7 Sources of Business Ideas

Business ideas are all around you. Some business ideas come from a careful analysis of market trends and consumer needs; others come from serendipity. If you are interested in starting a business, but don't know what product or service you might sell, exploring these ways of getting business ideas flowing will help you choose.

1) Examine your own skill set for business ideas.

Do you have a talent or proven track record that could become the basis of a profitable business?

The other day I spoke to a man who had spent years managing cleaning services at a hospital. Today he runs his own successful domestic and business cleaning service. An ex-logger I know is now making his living as an artist; he creates "chainsaw sculptures" out of wood. And the examples of professionals who have started their own agencies or consulting service businesses are legion.

To find a viable business idea, ask yourself, "What have I done? What can I do? Will people be willing to pay for my products or services?"

2) Keep up with current events and be ready to take advantage of business opportunities.

If you read or watch the news regularly with the conscious intent of finding business ideas, you'll be amazed at how many business opportunities your brain generates. Keeping up with current events will help you identify market trends, new fads, industry news - and sometimes just new ideas that have business possibilities.

For instance, same-sex marriages are now legal in Canada. There are now also entrepreneurs who are selling tourist travel packages that include a marriage ceremony to same-sex couples from other countries. Would you have identified that business opportunity when you heard that the Canadian marriage laws had changed?

3) Invent a new product or service.

Think back 30 years ago. Was there a huge demand for anti-virus software, Internet Service Providers, or desktop computers? No! The key to coming up with business ideas for a new product or service is to identify a market need that's not being met. The clamor for ever-increasing security, for instance, has led to an explosion of new security products and services, ranging from iris-recognition machines through home security services.

Look around and ask yourself, "How could this situation be improved?" Ask people about additional services that they'd like to see. Focus on a particular target market and brainstorm business ideas for services that that group would be interested in. For example, there are millions of aging gardeners across North America. What products or services could you create that would enable them to garden longer and more easily?

4) Add value to an existing product.

The difference between raw wood and finished lumber is a good example of putting a product through an additional process which increases its value, but additional processes are not the only way value can be added. You might also add services, or combine the product with other products. For instance, a local farm which sells produce also offers a vegetable delivery service; for a fee, consumers can have a box of fresh vegetables delivered to their door each week.

What business ideas can you develop along these lines? Focus on what products you might buy and what you might do to them or with them to create a profitable business.

Continue to page 2, to read more ways of finding business ideas.

Really. Once you develop an entrepreneurial frame of mind, you'll see that finding business ideas is just as easy as finding leaves on trees. Here are more ways you can generate business ideas:

5) Investigate other markets.

Some business ideas aren't suited to local consumption - but appeal greatly to a foreign market. My own little town is surrounded by acres of wild blueberries. For years the bushes produced berries that mainly fed bears and birds; B.C. has a thriving blueberry industry that doesn't leave room for a wild blueberry market. But one entrepreneur realized that there is a high demand for products such as these in Japan - and those same wild blueberries are now being harvested and shipped. Finding out about other cultures and investigating other market opportunities is an excellent way to find business ideas.

6) Improve an existing product or service.

You know what they say about the person who builds a better mousetrap. That person could be you! A local entrepreneur has created an improved version of the hula hoop; it's bigger and heavier so hula-hoopers can control it more easily and do more tricks. How did she come up with this business idea? She thought hula hooping would be a fun thing to do with her daughter, but found the commercially available product too flimsy.

There are very few products (or services) that can't be improved. Start generating business ideas by looking at the products and services you use and brainstorming ideas as to how they could be better.

7) Get on the bandwagon.

Sometimes markets surge for no apparent reason; masses of people suddenly "want" something, and the resulting demand can't be immediately met. For example, during the SARS epidemic, there was an insatiable demand for facial masks in several countries - and many entrepreneurs capitalized on this business idea.

A "bandwagon effect" is also created by larger social trends. There is much more of a demand for home-care services for the elderly than is currently being supplied. And the trend for pets to be treated as family members continues, creating demand for all kinds of pet-related services that didn't exist even ten years ago.

Look at existing businesses and the products and services they offer and determine if there's a need for more of those products or services. If there is, develop business ideas to fit the market gap.

Are you brimming with ideas for starting a business now? Write your business ideas down. Let them swirl around in your head and coalesce. And keep an open mind and continue to assess everything you read and hear from an entrepreneurial point of view. You don't want to run with the first business idea you think of; you want to discover the idea that's best suited to your skills and desires. Dream, think, plan - and you'll be ready to transform that business idea into the business you've always wanted.

By Susan Ward

7:37 AM

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