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Butcher, Baker, or Candlestick Maker? Survey Identifies the Most Popular Small Business Start-Ups by State

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Karen Stoychoff

Which small business is the most popular in each state? A SurePayroll survey analyzed more than 600 Google search terms to find out.

2021 Small Business Popularity in Each State

Have you ever twirled around the idea of starting a store specializing in fancy dresses in Alabama? How tough is it to chip away at the competition if you’re looking to start a woodworking business in Michigan? What about if you envision sweeping the marketplace with a new residential cleaning service?

A September – October 2021 study commissioned by SurePayroll analyzed more than 600 small business Google search terms. The study sought to identify the most popular type of businesses Americans in each state dream about opening. The majority of Google searchers keyed in on how to start five small business types: clothing / boutique, home / yard renovation, online retail, food, and fitness. 

“Small business owners, as well as those who dream of one day lighting an open for business sign, recognize the value in learning about factors shaping the marketplace. Our search term analysis indicates that whether someone is ready to pursue small business ownership or expand and grow existing operations, understanding the competitive landscape is an important consideration,” said John Cumbee, SurePayroll General Manager.

Most Popular Businesses Start-Up Searches by State

Opening a boutique clothing store is the most popular Google search in Alabama, Kentucky, and seven other states. Home renovation and landscaping businesses tied with opening an online retail outlet—ala an Etsy or Amazon store—as the second most frequently searched small business type by state.

While there was commonality across the 50 states when it came to Google searches, three states—Georgia, Massachusetts, and Michigan—stood alone. In these three states, aspiring small business owners focused on how to start a business around home rentals and Airbnb, consulting, or woodworking, respectively.

a map of the United states with the most pular business in each state

Small Business Growth Remains Vigorous

Small businesses represent 99% – or approximately 31 million – of all businesses in the country. Small business growth is expected to pop up in cities large and small from coast-to-coast as people reshape their career dreams.

“Small businesses employ roughly half of the American workforce, accounting for up to 65% of net new jobs annually,” said Cumbee. “Not even a pandemic slowed the American entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, it may have even lent a jumpstart to small business startups.” In the third quarter of 2021, 1.31 million new business applications were filed.

According to a June 2021 report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, new business applications from the second half of 2020 through May 2021 mark the greatest on record since 2004.

The average monthly Google searches for “how to start a small business” in the U.S. increased 124% between the initial acceleration of COVID-19 in March 2020 and August 2020. 

Major Metros and Home States Frequently Diverged

The analysis also explored the most popular small business Google searches in major metros across the country. The top two small business types most often searched were related to fitness and Etsy shops. Interestingly, the searches conducted by Americans living in major metros differed from overall state in many instances. Texans searched most for terms related to opening a boutique, while people in five cities across the Lone Star State diverged, with top searches in Austin for Etsy, Dallas for home renovation, El Paso and Houston for transportation, and Fort Worth for fitness.

A map of the United Stated with each state featuring an image icon of the most small business in each state based on Google search volume per capita

COVID-19 Impacts Small Business Curiosity

The analysis also reviewed generic phrases to see how the onset of the pandemic influenced Americans and their interest in small businesses. The analysis considered per capita state averages to compare select search term performance from the pandemic start in March 2020 through September 2021.The average number of monthly searches for “easy business to start up” jumped 84% and “how to start an LLC” rose 83% during the analysis timeframe.


We analyzed more than 600 Google search terms related to starting small businesses to complete this study. For state-level data, we looked at search volume per capita averages over the past year and a half, comparing certain terms from before the pandemic to current times.

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