Starting with a blank slate can be incredibly exciting. But there’s a fine line between the happy anticipation of starting afresh, and being so overwhelmed that you’re not even sure where to begin. What do you pick when you can choose anything? Generally, the struggle is either trying to choose one of many equally tempting ideas or striving to come up with a single idea.

No matter which end of the spectrum you’re in, following a few steps can help you to navigate to stable ground and make a great choice.

Be Passionate About the Idea

Start with a field you’re interested in or a purpose that you’re passionate about. At the core of every business is a passion or an interest that gives you the drive to keep going. It’s unlikely that every single day of your entrepreneurial journey is exciting, and that’s when you should be able to rely on your curiosity or your passion to keep you going. 

If you’re on the other end of the spectrum and trying to come up with an idea, this is a good place to start. List out the things you do just because they bring you joy. The things you do or think about even when you’re not obligated to. These are the areas that you can see yourself delving deeper into without losing interest.

Do You Have Skills, Talent, Experience or Certifications in This Field?

If you do, you’re at an advantage. Because it means you have a foothold you can use to wriggle your way in. The more qualifications, experience, or contacts you have in that area, the better your chances are that you’ll succeed.

You don’t have to be a master in the field, but if you’re able to do a lot of the ground work, you can cut down the expense of hiring a professional. Having skills, experience or qualifications on your side can also make a big difference when it comes to funding. It helps when lenders feel like you know your way around that space.

If you don’t have a business idea yet but you do have a field that you’re naturally interested in AND you have some skill in the area, point your brainstorming efforts in that direction. You’re probably in a good position to look for a gap in the industry, identify a problem that needs to be solved or a solution that needs improving. The many emerging eco-businesses are a good example of this. With growing interest in sustainability, customers are demanding more eco-friendly products, services and solutions that plenty of small, local businesses are happy to provide.

Can this Idea Definitely Be Monetised?

This is the clincher. You need to be totally realistic and practical about creating a stream of revenue from this idea. Will someone pay for this service or product?

Theorise on the business model you can use. It could even be a mix of different models. There are plenty to choose from – some businesses charge for a service, others sell a product or rent them out. Some services charge by the hour, others have a flat rate. There are Business-to-Business, (B2B), models, Business-to-Consumer, (B2C), models, retail models, e-commerce and manufacturing, to name a few.  And then there are variations of these models. 

Depending on your idea and business model, the space you’re operating in could be nascent or well-established. In a stable, long-standing industry there may be laws or accepted rules on charges and markups that you should take into account.

An accountant with experience in that industry can give you useful insights into business models that would work well for you. You could even merge two different models if that fits your idea better. Your accountant will be able to advise you on the best approach and it may not be as straightforward as you imagine. For instance, many of us know McDonald’s as a fast-food chain. But its main revenue comes from the lease that a franchisee takes out to operate an outlet on land owned by McDonald’s. So, its key product isn’t food, it’s real estate. 

At this stage, you’re just looking to explore different business ideas so you don’t have to put together a detailed plan yet.  Focus on coming up with an idea with a workable model that you can see yourself growing into a successful business. Back this up with figures from your accountant. 

And if you’re still stuck for an idea, these could give you some perspective:

Your Idea Is Not Likely To be Original

Nearly every idea has been done before in some form or another. So don’t lose your head trying to find the one thing that no one has done before. Originality is not the single most important predictor of success. Just focus on doing what you do well and as you delve deeper into your chosen field, you may stumble on a solution that hasn’t been considered before. So, you may find your unicorn a few years later rather than at the beginning. 

Dive into The Human Experience

Many business ideas that rose to unimpeachable popularity overnight actually tap into very human needs. A prime example is Facebook and the rest of social media. They largely tap into our need for connection and social approval. 

Similarly, observing the little joys, annoyances and difficulties of the average person’s day could give you loads of solid leads. Businesses that solve difficulties quickly become essential to people’s lives. Consider the case of ride-share apps that regular commuters find to be invaluable. 

Mix Things Up

Apply tried and true solutions to a different industry or a niche area. For example, an Airbnb type business that is only for people with pets.  Since you’re just brainstorming ideas, temporarily forget the rules and let your mind wander and you never know what you may come up with. 

Read as Much as You Can

Reading about different industries gives you more information to muse over and play around with. It helps to learn about all the different enterprises, trends and developments that are taking place all over the world. 

Be Introspective

It never hurts to look inwards. What are your current motivations? What are the services or products you wish you had to make your life better? Do you wish you had a simple way to meet people or key yourself into a network? A place to upskill that accommodates your busy schedule? Chances are that others share the same concerns. 

You know you’ve got a golden idea when you’re enthusiastic about working in that space and about the purpose your business will serve. When you have the skills required to work in the area or can acquire them easily, and when all this can create a stream of revenue. 

What we’re often led to believe is that every business needs to be the next Amazon in order to be labelled a success.  In reality, a successful business is one that meets your goals, whatever they may be. Some businesses run to meet financial needs, others provide more employment opportunities to specific sections of society and so on. Most importantly, your business ideas and goals need to work for you. 

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