“How did you get into business?” and “How did you come up with this idea?” are the questions I get asked more often when people learn I’m a CEO and founder. It’s understandable: being a business owner can bring professional satisfaction and financial freedom, but coming up with a business idea and leveraging it isn’t as simple.
Even so, according to this FreshBooks research, serial entrepreneurs operate up to three businesses throughout their careers. How come?
Getting a creative business idea is usually associated with building something completely new, never seen before, and world-changing. While a project of such proportion would be great, the reality is that most of the useful resources, products, and services have already been found or invented. Everything else is usually just an improved or upgraded version of what already exists.
If that’s the case, you may ask, how to distinguish yourself in the market and assemble a successful business from scratch? I’ve compiled five treasure chests that an entrepreneur-to-be can explore to coin their next great business idea. Learn how to actually think outside the box and build your company based on a solid project.
What makes a creative business idea good?
There are four main questions your business idea must answer:
- Does it solve a problem?
- Is there a potential market for it?
- Can you sell it for a reasonable price while still making a profit? Would your audience pay for it?
- Is it scalable?
However, the answers to those questions aren’t always black and white. Let’s dive into that.
It must solve a problem
The main goal of a product or service is to help the user do something or to make that action easier.
Maybe your idea solves a problem your audience doesn’t yet know, so you’ll have to devise ways to make your idea’s purpose obvious and desirable. The more evident the problem-solving qualities of your idea are, the more likely people are to buy it.
It must have a potential market
Besides solving a problem, there must be a market for your idea. Who will buy it? Where are those people? Is there someone else selling something similar? In fact, having competition is often a good sign that there is a market fit for your vision.
Regardless, you must also consider if your ideal audience is within your reach. For example, creating a local snow boot brand to sell in Ecuador (temperate, subtropical climate) wouldn’t make much sense.
It must generate profit
When you understand your audience, you’ll know how much it can afford to invest in your service. The final pricing must be reasonable to your segment and ideal customer, but it must also bring in profit.
For instance, you must consider all your investment to make the idea come true and evaluate if the returns are worth it.
There must be room for growth
A good business idea is one that can be improved and scaled over time. Once you start and stabilize your business, you’ll want to increase the customer base and profit more and more.
Suppose the idea is too specific, with no room to attend to different audiences or to adapt to the market’s evolution. In that case, your business will be at risk of having an expiring date.
Learn more: Our Product Development Process
1. Find a new way to solve an old problem
Many old problems can be continuously exploited to create new solutions as new technology emerges. We used to rely on paper planners to coordinate meetings and tasks; now, we can use a digital tool like Akiflow to solve the same problem.
As our means of production evolves, we can also develop easier ways to do things. Maybe even automate them, so we don’t have to do them at all. A good habit for any entrepreneur is to stay up-to-date with the latest technology and put your mind to thinking about what problems you can solve with them.
The opposite: repurpose old ways to solve a new problem
Most existing tools and services can have multiple purposes when perceived from different angles. Camping tents used to be for the ground only until someone decided to put them on top of a car roof.
Reflect on things you might already use for their “traditional” purpose and try to use them as solutions to other unexpected demands.
Look for potential problems
“Problems” are more often than not desires instead of needs, and only after the solution blows up in the market do they transform into actual needs. Nobody ever needed a smartwatch to go running properly. Still, now that having a smartwatch for that is an option, it has become a need.
Give yourself some room to be imaginative and futuristic and create problems and markets that have yet to exist.
2. Focus on being better, not original
If you’re waiting for your “eureka” moment to start your business, it might never happen. A completely original idea is a rare occurrence. Instead, you can concentrate your energy on making a better version of something that already exists.
Create affordable alternatives
A product’s original and first version is usually much more expensive than its alternatives. Look for ways to make the product more affordable and accessible to more audiences.
Important: getting inspired by an old idea doesn’t mean plagiarizing it. You’ll still have to make it different and earn your space in the market.
Combine different ideas
Mix and matching is a very common strategy to come up with a new product, both in the retail and the SaaS worlds. I combined a calendar, a task list, and automation to create Akiflow.
Observe products and services that fall under a similar category or attend parallel audiences and imagine a potential merger.
Investigate the competition
Another method is to observe what the competitors in your chosen niche are already doing and analyze how you would solve the same problem your way or how to improve their solutions.
Reviewing the competition is a great way to know what the consumer base is asking for and how other teams are attending to its needs.
3. Rely on your expertise
Your product or service will be top-level if you actually have the knowledge to make it the best possible. What have you been working with your whole career or for the past years? What did you study? What are your life-long hobbies? Focusing on your existing abilities can significantly increase your chances of success.
Another way to do that is to apply your skills and expertise to an entirely new field. Did you use to be a graphic designer in a marketing team? What about designing cool prints for t-shirts?
A sustainable business idea is all about understanding it deeply, solving any issues that might arise, and being ready to answer any questions and make quick decisions. The only way to be fully prepared for that is if your idea is based on something you already understand to its core.
4. Look beyond your borders
Nobody in the Western world needed sushi until someone brought sushi here. When one group of people likes something, others are likely to appreciate it too.
So, your next creative business idea might be hidden in a different country or culture that may inspire a viral product or service with your local audience.
Explore new markets
Although sticking to your expertise might be more secure and comfortable, you may surprise yourself with the sea of opportunities hidden in other niches. Take a look around for holes waiting to be filled in other markets.
Network with diverse people
If you stick to a social circle full of people that have the exact same perspective on all topics, you’ll never get a fresh view of things. Surround yourself with people who have different experiences, beliefs, and points of view.
Organizations with a diverse workforce outperform their competitors because they benefit from the value of idea generation from a blend of various opinions. Talking to people outside your comfort zone will expose you to a larger pool of potential business projects.
Exercise creativity with art
Creativity for problem-solving is no different than creativity to make and consume art. Put on some music and hang up some paintings in your office to keep yourself in constant contact with all forms of creativity.
In fact, our most creative ideas often come when during leisure and resting time. Taking some time to write, play an instrument or even draw some doodles might be what your brain needs to come up with a great idea.
5. Go for the “dumb” ideas
A great business idea is usually not at its finest when first put into action. It demands trial and error to evolve and improve until it fits the audience’s needs. Even if you think an idea is too dumb, give it a try if you have the resources.
Waiting for your concept to be perfectly constructed might squander months that could be better spent testing out “maybe ideas” that could perhaps become something extraordinary.
Instead of dismissing an idea because it doesn’t seem great from the start, challenge yourself to identify the heart of your “maybe concept,” try it out in a limited period, and refine it on the go.
Our success case: Akiflow Announces A Seed Funding Round
Sometimes the greatest ideas come from the most unexpected sources. Founders and entrepreneurs-to-be must keep their minds and eyes open to all sorts of knowledge and culture, and draw their projects from it.
Have you tried one of these tips to get your next creative business idea?