Many top household brand names got their start during the Great Depression, using their simple products and skillful advertising to become successful survivalist entrepreneurs. They targeted industries with the perfect combination of low start-up costs, minimal requirements, and abundant customers. Look to these hardy business ideas for inspiration; one could help you and others get through economic hardship. These recession proof businesses from the great depression make great ideas to start even today!

Recession Proof Ideas from the Great Depression


Food Staple Business

More than half of the families whose businesses began in the Great Depression worked in the food industry. Starting small out of cars and homes, food entrepreneurs focused on lessening the impact that their business would have on their dependents.

Food staple pricing is fairly regulated and standardized, so your earnings will ultimately stem from your ability to keep your overhead costs low. The type of state food you service will also determine your earnings.

Learn how to start a food staple business.


Green Energy Business Image

As a way to reduce power costs, address widespread floods and droughts, and employ Americans during the Depression, hydroelectricity projects became quite popular. Green energy businesses focus on alternatives to fossil fuels as our primary energy sources. Wind, solar, and hydroelectric are all examples of go green energy.

Just as hydroelectricity modernized many rural areas, solar panels are now being used to modernize areas in need, such as the rural US’s “dead zones” for power. This is a great way to provide independence and security to those most at-risk during uncertain times. Take advantage of the lowering costs to enter this industry; learn about solar panels, partner with manufacturers to create different frames for solar panels, or pair your current skill with solar panels in a unique way.

Learn how to start a green energy business.

Ready to form your LLC? Check out the Top LLC Formation Services

And, use our free tools to help start your business:


Drive-In Movie Theater Image

The first drive-in movie theater was established in 1933 by Richard M. Hollingshead. After learning how inaccessible movie theater seats were for his mother, Hollingshead decided to give auto-loving consumers a new way to use their cars. 

Drive-ins are finding a resurgence in some markets that target their film selection and menu to older customers who look to relive their childhood. You may have a playground, arcade, and concession stand to improve your customer experience. Sound is broadcast over radio waves and received by each car's stereo system where they can control the volume.

Learn how to start a Drive-In Movie Theater.

4. eLearning Business

eLearning Image

Easily attainable education is extremely important when the economy is struggling. From 1929-1934 the number of high school students grew from 3.9 million to more than 5.6 million. Students actually stayed in schools longer because there weren’t jobs available to them during the Great Depression.

This was also a time for an evolution in education. Teachers unionized and received better working standards, state school budgets increased, and school segregation was challenged in court. Today, that evolution continues as educators discover more ways to keep students' attention, distribute education further, and prepare them for real-life hardships.

eLearning businesses may deliver formal education opportunities or informal opportunities. On the more formal end of the spectrum, accredited colleges and universities offer fully online degrees. On the less formal end, other eLearning businesses offer instruction on practically every subject, from basket weaving to gardening. If you can think of a subject, chances are you can find someone attempting to teach it online.

Learn how to start an elearning business.

Learn more about starting a business by visting the U.S. Small Business Administration.

5. Content Marketing Agency

Content Marketing Agency Image

The companies that thrived the most during the Great Depression invested in marketing. When one company faltered with advertising, another company with a clever marketing scheme was ready to make its move. Brands have caught on to this tactic, making marketing an excellent, always-relevant business.

While a content marketing agency focuses on creating content, the nature and purpose of that content may change from client to client. Some clients primarily want to increase their customers via traditional advertising, whereas others want content that integrates with their sales funnel and improves the process of gathering leads. Still other clients may want help developing their unique brand and creating a social media presence in which their target demographic may engage with that brand.

Learn how to start a content marketing business.

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