The biggest hurdle in starting a business is deciding what business to start. You’ve made the decision to start a business and become an entrepreneur, only to be stalled by the all-important question: What should I do to make money?
The decision of what business to start will dictate your overall business strategy, including how much capital you need to raise, what steps you need to take to jump start the business, what skills and expertise you need to bring into the business, among others.
When choosing a business, the key to remember is that the most successful businesses are those that are able to address the needs of a sizable customer base. Or in the case of highly innovative companies like Apple, they create products that people don’t even know they need, and then find these products as something they can’t live without.
But where do you find business ideas that will give you money? Business ideas are everywhere. Start by looking at your daily life and identify the problems that you normally encounter.
The existing products or services that you use may not be serving your purpose or may not be fully addressing your problems. You can rethink the product and modify it to fit your needs (just be careful and make sure that the new product you create will not infringe on any existing patents). There may be products that you use but doesn’t fully address what you want. When using these products, you end up frustrate and telling yourself, “I wish this product will do this or that…” You may be inspired to create a modified or improved version of the product to suit your purpose.
Or there may be no product that exists to serve your purpose. If you are experiencing the problem, chances are there may be other people who are also bothered by the same problem.
Take Rico Elmore, founder of Fatheadz, a line of sunglasses and prescription eye wear for customers with fat heads. At 6’3” and 300 lbs. with a big head to match, shopping for sunglasses that will fit and not give him migraine for being too tight is a challenge. With his big head, traditional eye wear just doesn’t fit him.
His epiphany came when he went shopping and tried on 300 pairs of sunglasses and not finding a single one that fits. He went out of the store frustrated – and determined – to make his own line of sunglasses that will fit his big head.
Elmore took something that already exists – sunglasses and eye wear – but reconfigured it to serve a previously untapped niche: people with big heads. His gamble paid off: Fatheadz is now a $2 million business. With America’s expanding waistline, he knew that a sizeable market exists. Fatheadz is well positioned to serve this growing market.
Sometimes you don’t even have to think of new functions, just a totally new way of presenting the product. Think of Starbucks: it did not invent coffee; coffee has been around for ages. But Starbucks gave coffee a gourmet feel and went to redefine how we all view and consume coffee.
You may also be bored of the available products, and you want to personalize it, add some zing to it or at least add improve how the product is presented. Take for example what Lindsay Phillips did to flip flops. She wanted to add some style and inject fun to flip flops, so she created wearable flip flop sandals with interchangeable straps. While she did not invent flip flops, her style improvement led to a multi-million dollar business.
You can also look for inspiration from other facets of your life and apply them in ways that have never been done before. Susan Walvius and Michelle Marciniak, both university basketball coaches, created a multi-million dollar bedding business by rethinking beddings and sheets by using performance fabrics used in athletes’ wear instead of traditional cotton or silk beddings.
“Five years ago, I wouldn’t have thought of putting our athletes in anything but cotton. But today, elite athletes wear only the latest performance fabrics because of the fabrics’ breathability and softness, as well as their moisture and temperature control. It makes perfect sense to introduce the finest of these fabrics to bedding.”
You may also be in a new phase in your life (whether by choice or not) — and then finding that the current products in the marketplace don’t fit your needs sufficiently. Or there may be no products at all for you.
Haralee Weintrub. in her battle with cancer, was looking for a special type of sleepwear that could handle her hot flashes and excessive sweating at night. She launched her sleepwear line to help people suffering from excessive sweating at night enjoy a more restful and comfortable sleep.
Erin Mckenna started a vegan bakery to offer sweets and baked goodies to those suffering from allergies, sugar sensitivities and other food limitation problems.
As these entrepreneurs have demonstrated, profitable business ideas can come from everyday life. The first step is to identify the “problems” (or even little irritants) in your life. Are there products you are using that are frustrating you because they’re not functioning as you want them to? Or do you have problems that none of the products can solve?
The second step is to determine if there are other people who are experiencing the same thing, and therefore will need your product. There’s no point in starting a business around one person’s need. For a business to be profitable, the market must exist.
There are a lot of potential business ideas out there — you just need to find it.
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