This has been a difficult year for companies of all shapes and sizes.  With the economy in shambles and literally billions of dollars being wiped off the books in the last 18 months, this has certainly been a trying time for many.  Newspaper headlines tend to focus on stories relating to the struggles of big corporations, but small to medium sized businesses have been struggling just the same.  While nobody likes to admit it, challenging economic times provide excellent opportunities for investors.  In many cases, the best investment opportunities in this climate may exist right in your back yard.

Currently, a lot of small businesses are struggling to make ends meet.  Many of them are successful, profitable businesses in their own right, but the credit crunch has stretched thin their operating resources.  In times like these, the natural instinct of many companies is to reduce their spending on marketing and advertising.  What they fail to realize is that sales and revenue are dependent, not only on existing customers, but on their ability to attract new ones.  Therein lies the opportunity.  If you are an investor, why not consider investing in some of these local businesses?

For example, one of our colleagues invested in a local florist last year.  They were a traditional bricks-and-mortar flower shop, and they were having a difficult time competing with some of the bigger online flower delivery companies.  The only thing preventing them from being competitive was their lack of technology infrastructure and expertise.  With a small investment of a few thousand dollars, they were able to build an e-commerce platform that allowed them to provide fresh flower delivery to a market well beyond their traditional reach.  They now specialize almost exclusively in international flower delivery.

By embracing technology, they were able to capture market share both in their local market and beyond.  It was a small investment in the grand scheme of things, but it made a world of difference for the business owner and the investor has seen an impressive return on his investment.  The lesson here is that there are countless investment opportunities out there for people willing to consider non-traditional investments.  If you are an investor, do yourself a favor and take some time to explore your local markets for new opportunities.  You might be surprised at the opportunities you find. 

Martin J. Corrigan has been dabbling in the markets for a number of years. One of the most important investing lessons he has learned is that sometimes the greatest investment opportunities can be found in the least likely of places.