Every business starts with an idea. Almost everybody has an idea for a business at some point. Most of these ideas never go any farther. On the other hand, there are many people who really would like to be in business, but don’t have an idea. If you are one of the latter group there are ways to help you find an idea. In every case, however, what you really need to start with is something that you feel passionate about, because without the passion, no business idea would ever come to fruition.
The purpose of a business is to fill a need for somebody else. The need might be a problem to be solved, or something that someone needs. So, when searching for a business idea, there are two basic questions to ask yourself, “What am I passionate about?” and, ”What problems can I solve?” Let’s look at how several entrepreneurs have answered those questions.
An example of solving a problem for someone comes from Mike Baldinger, a partner with Vitruvian LLC. Mike explained that he and his partners had achieved a certain level of success as software consultants for manufacturing and other heavy industry. One day, a sister-in-law of one of the partners who was the comptroller of a major hotel complained about how hard it was to process all of the tips for those that work at events at the hotel.
The group began working on a solution to the problem and also began making inquiries at other hotels, discovering that the same problem was common across the industry. The result was Evention, a software solution that is now used at numerous hotels, including members of the Hyatt Regency group.
Andy Nadler, the founder of Gnome Frenzy, knew that he wanted to be in business for himself, and was interested in the Internet, so he started out by reading books on e-commerce and e-retail. He also took advantage of training videos and other online resources to learn more about e-retailing from home. In particular, Andy learned how to take a category of business such as children’s clothing or home appliances and break it down into market niches that would work well in e-commerce.
Nadler eventually worked down the Home and Garden category and discovered a niche for people that love garden gnomes. About the same time, he discovered companies that produced garden gnomes that were branded with different universities. He felt that these branded garden gnomes would be fun to sell and that he enjoyed talking about them, since he is also a big sports fan. His site is now a major Internet business.
At times, personal experience and conviction can be the source of a business idea. John Slope of J & J Solutions had lived through the experience of a relative undergoing chemotherapy to treat cancer. He saw how difficult it was to administer chemotherapy, both for the patient and the healthcare worker. He also discovered that administering chemotherapy was actually a hazard for the person mixing and administering the therapy.
Based on this experience, John has created a remote, robotic device that improves chemotherapy by more accurately mixing the ingredients. It also greatly decreases the health risk to those administering chemotherapy by isolating the potent chemicals and delivering them into the patient’s IV without much less chance of exposure. J & J Solutions is currently testing prototypes of the device, and expects FDA approval in the near future.
At times, knowledge of current events and challenges in our society give rise to business ideas. Josh Novak, the founder of Greenworks ESI, could see that environmental concerns were rising all around us. Josh started out building energy efficient homes. When the downturn in home building arrived, Josh turned to industry. Many businesses were dealing with the problems of rising energy costs. Many large industrial businesses needed to find ways to cut energy costs.
Josh researched the field and found several complementary technologies that could help such companies save energy and cut costs. Several of the technologies were already established in Europe, so he did not have large upfront research costs. Today, Greenworks LLC is the exclusive distributor of these technologies in North and parts of Central America.
As you can see, there are an almost infinite variety of sources for business ideas. When you keep in mind what you are passionate about, and do the proper research, you will often come up with a great business idea.