So you want to start your own business. Good for you.
But what’s the first step? How do you raise the money? How do you get it off the ground? How do you protect your idea? And how do you find customers to keep it profitable?
This article is the first of a four-part series on how to launch a business. While we can’t tell you everything you’ll need to know, we can guide you with a few proven strategies for the first step of finding an idea:
1) Take a successful idea one step further – You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to create a successful idea, just make it better. Amazon started selling books online; Zappos offered only shoes; eBay was a portal to buy and sell Pez dispensers, and Netflix let you rent movies from home. Now, all are e-commerce powerhouses with advanced technology for secure purchases and extremely easy returns. So find an idea that’s already successful, think how to make it better, determine who the audience is, and discuss how it can make you some money.
2) Brainstorm with your friends – Ask some colleagues to join you to kick around a few ideas over pizza and beer. You’d be surprised at how the seed of an idea from one person can be spun off into different directions through collective creativity. If you want to teach your brain some techniques to generate more ideas, stop by your local bookstore, or visit Amazon.com’s “brainstorming” page.
3) Do some research – Look through this list of 2010’s 5,000 fastest-growing businesses from Inc. Magazine. Do you notice a trend? Are they online or brick-and-mortar? Are they all tech-oriented? Or are they just great ideas from small businesses that became very profitable companies? Follow their lead. If you can figure out a niche and see how it can generate income, it’s worth pursuing.
4) Keep it simple – The simplest business ideas are often the best. But if you can’t describe it in 60 seconds or (preferably) less, it may be too complex. Venture Capital companies want to invest in success, and the simpler the idea, the better it may sound to them.
5) Testing 1, 2, 3 – Test your idea with your family, friends, even strangers. Do some focus groups with a handful of people like ad agencies do for new products. Gather their candid feedback to improve on your idea in an iterative process. If it’s a solid concept for a product or service, it has a great chance to succeed. But if everyone dislikes it, it’s time to consider something else.