When people hear that my company Sprout makes pencils that you can plant and grow into herbs, vegetables and flowers, they often tell me they wish they had the same idea. But, actually, the idea is worth nothing if you cannot make a business out of it.
Good ideas are like gold. I know people who have spent their whole lives chasing a good idea. And always having an excuse for not launching their dream business and remaining stuck in their same unfulfilling job.
But here is the thing: good ideas are overrated. You don´t have to reinvent the wheel to make a successful business. An idea is absolutely nothing if you don´t take action!
Let´s look at Sprout as an example. The idea of a plantable pencil is good, but it was not mine. I didn´t get the idea, I just came across it and decided to act upon it by founding Sprout.
The idea came from a group of students at MIT in Boston back in 2012. When they got the challenge of developing ”the sustainable office article of the future”, they invented a plantable pencil with a capsule of seeds on the end. When the pencil is too short to write with, you plant the stub with the capsule facing down and soon it starts to germinate.
When I saw the idea on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.com, I thought it was a fun idea but I also saw an invention with great potential because of its uniqueness and simple way of illustrating what sustainability is about.
I got in touch with the students and they gave me the rights to sell, market and distribute the Sprout pencil in Europe. Surprisingly, we sold 75,000 pencils in the first few months – mainly to businesses and organizations that got their logos engraved – and this convinced me that a demand was there.
Today, I am the main shareholder of Sprout and I own all the patents and rights of the Sprout pencils and color pencils. We currently have 18 employees, with offices in Copenhagen and Boston, selling more than 450,000 pencils each month to over 60 countries.
It might sound easy but building up Sprout has not been a walk in the park. It has required a lot of effort to make this a viable business in spite of being a good idea.
The invention of a plantable pencil was surely original, but the students did not have the real interest, time, money or know how to turn it into a business. They were engineers with a passion for building a robot that could produce plantable pencils. If it had not been for someone from outside, perhaps the plantable pencil would only be for sale at MIT´s own museum shop today.
What I am trying to say is that the world is full of good ideas. We all get them now and then, some get them all the time, but what do we do about them?
It is the long, tough and at times tedious journey getting from idea to solid business that counts. I know a lot of business men and women who are doing great – not by disrupting or inventing, but by further developing products and services that have been around for ages.
So don´t wait for divine inspiration to come your way because you might be waiting forever.