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How To Find Good Ideas for Your Small Business

UPDATE: We recently created a new, more comprehensive list of 17 Ways to Find Business Startup Ideas on the blog. Click to see them all.

To the budding entrepreneur, one of the first problems with starting a new business is the question, “What shall I do?”

Light Bulbs—Business IdeasNo doubt there thousands who would love to start their own ventures, but they struggle to come up with an idea that guarantees success. Here’s how to come up with that great idea for your next project or business:

1. Look around. Think about problems you have, things that you use or try that don’t work right, or things you wish you had that would make life better. Can you fix any of these problems? This is what Morgan Lynch did. He was trying to get a new logo for an insurance product and became frustrated with the process. Instead he started a company and reinvented the way small business owners create a logo. Logomaker wouldn’t be here today if he didn’t ask, how could this be better? What do you see that needs fixing? What do you want but can’t find?

2. What are your interests? Can you code or design? Do you have a secret recipe or talent for catering? Are you willing to provide services like carpet cleaning or auto repair that potential customers can’t do themselves? Howard Shultz turned his fascination for brewed coffee drinks and the Italian coffee bar experience into Starbucks, the best known coffee brand in the world. James Dyson used his engineering expertise to find a solution for vacuums that lose their suction power, and launched an innovative new kind of vacuum cleaner. What can you do? Do you have a hobby or skill that would be valuable to someone else?

3. Check your local university’s tech transfer program. These programs specialize in helping university researchers partner with entrepreneurs to turn ideas into businesses. Some ideas are available for licensing, while others are more appropriate for spinning out into a new business. The tech office may even have funds available to help you launch. Typically the university will keep a significant percentage of the new company, but its a great place to look for patented, defensible product ideas. Click here for more details on this approach.

4. Search the Internet. A simple search for start-up ideas brings up millions of hits. Okay, lots of the ideas you’ll find (Lady Gaga impersonator or Bollywood Dance Instructor) aren’t going to be right for you. But as you browse the ideas others have thrown out, you may see something that is a fit for your skills and goals.

In his book Start Small, Stay Small, author Rob Walling lists several websites where you can find business ideas, including:

Wikipedia’s List of Occupations (grouped by category)
Entrepreneur’s List of nearly 1000 business ideas
Six Month MBA’s List of 999 Business Ideas
A List of 400+ Home Based Business Ideas
A Startup A Day—A once daily blog of business ideas
Idea Tagging—this one hasn’t been updated in a while.
SpringWise—a collection of new business ideas
Cool Business Ideas—another blog of business ideas

If one of those links doesn’t provide you with an idea, you should probably think twice about your desire to start a new business. As more than one person has said, “Ideas are easy. It’s the execution that’s hard.”

Good luck on your search for your successful small business idea.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Amber Ooley
Amber Ooley
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