I have started at least five businesses in my life. I’m currently on my 6th and 7th.
Some of them have been failures with thousands of hours and dollars poured in with them never fully getting anywhere. Others have been relatively successful — earning enough per month to live on and then being able to ultimately sell. I eventually sold or wound down these businesses before truly giving them a chance to grow.
That’s because my favorite part of starting a business is: The Idea.
I love coming up with ideas for businesses. However, for many entrepreneurs coming up with a viable business idea is a challenge.
Here are the three best ways to generate business ideas. Answer the following questions:
1. What Problem Do You Need Help Solving in Your Life Right Now?
Asking and answering this question is one of the best ways to come up with ideas for both products and services. Think of a problem you have in your life right now. Now, brainstorm solutions.
Here are a few examples:
- Problem: My kids need exercise, but we live in a cold state and it’s COVID-19 so there are fewer activities they can participate in.
- Business Idea: I would love to see some indoor exercise equipment for kids with gaming features built in. Think Zwift Cycling combined with Super Mario Cart. (If anyone knows of a product like this – please let me know!)
- Problem: We are two busy adults with full-time jobs and two young kids. Our house is always in need of being picked up, dishes done, and laundry washed and folded.
- Business Idea: Maids for “normal” people. House cleaning is a very common business. But what I would love is if someone came to my house every day for an hour and just picked up, washed and folded laundry, and did dishes. Our house isn’t very big and doesn’t need cleaning every day. But, due to the nature of our lives, I would gladly pay someone to take the daily tasks off our plates.
- Problem: We bought a new house and the inspection showed that it had radon. We hired a company to do radon remediation, but they are so busy they are booked out three months.
- Business Idea: Start a radon remediation company as there is plenty of demand.
Sit down and think of 5-10 problems that you or your friends or family have. Now brainstorm solutions. All of these are ideas for businesses you could start.
2. What Product Do You Look For, But Can’t Quite Find?
Do you ever find yourself looking on Amazon for products that seem particularly niche and you can’t find exactly what you are looking for? This business idea generation technique is built around that.
- Product I Look For: When my kids were young, I was always searching for long bibs with sleeves. On Amazon, I could find bibs with sleeves or extra long bibs, but not both.
- Business Idea: Create a long bib with sleeves. Sell it on Amazon and Facebook to like-minded parents.
- Product I Look For: When my kids were little, they were constantly spilling their cups (once we had moved them away from sippy cups). I didn’t like using plastic cups with them due to concerns about BPA, so I was trying to find a small cup made from natural materials that wouldn’t break.
- Business Idea: Create a small cup for little kids learning to drink out of cups that doesn’t break or contain chemicals.
To generate business ideas using this prompt, be on the lookout for niche products that you or your friends are looking for but can’t find exactly what you need.
3. What Features of a Particular Product/Service Do You Love — and How Can You Apply Them Elsewhere?
This is perhaps one of the best ways to think of new business ideas. Think of great features of products or services that you love that can be used on a different product.
- Feature of a Product I Love: My cycling shoes have this really cool snap system that allows you to custom tighten called “Boa.” (Probably named after a boa constrictor!)
- Business Idea: The Boa system could be applied to kid’s shoes so they don’t have to learn to tie their shoes. (Side note, I just googled this and it seems like one or two companies have just started doing this!)
- Feature of a Product I Love: My Apple Watch automatically unlocks my computer when I sit down to start using it.
- Business Idea: For any product you need to unlock (cars, houses, safes, etc.), create an app that allows an Apple Watch to unlock these items.
To generate business ideas using this prompt, think of features of products that you adore. Now think of other products this could be combined with or applied to.
The Bottom Line
Generating business ideas can sometimes feel like a frustrating process. But try answering the following three questions to come with an endless supply of ideas:
- What Problem Do You Need Help Solving in Your Life Right Now?
- What Product Do You Look For, But Can’t Quite Find?
- What Features of a Particular Product/Service Do You Love — and How Can You Apply Them Elsewhere?