Finding the Elusive Business Idea

So you want to start your own business but you have no clue what business to start? You’re not alone. Many successful entrepreneurs start with nothing more than the conviction that they want to start their own business. From there, they set out to find a great idea. Where do great business ideas come from?

Necessity is the Mother of Invention
Inventions aren’t just for rocket scientists! Consider Jack Kupka, who was fed up with inconsiderate drivers who parked too close to his van, making it impossible for him to deploy his lift and get into his vehicle. Out of frustration, he invented the Zone Cone, an ordinary traffic cone that has been modified with an easy-grip handle and an emblem bearing the words “wheelchair parking space.” When placed next to a vehicle, Kupka’s Zone Cone turns any parking space into an eight-foot, van accessible space.

Build a Better Mousetrap
Consider making your mark in business by improving on an existing process, product or service. Distinguish yourself by making something faster, more user-friendly, longer lasting, less harmful to the environment, more varied, more prestigious, more personal or less expensive.

Do Something Other People Hate
If you enjoy doing something that most others find unattractive or labor-intense, you may be in business! Pet waste removal, diaper services, carpet cleaning and window washing services are all examples of businesses that make money by doing things that other people hate.

Let the Market Tell You
Is your town screaming for a taxi service, daycare center or grocery store? A business idea doesn’t have to be new or innovative if it meets a need in the community. The RISE Program (Reaching Independence through Self Employment) helps entrepreneurs with disabilities in Maryland identify market needs by conducting a Targeted Industry Analysis (TIA). The TIA is a market research tool that identifies industries with the highest probability of success for new and expanding businesses within a specific geographic area. By identifying market opportunities, RISE participants can identify business opportunities that not only fit their personal interests but also have a high probability of success.

Turn Your Existing Job Skills Into A Business
The insight, connections and experience gained by working for others can give your business a head start. Those who are active in their field are usually the first to spot new and emerging opportunities—as well as jobs that could be done from home as an independent contractor. According to a study by the National Federation for Independent Business (NFIB), most successful business ideas come from the owner’s prior work experience.

Turn A Hobby or Special Interest Into a Business
Debbie Robinson turned her passion for home decorating and gourmet cooking into a profitable business. She left her job as a home economics teacher to “blow her own horn” when she started Trumpets, a home-decorating specialty store and coffee shop.

Buy A Business or Franchise
Purchasing an existing business or franchise are excellent alternatives to starting from scratch. These business opportunities already have a customer base, track record and operating processes in place that you can build upon. Newspapers, business magazines, banks and networking are all great ways to find out about businesses that are for sale. In this case, buyer beware. It is essential to analyze the past business performance to fully understand its future potential. An accountant can usually provide business valuation services to ensure a smart buy on your part.

If you read a newspaper on a regular basis, you’re bound to see certain issues coming up again and again—the aging population, heightened environmental awareness and privatization within government (to name a few). These are more than just news stories, they’re opportunities!

Fads are short-lived, widespread market sensations. It is almost impossible to determine with any certainty what the next big fad will be. Who would have guessed, for example, that pet rocks and beanie babies would have such commercial success? While fads tend to offer high returns in a short amount of time, beware—they come and go quickly and are nearly impossible to predict.

The key to finding the right business idea is being open to possibilities. When asked how they came up with their business idea, many entrepreneurs say, “It just came to me.” The truth is, however, that it probably “just came to them” because they were looking for an opportunity. If you’re hoping to find right business opportunity—keep your eyes, ears and mind open!

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