The past couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and start a business. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with a bunch of readers recently about all this entrepreneurship stuff and a few have told me they are interested in starting their own venture, but they’re stuck in the concepting phase.
They see that entrepreneurship is attainable for them, but they are unsure of the type of product or service they should offer. They are unsure how to identify what their business should sell or provide.
This got me wondering- if these readers are wrestling with this issue, maybe others out there are too…?
So I thought I’d take some time to really dig into this question and provide some practical guidance and tools to help you find a great idea for your next product or service or business.
Solve A Problem
A big design conference was being held in San Francisco in 2007 and all the hotels near the convention center were completely sold out. Two designers living in the city were struggling to pay rent and thought they could make some extra cash renting out their apartment to a few conference guests for the weekend.
They put three air mattresses on the floor in a small loft space and created a simple website advertising the air mats and showcasing their apartment. For only $80, a guest could get lodging for the weekend (and a free breakfast each AM for good measure).
A make-shift bed and breakfast was born.
The roommates had no trouble finding three individuals willing to take the deal and crash on the air mattresses. After the conference, they started getting emails from random people asking when they were going to expand their website to other cities like London and Tokyo and Buenos Aires.
They realized they were on to something- that this problem impacted way more than a few conference attendees in San Francisco.
So the roommates, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, spent some time expanding the platform and a few months later relaunched their site as Airbnb.com.
The Airbnb story is a prime example of a business that found success because it solved a real world problem. In that first weekend, the problem was the major shortage of lodging space in San Francisco. Many attendees that wanted to go to the conference couldn’t find a convenient place to stay. By opening up their loft and providing a safe place to crash, Brian and Joe became a solution (at least for three individuals initially).
So if you are interested in starting a business, launching a product, offering a service, but you don’t know where to begin, then begin where the Airbnb guys did.
Find a painful problem.
Figure out a convenient solution.
Sell that solution.
Sound simple? Well it’s not. Many entrepreneurs fail the first go around because the problem they are trying to solve actually isn’t that painful or the solution they think is brilliant is actually not much of a solution at all.
Doing this right takes time. It takes energy. It takes failure. It takes focus.
But when you finally nail it, you will find success.
So be on the lookout for problems- the next one you encounter might be your next business.
Improve On Someone Else’s Solution To A Problem
You use tons of products and services every single day.
Cars. Grocery Stores. Computers. Restaurants. Hair Dryers. Coffee Shops…
In some ways, all of these are solutions to problems that exist in our everyday lives.
But have you ever thought, “there has to be a better way to do this?” while using one of these products or services? Well you aren’t alone. As it turns out, finding an answer to this question is a great way to find an idea for a business, product, or service.
There are actually many large corporations out there that make a lot of money doing this all the time- improving on other’s solutions to problems.
One company that does this really well is Apple.
Apple didn’t invent the mp3 player, but it took existing designs and made the best player on the market (ala the iPod)
Apple didn’t invent the smartphone, but it took the idea and created the most popular phone in the world (ala the iPhone)
Apple didn’t invent the tablet… (you get the idea)
Why are Apple’s versions of these products so successful? Because they are better solutions to the problems the original products were designed to solve.
Now, I know this seems like an extreme example because Apple is, well, Apple. But the concept of building off from another’s solution works on any level- no matter the level resources at your disposal.
So what about in your life? What existing solutions are just not doing it for you? Start taking note of the products and services that you use on a daily basis and think about how it might be done better- it just might be the idea for your new business venture.
Hobbies / Skills / Passion
So maybe this goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. If you are interested in starting your own business, but you are having trouble figuring out which direction you should go in, consider taking a good look at Y-O-U.
What do you enjoy doing? What are you good at? What are you really passionate about? What wakes you up in the morning? What gets you excited?
Consider starting a business doing one of these things or serving a community that has similar interests to you. You probably already have a lot of valuable knowledge of products and services in these areas; you probably understand the customers and their needs; you probably have an idea of what it takes to be successful. So consider leveraging your experience, skills, or passion for your next business venture.
If you’re great at writing, consider launching a blog or writing a book.
If you enjoy photography, consider starting a photography service.
If you’re passionate about coffee, consider opening a coffee shop.
This is by no means a sure-fire way to find a great idea for your own business, but there are definitely numerous examples of businesses that have been inspired by a founder’s interests and passions. So take some time to examine your own hobbies, skills, and passions- the idea for your next product, service, or business may be hiding somewhere in there!
These are just a few examples of places to look for your next business, product, or service idea. They are by no means the only places to find ideas for businesses. But no matter where you look for inspiration for a business, if you want to find real success, then it is vital that you pay close attention to what is going on around you. The most powerful and impactful businesses are built by those that pay really close attention and figure out ways to provide great value to the world around them.
You could do this by finding a creative solution to a major problem.
You could do this by improving on someone else’s solution to a major problem.
You could do this by taking your own hobby, skill, or passion and turning it into a product or service.
If you’re struggling with the concepting phase and can’t quite find the right idea for your next business, understand that it can take a long time to work through this process. But if you pay close attention and stay focused…
…you will see problems that need solutions
…you will see solutions that can be better
…you will see how you might take your interests and turn them into a thriving business.