Plato said that necessity is the mother of invention, but if you've ever been struck by a sudden creative notion, you know that showers, falling asleep, waking up, and drinking your morning coffee can all be serendipitous moments when inspiration unexpectedly strikes.
If you woke up this morning with a great idea for a brand new service, product, or creation, let's talk about what you need to do to make your idea a reality.
There is nothing new under the sun, so the likelihood that your business idea is truly original is low. That doesn't mean that you should give up, though! What you need to do is consider how you can serve a new market share with your idea, or provide this service better than anyone else who is currently offering it.
• Look at successful businesses that already exist. Can you adapt those services and bring them to younger customers? Older ones? How do you hire talent for your startup? Those who have more? Young parents who struggle to get out of the house with their kids? Busy parents with school aged children?
• Look at businesses that already exist, but are missing opportunities. Are their webpages poorly designed and too dense to draw in a wide market share? Are they not reaching out to their platforms? Have they alienated part of their base through poor service or supply chain fails?
Business success doesn't just happen. Look for opportunities to change up the formula and offer something exciting.
When you have an idea of what your business will offer, then it's time to start digging down into the details. A full business plan isn't necessary at this stage, but it's very helpful to start getting ideas down on paper and organized. David Nazaryan, CEO of Digital Media Group, recommends you "Ask yourself the following questions before heading to a crowded space:
• Who is your target customer? Who will your business serve?
• What opportunities do you see to create market share?
• What research will be necessary to create your business? Your product? Your marketing plan?
• What costs will your business incur?
• What revenue streams will be available?
• What sort of branding elements will be involved? Will you be the best, the fastest, the friendliest?"
As you move forward with planning your business, keep this information close to hand. It can be updated, modified, changed, but it will help you stay focused.
Build Your Platform
If you're like many Americans, you've probably used social media up until now as a place to share selfies and cat pictures. Using social media as a professional is, obviously, rather different.
You may not be ready to start creating business pages yet, but start looking for the communities and local leaders that eventually may support your product or service, and start to work on making friends and inroads into this community. Don't pitch yourself as an entrepreneur; just be genuinely interested and interesting.
This also means that you need to approach your presence in a professional way. Don't make jokes that you wouldn't make at work, or in public. Be careful about how you address people, aim to be friendly and approachable. Remember, this is work towards building your personal brand and your eventual business presence.
There are a variety of funding sources available for new businesses and startups, and part of your planning should be considering which sources might be best for you. Some options:
Traditional lending through banks. Generally, banks want to see a very clear business plan before they are willing to loan money to a startup, especially the first time someone's looking at starting a business. Banks are probably the most conservative investors out there, but can often offer you the best loan terms.
Alternative lending. A variety of alternative lenders have emerged in the past ten years which offer loans to small businesses with less paperwork needed. These loans, however, may not have the same advantageous terms as bank loans; make sure to read the fine print carefully.
Grants or awards. From small business development centers to local Shark Tank style competitions, an entire business model has arisen around the concept of supporting local entrepreneurs with angel investors. Starting with your local chapter of the Small Business Administration can help you get advice on any local awards or grants that you might be eligible for.
Crowdsourcing. Some businesses have a great deal of success with Kickstarter and GoFundMe campaigns, but before you decide that this is your ticket to funding success, make sure to carefully research successful campaigns, and determine how your business idea could take advantage of the platform. Other funding may be more appropriate for your business model.
Becoming a successful entrepreneur is a difficult, intense proposition, but it's also an incredibly exciting journey. What advice would you give to someone just starting out?