by Joe Barton

There was a time when people were born into occupations. Craftsmen spent long apprenticeships learning a trade, inside and out. Though times have changed, businesses born from family traditions are still thriving all over the world.

These businesses are special because they have roots. For my family, it was baseball. My dad took our love of baseball and turned it into J&B Baseball Cards. My dad was willing to invest his hard-earned money in something I was passionate about, and his example was instrumental in my decision to start my own business as an adult.

What You Have to Offer

family business

If your family’s tradition, hobby, or “secret recipe” is something others find valuable and would pay for, it could lead to a profitable business. You’ve lived and breathed it your whole life, so you probably do it better than anyone else. Here are some examples of small family businesses I’ve seen that have the potential to be lucrative:

Homemade Goods

We had Amish neighbors who were amazing cooks, and they had a nice little side business selling their food to the public. Artisan goods are hot right now, and it’s easy to get involved with your local farmer’s market to sell jams, jellies, pies, etc.

Pet Services

We recently bought a puppy and have been learning how to train him by watching video tutorials. It’s a tough job, but if you love animals, you can run a side business training puppies, walking dogs, or even grooming pets.


My best friend learned the hard work required for a business from his father, and when he was 16, he fell in love with landscaping. Now, he’s one of the best landscape designers in the Midwest. If you know what grows well in your region and don’t mind hard work, landscaping can be a profitable family business.

Admittedly, these are more small businesses than global, scalable startups. But, with a little thought and innovation, it wouldn’t be hard to turn your family hobby into a global brand. It worked for Wal-Mart, Mattel, and Whole Foods.

Why It’s Viable

The key to viability is demand from others combined with the ability to provide a solution to a hungry market. There are two distinct advantages to creating a startup from a family tradition:


Research conducted by Anders Ericsson indicates it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice for someone to become an expert at something. When you start a business from a family tradition, especially if you’ve been immersed in it since childhood, you’ve dedicated the time necessary to learn and experience it deeply, and that puts you a step ahead of the competition.


Tight budgets are a reality for almost every startup. However, when you have the experience of a tradition, you can avoid major expenses, such as research on the trade itself. You already know the pitfalls to avoid and have likely determined the most cost-efficient materials or resources.

How to Get Started

The good news is that people want to buy local to support family businesses in their community. If you’re ready to try your hand at a tradition-born business, follow these three tips for success:

family business advantagesStart Small

Try to make your first dollar in the early stages, and don’t invest thousands in building something you’re not sure others want. Make your offering available to the public, make a small business investment, and see where it goes.

Keep Quiet

It’s natural to want to tell people when you’re excited, but be careful about deluging people with your enthusiasm. Some people may try to discourage you, but it’s important to believe in yourself and your idea.

Have Fun

When you make something a business, you can lose sight of what you loved about it in the first place. Don’t forget to have fun. Involve your family in certain areas so they’re a special part of the business. I include my parents in stories and reports, and they love feeling like a part of our company’s success.

Starting a business is hard, but the more you pour yourself into something, the more likely it is you’ll commit to it and succeed. There will be challenges, but when you survive them, you and your business will emerge stronger. Carry a family tradition into your work, and you’ll truly see roots take hold.

What is your advice to starting a business with family members?

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