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Rural business ideas
15 min read

40 rural business ideas to start in the UK

Discovering the untapped potential of rural entrepreneurship in the UK can lead to exciting ventures and meaningful contributions to local communities. Whether you enjoy getting your hands dirty in the great outdoors or prefer to build your empire surrounded by home comforts – all can be achieved with the right research, offering and work ethic.

But before you pack your wellies, what sort of business opportunities are there in the countryside?

In this article, we explore 40 small business ideas in rural areas that capitalise on unique characteristics and emerging trends.

So, whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or a seasoned business owner looking to expand beyond urban life, let’s dive into this diverse landscape and uncover your next big opportunity…

Understanding the rural market

Before embarking on any business venture, it’s crucial to conduct research to understand the characteristics of the local market. 

Demographics of the rural market

As of July 2023, Around 10 million people live in rural areas – and the more rural the areas, the older the average age (and the faster this average age is increasing). A mix of retirees enjoy a peaceful lifestyle in rural areas, as well as younger families seeking a slower pace. Overall, ‘white’ is the majority ethnic group in both rural and urban areas, however urban areas tend to be more ethnically diverse.

In terms of net internal migration, it leans towards predominantly rural areas, and the rate of this migration has grown since 2011; the exception to this is amongst those aged 17-20 who are leaving predominantly rural areas in search of education and training opportunities.

Unique characteristics of rural markets

Rural markets are characterised by tight-knit communities, where word-of-mouth recommendations heavily influence consumer choices. With lower population densities, dispersed settlements, limited access to amenities and a strong reliance on agriculture and local businesses, local marketing strategies are not just a nice-to-have, but a necessity.

Rural markets are witnessing a shift towards sustainable living and eco-friendly initiatives. Prioritising tradition and heritage, rural dwellers are also driving demand for locally sourced goods and agritourism experiences.

Interestingly, two sectors have been identified by the Government as the joint largest based in predominantly rural areas in England:

  • The first is distribution, transport, accommodation and food (19%)
  • The second is public administration, education and health (19%).
  • Agriculture, forestry and rural affairs contributed 2% of rural England’s total economic output. The rural economy’s reliance on agriculture and primary industries does result in seasonal fluctuations.

Current market trends in rural areas

There’s a growing emphasis on sustainability, with increased demand for locally sourced products, eco-friendly initiatives and ethical practices across various sectors, including agriculture, tourism and retail. City residents are also moving to rural homes in their quest to live more sustainably. Rural homes often come with the potential to harness renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, to grow your own food and live a life more in tune with nature’s rhythms. As the climate change drum beats louder, being able to reduce your own carbon footprint by living off the land is an enticing concept for many conscientious consumers. We can’t see this trend budging any time soon as climate change will only continue to become a more and more pressing issue.

Despite challenges like digital connectivity issues in rural areas, there’s been a rise in remote working and digital connectivity – prompting some urban dwellers to relocate to greener and more pleasant lands. This has driven a surge in property sales and investment in rural infrastructure. The global pandemic undoubtedly altered views on the traditional work environment, with remote work becoming not just a necessity but a sustainable option for many.

Agritourism is also gaining traction, with more farms diversifying their revenue streams by offering experiences such as farm stays, tours and workshops, catering to the growing interest in rural lifestyles and agricultural education.

There’s also a rising awareness and appreciation for rural arts, crafts, and cultural heritage, leading to increased support for local artisans, festivals and community events – all successfully fostering a sense of pride and identity within rural communities.

Technology and rural business

Technology has undoubtedly revolutionised rural businesses by enhancing efficiency, connectivity and market reach. Access to digital tools and online platforms enables rural enterprises to streamline operations, manage inventory and reach customers beyond local boundaries. Technology also facilitates remote work opportunities, allowing access to specialised talent and collaborating with partners globally, levelling the playing field and fostering economic growth in rural communities.

Innovative technology solutions for rural businesses

Some examples:

  • Cloud-based software for streamlined operations and remote collaboration e.g. Microsoft Office 365, Google Workspace and Zoom help facilitate remote work, collaboration and communication among employees, regardless of location. All you need is internet access.
  • Digital marketing tools to reach broader audiences and track results e.g. Mailchimp, Hootsuite and Google Analytics.
  • E-commerce platforms for selling products online e.g. Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce.
  • Mobile payment systems enable transactions in areas with limited banking infrastructure e.g. Square, PayPal, Zettle and SumUp enable businesses to accept payments via smartphones or tablets, providing convenience to customers and facilitating transactions in remote areas.
  • Precision agriculture technologies optimise crop management and resource utilisation e.g. John Deere’s precision farming equipment, including GPS-guided tractors and crop monitoring systems, help farmers optimise yields and reduce input costs.
  • Satellite internet and mobile connectivity solutions bridge digital divides e.g. SpaceX’s Starlink provides high-speed internet access where traditional broadband is unavailable.
  • Renewable energy solutions like solar panels and wind turbines offer sustainable energy solutions, reducing reliance on traditional grid electricity and lowering utility costs. 

The role of internet access in rural business

Internet access plays a pivotal role, serving as a catalyst for innovation, growth and connectivity. It enables rural businesses to overcome geographic limitations by accessing global markets, connecting with suppliers and engaging with customers through e-commerce platforms and digital marketing channels.

Internet connectivity also facilitates remote work opportunities, enabling businesses to tap into a wider talent pool and reduce overhead costs. Access to online resources and cloud-based tools also enhances operational efficiency, decision-making and collaboration.

10 ideas for technology-based rural businesses

Having considered these factors, let’s have a look at some of the opportunities and potential rural business ideas in the technology space. 

  • 1. Smart agriculture solutions

    Offering solutions such as precision farming technologies, IoT-enabled crop monitoring systems or drone-based aerial imaging for efficient farming.

  • 2. Rural e-commerce platforms

    Creating online marketplaces tailored to rural products and services, connecting local producers with consumers nationwide. For example, Big Barn helps people to find and buy good, safe, accountable food from local sources and in the process encourages more food production to help build healthier, inclusive, sustainable food communities.

  • 3. Telemedicine services

    Offering remote healthcare consultations and monitoring for rural residents, utilising teleconferencing, mobile apps and wearable health devices to improve access to medical expertise and services in underserved areas. For example, Push Doctor works in partnership with the NHS to bring access to healthcare at the touch of a button.

  • 4. Renewable energy solutions

    Installing solar panels, wind turbines and other renewable energy systems in rural areas to provide clean, sustainable power sources, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and enhancing energy security.

  • 5. Rural tourism tech

    Developing digital platforms for promoting rural tourism experiences, including accommodation booking, guided tours and outdoor activities to attract visitors and boost local economies. For example, VisitBritain’s countryside section of its website offers information on rural destinations, while its annual five-day programme of virtual events ExploreGB – gives destinations and suppliers the chance to promote their tourism products and services to top global buyers and forge valuable business connections.

  • 6. Mobile payment solutions:

    Introducing mobile payment systems and digital wallets tailored to rural businesses, facilitating transactions in areas with limited banking infrastructure and empowering entrepreneurs to expand their customer base.

  • 7. Community broadband networks:

    Establishing community-owned broadband networks to improve internet access in rural areas, providing high-speed connectivity for businesses, residents and public services, bridging the digital divide and driving economic development.

  • 8. Agri-tech startups

    Launching innovative agricultural technology startups focused on addressing specific challenges faced by rural farmers, such as crop monitoring, soil health management and livestock tracking, to increase productivity and sustainability.

  • 9. Remote work consultancies:

    Offering consultancy services to rural businesses on implementing remote work policies, providing expertise in digital tools, cybersecurity and organisational management to enable flexible and efficient remote operations.

  • 10. Digital skills training programs

    Developing training initiatives to equip rural residents with essential digital literacy and technical skills, empowering them to participate in the digital economy and access employment opportunities in technology-related fields.

Rural business ideas focusing on agriculture

As you would expect, the agricultural industry offers many opportunities for anyone seeking to launch a rural business. Here are some of the trends and factors you’ll need to consider in this space. 

Innovative farming practices

Innovative farming practices in the UK are transforming agriculture with precision techniques like GPS-guided farming and vertical farming for sustainable, efficient production. Agroforestry initiatives are also gaining traction, integrating trees with crops to enhance biodiversity and soil health while separating carbon. These advancements promise a resilient and environmentally friendly future for UK agriculture. 

Specialised agricultural enterprises

Organic farms, heritage breed farming and hydroponic/aquaponic ventures are examples of niche agriculture enterprises catering to specific markets, such as organic produce enthusiasts, consumers seeking rare breeds, and urbanites craving locally grown, year-round fresh produce. Through innovation and niche focus, these enterprises contribute to the diversity and dynamism of the UK’s agricultural landscape.

Organic and sustainable farming businesses

These types of rural businesses are leading the charge towards eco-friendly agriculture. They prioritise practices like crop rotation and natural pest control to produce healthy, nutrient-rich food while minimising environmental impact. Engaging directly with consumers through farmers’ markets and online platforms, these farms build a deeper connection between people and their food, contributing to a more resilient and environmentally conscious food system.

10 business ideas that focus on agriculture

  • 1. Farm-to-table restaurant

    Consider establishing a farm-to-table restaurant that sources ingredients directly from local farms, showcasing the region’s agricultural bounty and supporting local producers while offering customers fresh, seasonal dishes with a traceable origin. Some great examples can be found on Country and Townhouse.

  • 2. Agritourism farm

    Create an agritourism destination by opening up your farm to visitors, offering experiences such as pick-your-own produce, farm tours, animal encounters and farm-stay accommodations, providing city residents with a taste of rural life and generating additional revenue streams for your farm. River Cottage, Cotswold Farm Park and Cannon Hall Farm are great examples.

  • 3. Specialty crop farming

    If growing is your passion, consider focusing on cultivating specialty crops such as heirloom vegetables, exotic fruits or culinary herbs that cater to niche markets and high-end restaurants, capitalising on consumer demand for unique, premium-quality produce.

  • 4. Organic dairy farm

    Transitioning to organic dairy farming could be your next rural venture, producing milk, cheese and yoghurt from pasture-raised cows fed on organic feed. This is a great way to meet the growing demand for organic dairy products and promote sustainable farming practices

  • 5. Microgreens farm

    Why not start a microgreens farm specialising in nutrient-rich, flavourful baby greens? You could supply restaurants, farmers’ markets and health-conscious consumers looking to add fresh, vibrant greens to their meals year-round.

  • 6. Heritage breed livestock farm

    How about raising rare or heritage breed livestock such as rare-breed pigs, heritage chickens or traditional sheep breeds? A great way to target niche markets of consumers interested in preserving biodiversity and supporting traditional farming practices.

  • 7. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

    You could launch a CSA programme where customers subscribe to receive a weekly or monthly box of fresh, seasonal produce directly from your farm, fostering community engagement and providing a reliable source of income for your farm. A great business model for starting a small farm.

  • 8. Value-added processing

    Adding value to farm products by processing them into artisanal goods such as jams, sauces, pickles, or baked goods is a great way to create unique, shelf-stable products that can be sold at farmers’ markets, shops and online platforms.

  • 9. Agricultural education centre

    If your skills lie in education, then consider establishing an agricultural education centre that offers workshops, classes and farm tours on topics such as sustainable farming practices, gardening and food preservation. Provide educational opportunities for both children and adults to generate additional revenue through ticket sales and event rentals.

  • 10. Vertical farming operation

    Consider catering to urban markets with fresh, locally grown produce by setting up a vertical farming operation using hydroponic or aeroponic systems to grow crops in a controlled indoor environment. This approach will maximise space efficiency and year-round production, while minimising water usage and pesticide use.

Service-based rural business ideas

Service-based businesses in rural areas hold significant potential due to tight-knit communities, an increasing demand for remote work-friendly services and a growing interest in sustainable living and eco-tourism.

With professionals seeking work-life balance in rural settings, there’s also a need for services such as co-working spaces and wellness centres. Catering to eco-conscious consumers also presents opportunities for businesses focused on environmental conservation and outdoor recreation.

Examples of successful service-based rural businesses

  • Riverford Organic Farmers: A farm-to-table organic food delivery service that started as a small family farm in Devon and has grown into a nationwide operation, delivering organic produce directly to customers’ doors. (“From one man and a wheelbarrow to 50,000 deliveries a week.”)
  • Giffords Circus: A travelling circus founded by Nell and Toti Gifford, known for its unique blend of traditional circus acts, live music, and theatrical performances, bringing entertainment and joy to rural communities across the UK.
  • The Hatchery: Offers networking opportunities and support services for entrepreneurs and remote workers seeking a rural work environment. It provides a range of workspace solutions for freelancers, startups and small businesses – from co-working to office spaces, workshops to meeting spaces.

The role of digital marketing in promoting service-based businesses

Digital marketing is the key to expanding reach and enhancing brand awareness in today’s digital landscape. Geographical location is no longer a barrier to connecting with customers.

Social media, websites, email marketing, influencer marketing, SEO – there are many cost-effective ways service-based businesses can capture attention and generate leads.

Through analytics, businesses can measure performance and refine strategies for optimal results.

10 business ideas for service-based businesses

  • 1. Mobile hair and beauty services

    Everyone needs a haircut, right? Consider offering mobile haircuts, styling and beauty treatments to rural residents who may have limited access to salons, providing convenience and personalised services in the comfort of their own homes. (You could even offer screen break packages to those working from home!)

  • 2. Pet sitting and dog walking

    If you love animals and being active, pet care services such as dog walking, doggy day care and grooming might be your purrfect (pardon the pun) match. These services are really helpful to rural residents who need assistance caring for their pets while they’re at work or away, offering peace of mind and companionship for their furry friends. Dog walking services are also helpful to owners who are sadly no longer able to walk their pet/s themselves.
  • 3. Home maintenance and repair

    Plumbing, electrical work and general handyman services are useful to rural homeowners who may struggle to find reliable contractors in remote areas.

  • 4. Event planning and catering

    There’s always something to celebrate! If you have great social and organisational skills, consider evening planning and/or catering events such as weddings, parties and other special occasions. Offer bespoke event experiences that showcase the beauty of the countryside and local hospitality.

  • 5. Outdoor adventure guides

    If you’re happiest in hiking boots, why not provide guided outdoor adventure experiences such as hiking, fishing and wildlife tours for tourists and locals alike?

  • 6. Remote administrative support

    Offer remote administrative support services such as virtual assistants, bookkeeping and administrative tasks for businesses and entrepreneurs who need assistance managing their day-to-day operations efficiently.

  • 7. Fitness and wellness coaching

    Provide personalised fitness training, yoga classes and wellness coaching for rural residents looking to improve their health and wellbeing, offering support and motivation to achieve their fitness goals.

  • 8. Home cleaning services

    Channel your inner Mrs Hinch to provide professional home cleaning services for homeowners who may not have the time or energy to keep up with household chores.

  • 9. Local tour guides

    Become a local tour guide and offer guided tours of rural attractions, historical sites and hidden gems for tourists looking to explore the countryside and learn about its rich cultural heritage

  • 10. Personal shopping and errand services:

    Providing personal shopping and errand services for rural residents who may not have access to transportation or nearby shops, helping them save time and hassle by running errands and shopping on their behalf.

Retail and hospitality business ideas

In the UK, rural retail businesses are diversifying their offerings with locally sourced and eco-friendly products. They’re integrating digital platforms for wider reach and focusing on experiential retail to engage customers. Community engagement remains key, with retailers supporting local initiatives to build loyalty and strengthen ties to their rural communities. These trends reflect a dynamic shift in rural retail, adapting to evolving consumer preferences and leveraging technology for growth.

Opportunities in the rural hospitality sector

There are ample opportunities for boutique accommodations, agritourism experiences, outdoor adventures and wellness retreats. With a growing demand for authentic and immersive experiences, businesses can tap into the charm and natural beauty of rural areas to cater to diverse traveller interests and preferences.

The impact of tourism on rural businesses 

It’s not surprising that tourism significantly boosts rural businesses by driving demand for local products and services, attracting visitors and creating jobs. Improved infrastructure and investment further stimulate business growth, while cultural exchange and heritage preservation enrich rural communities.

Tourism plays a vital role in sustaining and enhancing the economic and social vitality of rural areas in the UK.

10 business ideas for retail and hospitality businesses

  • 1. Artisanal bakery/café

    You can’t beat a cuppa with a slice of cake. Start a bakery/café offering freshly baked goods and specialty coffees in a cosy, welcoming atmosphere.

  • 2. Boutique hotel

    Create a boutique hotel with unique décor and personalised service, catering to travellers seeking distinctive accommodations.

  • 3. Farm-to-table restaurant

    Open a restaurant that serves locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, emphasising sustainability and supporting regional farmers.

  • 4. Vintage clothing store

    In recent years, vintage clothing has seen a significant surge in popularity due to its unique charm, quality craftsmanship and sustainability factor. Consider launching a boutique selling curated vintage clothing and accessories, appealing to fashion and sustainability-conscious customers seeking one-of-a-kind pieces.

  • 5. Microbrewery/taproom

    Start a microbrewery and taproom, producing small-batch beers and offering tastings and tours to beer enthusiasts.

  • 6. Outdoor adventure centre

    Offer guided tours, equipment rental and outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking and rock climbing.

  • 7. Bed and breakfast

    Convert a historic home or countryside property into a charming bed and breakfast, providing cosy accommodations and homemade breakfasts for travellers.


  • 8. Art gallery/café

    If you have an artistic eye and enjoy socialising, why not combine an art gallery with a café? You could showcase local artists’ work while offering patrons a place to relax and enjoy refreshments.

  • 9. Gourmet food truck

    Launch a gourmet food truck specialising in artisanal street food, catering to events, festivals and corporate gatherings. (Or consider a street food business that operates through premises or as a pop up and/or at street food markets and festivals!)

  • 10. Eco-friendly retail shop

    Cater to environmentally conscious consumers by opening a shop specialising in eco-friendly products such as sustainable clothing, zero-waste lifestyle goods and natural skincare products.

Steps to starting a rural business

Let’s quickly summarise the key steps to follow when launching a rural business (or any business venture for that matter!):

  1. Research: Thoroughly research the viability of your business idea in rural areas by understanding the needs and preferences of local residents. Analyse the competitive landscape to identify gaps in the market that your business can fill. Consider conducting surveys or interviews with potential customers to gather insights into their purchasing behaviour and preferences.
  2. Business plan: Develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your objectives, target market demographics, unique selling points, pricing strategy, and sales projections. Include detailed financial forecasts, such as startup costs, revenue projections, and break-even analysis. Your business plan will serve as a roadmap for your venture and help secure funding from investors or financial institutions.
  3. Legal requirements: Familiarise yourself with the legal and regulatory requirements for starting a business in the UK. Register your business with HMRC for tax purposes and ensure compliance with relevant regulations, such as health and safety standards, food hygiene regulations (if applicable), and licensing requirements specific to your industry.
  4. Funding: Explore funding options available for rural businesses, such as government grants, loans, or investment opportunities from angel investors or venture capitalists. Prepare a convincing business proposal and financial projections to secure financing that aligns with your startup capital needs and growth plans.
  5. Location: Choose a strategic location for your rural business that maximises accessibility for customers and suppliers while minimising operational costs. Consider factors such as proximity to transportation routes, availability of utilities and the potential for foot traffic or passing trade. (Online-only businesses won’t need to worry about physical location, but will need to consider online visibility through local SEO to ensure their business is found online by local communities.)
  6. Branding and marketing: Develop a strong brand identity that resonates with your target market and reflects the unique value proposition of your rural business. Create a marketing strategy that utilises a mix of online and offline channels to reach and engage customers, including social media, local advertising, community events and partnerships with other businesses or organisations.
  7. Operations: Establish efficient operational processes for the day-to-day management of your rural business, including production, inventory management, customer service and administrative tasks. Invest in technology and systems that streamline operations and enhance productivity, such as point-of-sale (POS) systems, inventory management software and customer relationship management (CRM) tools. (Different types of businesses will require different processes and equipment.)
  8. Launch: Execute your business plan and officially launch your rural business, leveraging your marketing efforts to generate buzz and attract customers. Monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) closely and be prepared to adjust your strategy based on customer feedback and market dynamics. Continuously seek opportunities for growth and expansion while maintaining a focus on delivering value to your customers and building a sustainable business in rural areas.
rural business

Marketing and customer acquisition strategies for rural businesses

Marketing a new business is a whole topic in itself but here are some quick points you’ll want to factor into your launch and ongoing operations:

  • Online presence: Get your house in order before you press the promotion button. Your website and social media platforms will help you reach customers beyond local boundaries and engage with a wider audience – ensure they’re informative, engaging, have clear calls to action and are device and user-friendly before picking up your marketing trumpet. 
  • Local advertising: Depending on your audience preferences and offering, utilise traditional methods like community newspapers, radio ads, signage and sponsorship of local events to build brand awareness within your rural community. (Read more: 17 ways to do effective local marketing)
  • Email marketing: Implement email marketing campaigns to communicate with customers, share promotions and build relationships. Personalising your emails to customer profiles and preferences will drive better results. A CRM system will help with this.
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO): Optimise your website content for search engines to improve visibility and attract organic traffic from people searching for products or services online that match your offering. (Read more: Search engine marketing for small businesses)
  • Community engagement: Establish strong relationships within your local community through participation in events, supporting local causes and providing exceptional customer service.
  • Word-of-mouth marketing: Encourage satisfied customers to spread the word about your business through positive reviews, referrals and recommendations to friends and family.
  • Targeted promotions: Offer special promotions, discounts or loyalty programmes tailored to the needs and preferences of rural customers, incentivising repeat business and customer loyalty.
  • Partnerships and collaborations: Join forces with other local businesses, organisations or influencers to cross-promote products or services and expand reach within the rural community. Jump onto social media to see which local businesses have a hefty social following to steer your initial search to aid exposure. Ensure your collaborations are thought through – they need to be complimentary offerings with similar audiences to give your business the best chance of generating new customers.

A few final tips

As you can see, rural Britain is certainly the land of opportunity for entrepreneurs looking for a life in the countryside.

A few final tips:

  • It goes without saying, but ensure you have – or get! – the necessary training and qualifications to start your rural business venture.
  • Consider working with professionals including an accountant and legal advisor to ensure everything is set up correctly.
  • Market research is crucial – gaps in the market, opportunities and challenges will vary area by area, as will the amount of competition you’re up against. Ensure you dedicate enough time to this phase of your business plan. Find the right offering in the right area and you’re giving your countryside career the best chance of success.
  • Network, network, network.
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