
- Baton Rouge
From 2014 to 2019, Louisiana’s population maintained a steady 4.6 million, and GDP crossed the $240.5 billion mark, growing 0.6%. In 2019 alone, over 800 new Louisiana businesses set up shop (see Price to Start a Small Business).
The state’s overall business costs are 9% lower than other states. This helps fledgling businesses survive their first year, making it easier to maintain cash flow and grow operations.
In March 2020, Louisiana’s unemployment rate was 6.7%. While an array of industries call the Bayou State home, these 4 industries in particular have been growing statewide:
- Health care
- Social assistance
- Retail trade
- Professional, scientific, and technical services
However, Louisiana has its share of challenges, and the state’s rankings for business friendliness can range from medium to low. Fewer than 24% of Louisianans have a college degree. COVID-19 sensitivity is also elevated: 44% of Louisiana employees work in sectors that have medium-high and high exposure risks.
That said, Louisiana can be a perfect state for many businesses. Sole proprietorship or partnership? Corporation or LLC? Whatever type of business you want to form in Louisiana, here are some other factors to keep in mind when deciding what business to start in the state:
- Over 80% of businesses survive their first year of operation
- Business resources are available to aid startups
- Right to work state where 5% of the workforce is union-affiliated
- Over 53 million international and domestic tourists, responsible for $19 billion in spending and $2 billion in tax revenues
- Good cost-of-living and housing affordability
- Over 126,000 businesses are owned by minorities
- 81 public airports, including 3 international airports
- Small firms (fewer than 100 employees) represent the majority of small business employment
- Income tax rates and other taxation is not as favorable to corporations as other states
- Net new job growth statewide expected to track to long-term growth
Modern freight and travel infrastructure also includes six interstate highways, six deepwater ports, and six Class 1 railroads. The state is also the only Southern state — and one of only 2 states nationwide — where all six of America’s Class 1 railroads meet
8 Best Businesses to Start in Louisiana
With all that said, what are the best businesses to start in Louisiana? Here are eight to consider.
1. Start a Real Estate Business
Home values are on the rise in the Sugar State: Single-family homes and condos have a median home value of $171,504. And after a 2.9% rise during 2020, home values are expected to continue increasing at 4.3% in 2021.
Hot Louisiana real estate markets include:
- Baton Rouge
- New Orleans
- Shreveport-Bossier City
2. Start a Digital Marketing Agency
The energy sector has a $70 billion annual economic impact, and energy companies rely heavily on marketing resources for effective communication. From energy to tourism, Louisiana’s burgeoning economy also correlates with a growth in demand for marketing professionals.
There’s a continued rise in demand for traditional marketers, social media marketers, and more. Over the past decade, growth up to 47% in the state’s marketing industry has far outpaced the 12% national rate. Just look at the numbers:
- Public relations managers: 8% growth
- Marketing managers: 20% growth
- Market research analysts: 47% growth
3. Start a Home Improvement Contracting Business
In 2018 alone, Americans invested nearly $400 billion into improving their homes. From comfort upgrades to landscape transformations and climate systems to waterproofing, home improvement is expected to continue growing nationwide, topping $454 billion by 2023.
Louisiana requires home improvement registration for projects valued $7,500 to $75,000. The state also mandates that home improvement contractors have at least $100,000 of general liability insurance, among other requirements. Once you send in your Home Improvement Registration Application and the $75 filing fee, you’ll have one year to meet Louisiana’s requirements.
4. Start a Landscaping Business
From lawn care to tree pruning and irrigation systems to new plantings, Louisianans are looking for pros to help them improve and maintain their landscaping. Despite pandemic-related dips in 2020, the $99-billion US industry grew 3.3% 2015 to 2020, and is expected to rebound in 2021.
As you get started on your landscaping business planning, review the state’s guidelines for which services require a license, such as horticulture, lawn irrigation, tree removal, and hydro-seeding. Projects over $50,000 may require additional licensure too.
Also consider how you might specialize, such as design-build services, commercial or apartment complex landscaping, or residential landscape transformations using native plants.
5. Start an IT Firm
Starting in 2006, Louisiana began to build up its software development and tech sector. With IT employment adding around 1,200 jobs in 2019 alone, Louisiana has one of the country’s fastest-growing IT sectors. Now valued at $7.6 billion, tech momentum continues to blossom in the Bayou State.
Entrepreneurs seeking to build IT firms in Louisiana can put to work a growing workforce, partnerships with universities, and tech-focused tax incentives.
As you consider the right location for your IT firm, keep in mind North Louisiana’s “Cyber Corridor.” The I-20-centered tech hub brings together Monroe, Bossier City, Ruston, and Shreveport.
6. Start a Consulting Business
With key industries such as water management, energy, agribusiness, and advanced manufacturing, Louisiana’s competitive business sectors can also benefit from the expertise of consultants.
As external experts, consultants advise companies on strategy, long-term planning, current projects, and other areas where a business’s key decision-makers need an outside perspective.
Experience and a network of contacts can help you build your business, but neither is necessarily mandatory to get started. Consultants may need a business license, with requirements including pre-license education, an exam, and fingerprinting. The state also requires written contracts between you and your consulting clients.
7. Open a Beauty Salon
With around 4,500 beauty salons in Sugar State, owning your own salon can be a gorgeous path to running your own business.
Salons are regulated by the Louisiana Board of Cosmetology. You’ll need to be licensed by the state, including passing a written and practical licensing exam. Your birthday is also your license’s renewal date. When completing your license application, also prepare a $55 money order to provide to the salon inspector during their initial inspection.
Along with state guidelines and CDC recommendations for pandemic sanitation, also get up to speed on the typical startup costs for a salon, which can run into six figures depending on location, scale, equipment, and more.
8. Open an Ecommerce Store
U.S. online shoppers alone are expected to number over 278 million by 2024, and as Louisiana’s tech infrastructure grows, so does your opportunity to run your own ecommerce online store. Plus, in 2020, Louisiana launched a new ecommerce initiative to help small businesses sell online.
You may be able to run your store from a laptop at home, but there are still some important things to consider when developing your ecommerce business. What products will you specialize in? What platform will run your online store and process payments? Also keep in mind Louisiana’s business registration requirements.
More great businesses to start in Louisiana
While any of the above could be the best small business for many Louisiana entrepreneurs, they’re by no means the only great business ideas you should consider. Here are some more ideas for other great companies to start in the state of Louisiana:
- Advanced manufacturing: Infrastructure and favorable taxation are feeding growth for today’s innovative manufacturers.
- Water management: Extensive current industry expertise and the state’s geography and dynamic needs to manage severe weather events are growing the demand for additional water management innovation both on the coast and inland.
- Aerospace: Incentives and workforce programs are creating opportunity.
- Energy: From the legacy oil and gas sectors to new ideas in renewables, the energy sector continues to be a power player.
- Automotive: Low taxes and right-to-work laws make it easier to sustain and grow operations.
- Photography: Low startup costs combine with an array of events and natural attractions to continue to make photography a rich opportunity for entrepreneurs.
Louisiana is a state that rises to meet its challenges, and it has the infrastructure and environment that helps entrepreneurs establish and grow successful businesses. Whether you choose one of the companies above or the business you’ve been dreaming about, the best business to start in Louisiana is yours to decide.