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The New Year is a great time to make some changes, and starting a business is one of them. If you are like most people, business idea generation is the biggest hurdle to achieving this goal. How do I choose the best idea? What is the best industry to invest in? Will the idea lead to a successful business? How do I plan and launch the business? Where can I get some unique ideas to invest in? These are some of the questions that this article seeks to answer.
Business Idea generation
Every successful business started with a simple idea which was molded and built to become the successful brands we know today. World’s richest entrepreneurs including Jeff Bezos of Amazon, the late Steve jobs of Apple and Zuckerberg are all products of simple ideas, so how are these ideas generated?
Hobbies and interests
- What are you passionate about?
- What are your hobbies?
- What makes your heart tick?
If you were not paid to do what you are doing, would you do it? If you can answer these questions, then you have yourself an idea. Besides, if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. Starting a business from your passion not only gives you the stamina to start and scale, but the drive to keep going when things are thick.
Apple Inc. is a classic example of an empire build from a hobby. After dropping out of college, Steve Jobs poured his heart in designing the first personal computers with color graphics designed mainly for beginners. The venture received amazing reception from computer users and created the business empire Apple Inc. However, founding Apple was not the highlight of Steve’s life, but being fired from the company he started. His burning passion for designing computers led him to start another company NeXt to continue doing what he loved. NeXt became another success story in Steve’s life and another chance for him to return to Apple as the CEO after NeXt was acquired by Apple.
This explains why a hobby is one of the best business idea generation sources. With a hobby, you don’t need a college degree, nor a million dollars in the bank, nor a luxurious office in the right neighborhood. All you need is right within you, your talents, your interests, your hobby and you are ready to take on the world.
Look around at changing trends in the society. What is happening around you? Are people becoming more anti-social, busy or simply lazy? Lori Cheek is one success story who started a business from observing that the society is becoming busier, and people have less time to interact and date. She started an online dating app Cheek’d which is fast revolutionizing the industry.
Lori Cheek’s story is unique since she understood the challenges of online dating and used them to create a product. Cheek’d app connects people in real time, implying that people get a chance to meet in person the first time, and continue the conversation online. The app notifies the users if someone meeting their criteria is within 30 feet thus can meet in person. The concept has enabled many people to meet and build relationships and gave Lori Cheek a chance to feature in the reality TV show Shark Tank though she was turned down by all the sharks.
Thus, look at the dynamics of the society, for instance, one of the biggest challenges in the US today is obesity, what idea can you generate from that? Think of insecurity, divorce, the plight of immigrants, teenage pregnancies, terrorism, unemployment, what ideas can you generate from this? Remember, the social problem is just a starting point; the idea lies in developing a solution to the problem.
Think of the challenges that you encounter as you go about your day. Think of challenges when making breakfast, when taking your kids to school, at work, taking care of your parents or even at your favorite eating joint. The story of Sheila Lirio Marcello is one that many American working mothers can relate to. Trying to strike a balance between a demanding career, family and parents is a hard nut to crack and this situation that led Sheila to create care.com. The trouble that she went through while trying to find care for her sick father and her two boys gave her an idea to create the website which helps families find care such as child care, seniors care, pet care, special needs care, and even housekeeping.
Today, her company has more than 9 million users operating in over 16 countries. Her story is a revelation that your challenges are not unique to you, there are millions of people facing similar challenges and are willing to pay for it. What frustrates you? Is it finding an apartment? Finding a good book to read? Moving stuff from one location to another? Or even the price of common household things. What can you do about it? There lies an idea right there.
Look at the products you use on a daily basis, do you think something can be done to make them better? Value addition as a source of business idea works best by improving existing products and services. King .C Gillette created the brand Gillette through value addition. Prior to launching the product, the only way one could shave was after sharpening the straight razor edge. King. C.Gillette felt the process was tedious and thus there was a need to add value to it, thus created a portable razor that was later adopted by P&G.
Today, Gillette is one of the oldest products that is used worldwide. Hence, look at weaknesses in your hair products, kitchen households, clothing, housekeeping, pet care or even beauty products. What can be done to make them more effective, safer, or last longer?
Traveling is not only a business idea generation source but one of the best ways to rejuvenate. In fact, if you want to live a more fulfilling life, experts recommend buying experiences as opposed to products and traveling is one of such experiences. However, don’t travel for the fun of it, but use the opportunity to look at products and services in your destination.
When Derek Beech and Collins Verdicchio took a trip to South America, they conceived an idea that led to Sumaq Alpaca Rugs. The North America -based company designs rugs using fiber from South-America which is considered to be softer. In order to appeal to the American market, Sumaq Alpaca Rugs were adjusted to suit the taste and style of local households, thus created a successful company. Thus, while traveling look at the hotels, businesses, products, meals, websites, or even clothing.
Note down something about all the things you see, which can be turned to ideas and explore them using the guidelines in the next section of this article.
How to research
Idea generation is just the first step of building a business. Unless an idea is implemented, it remains as just that, an idea. Thus, research on an idea is as important as generating the idea. The question that you are seeking to answer here is can the idea be turned into a business? Here is how to research on your idea
Can it solve a problem?
Regardless of the source of your idea, it must solve a problem. Having a great product is good, but until it can solve a problem, it will not add value to your life of that of your customers. Thus, you need to identify the problem that you need to solve and specifically how your product can solve the problem. Success lies at the point where your idea meets the problems of your target customers, anything outside that is a recipe for failure.
Fixing a nonexistent problem
When generating ideas, it is easy to let your mind go wild and this might lead conceiving non-existent problems. When Maxwell House designed ready to drink coffee, the idea was to make customers enjoy coffee instantly without having to make to make one at home. However, how many people actually hate making a fresh hot coffee? Thus, the idea was great but was meant to fix a non-existent problem.
In any case, many households find brewing coffee a family tradition that gives them a chance to bond, why is that a problem? Thus, ensure your idea is not fixing a non-existent problem. It helps to talk to family and friends about your potential product, their opinion can give you glue on whether or not proceed with implementation.
The solution exists already
So you have identified customer’s need, and designed a product or service but there is an existing solution to the problem. Why would customers find your solution better? When researching on your idea, look at all the existing products, and continue implementing your idea after establishing that you can offer a better solution to the existing one.
Classic example of this concept is yahoo and Gmail. Both products were designed to solve a need to communicate, however, Google’s Gmail succeeded by offering a better solution which includes email categorization into primary and promotion categories. Thus, ensure your solution is superior to existing solutions.
Is it scalable?
Your idea should lead to a product that is scalable or can be expanded. If your idea leads to a product that can serve your family members only, then that is not the best one to implement. A good idea should lead to a product or service that can grow, from family and friends to country level and even global markets. If your product targets a specific clientele, it should be scalable across many places.
Having conceived the idea, and conducting research, the next step is planning to invest in it. Planning strategies is all about determining where you want to go, and laying down the “how’s” to getting there. So how do you do it?
Scrutinize the idea
Here, look at all the aspects that are likely to affect the implementation of your idea. Look at the opportunities, competitors, economic viability, target market, the size of the market, political atmosphere. The best way to handle this is by having a detailed and comprehensive business plan. Details on writing a winning business plan will be covered in later sections in this series.
You don’t operate in a vacuum, thus talk to other stakeholders in the industry. This includes professionals with knowledge and skills in the sector, target customers, competitors and other players. After obtaining the feedback, make necessary changes to your idea to make is more realistic, practical and customer oriented.
If your idea leads to a product, develop a prototype of your desired product. This is to ensure that you don’t waste time and money on a product that might not meet your desired needs. If your idea leads to a service, you can offer free services to a small group of people including friends and family before launching it to the target market.
Have a great launching plan
Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression, thus plan to create an impressive first impression. Launching strategies are many and they range from offering free samples, a PR exercise or sponsoring an event. Advertising and marketing are important when launching your product.