This post is part of a series called “Starting a Small Business,” where we look at the steps to start a business and make it big.
One of the hardest parts of starting a business is coming up with a good idea and taking the first steps to bring your idea to reality. An idea can range from a new product or service to an improvement on a current business to a common business such as web sales or a restaurant.
There are no rules on what can or can’t be a business, other than the laws of the countries you plan to operate it. The only real rule is finding a business that customers would actually spend money for. If you are the only one that would buy your product, it is a bad product.
The key to a successful product is fulfilling a want or a need. I know that sounds pretty basic, but it really is that simple. If you have ever thought, “this would be so much easier if I only had ____,” you have come up with a business idea. If you want to sell it to more people than your mom, though, it must be a common problem.
It is common for entrepreneurs to have an idea book. An idea book can be a notepad, a journal, a computer file, or a series of sticky notes. Just write something down each time you think of a want or need. Remember that everything from the Ford Model T to Google started as a simple idea.
Trying to come up with an idea is a much harder prospect. You can easily search the Internet for business ideas, but most are going to be franchise opportunities. If you want to own a franchise, it is fairly easy to find a franchise company and get started. Just search online to find franchise opportunities ranging from fast food and retail brick and mortar businesses to tax preparation and bookkeeping, which can be done from home.
Coming up with a new idea is much harder, though. Many new ideas require funding and hard work to get started (stay tuned for an article on raising capital later in the series). If you do come up with an idea, you have to be sure people are willing to pay you and that you can actually do it (there will be articles about that too).
The real key here is creativity. Think outside the box. Who would have ever guessed that millions of people would buy a Pet Rock, Beanie Baby, or Tamagotchi. Those silly trends made millions of dollars. Someone saw into the future and created Amazon.com and Netflix. Other entrepreneurs created Wikipedia and Mint.com. Each of those $1 per download iPhone apps and many Facebook applications generate enough money to live on. The 40 Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferris, describes a great money making idea as a “muse.” A muse can really be anything.
Keep your notepad handy and write ideas as they come. Abraham Lincoln failed twelve times in his career before he became one of the best remembered presidents in United States history, but that didn't stop him. Businesses fail for all sorts of reasons. The trick is to keep working on an idea until you get one that works. Never give up.
Please read all of the posts in the series: