Conceptualising a business.


1st April, 2021

How to come up with a business idea (that might actually work) for $0

The trick to coming up with a great business idea is to go wide – really wide – with your brainstorming. Thankfully, coming up with ideas is free, fun and fulfilling.

Starting a business might seem overwhelming. And it can be – but it can also be incredibly rewarding, both personally and financially.

Despite the challenges, you might even find that the path to success is simpler than you think – if you take it one step at a time.

The very first step is coming up with a business idea.

The second step is thinking hard about how viable your business idea is.

In this article you will learn:

    • 5 ways to come up with a business idea
    • 5 questions to ask yourself to determine whether it’s viable

5 ways to come up with a business idea

If you already have a business idea… congratulations! You’ve mastered your first challenge in becoming an entrepreneur.

It’s also possible that while you know you want to start a business, you don’t yet know what that business will be.

Here are five ways to come up with a business idea.

1. Listen to yourself (and others) complain

As you go through your days and your weeks, take notice of the things you – and others – complain about. By adopting a mindset of observing frustration, you’ll tap in to an avalanche of potential problems to solve.

At home you might find yourself complaining about how you can never find the right sized container for your lunch, the fact that the bin liners never fit snugly around the top of the bin, or that feeding a family healthy meals on a budget is a hard task.

When you’re out and about, you might notice that you’re frustrated that public transport often runs late, house numbers are impossible to read while you’re driving at night, or that there’s no easy way to compare the environmental impact of supermarket brands.

At work, replacing the printer toner might send you around the bend, focussing in an open-plan office might be challenging, or the granules of instant coffee and sugar on the kitchen bench might constantly need wiping up.

Get into the habit of identifying pain points in every day. What are the pain points you might be able to solve?

2. Monitor how you spend your time

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives, as the saying goes. Most people would love to spend more time doing the things they like and a lot less time on things that annoy them.

Giving people the gift of time can be priceless. Think about how you spend your time during the day – when does time fly and when does time drag?

What are the things that take much longer than they should? What would help to make it more efficient?

Which moments are spent joyfully? How could you help other people experience the same highs? How could you scale joy?

Figure out how to help yourself and others live their best lives and find a treasure trove of business ideas in the details.

3. Reflect on how you spend your money

Remember when you brought home a new puppy? And in the same week you spent $275 on dog toys and treats? And the following Christmas you couldn’t resist spending $95 on the most adorable elf doggy costume?

People drop clues about what they value by the way they spend their disposable income.

Take notice of the way you spend your money. Do you scrimp and save to afford a stunning ‘forever’ piece of furniture? Or do you scour the op shops for vintage finds? Do you splurge on fancy tea but begrudge buying a bottle of water?

Chances are there are others that value the same purchases as you do. What are the ways you could turn your buying preferences and predilections into a business concept?

4. Think three steps ahead

No one has a crystal ball, but there are plenty of professional trend-spotters and futurists taking educated punts at what the future might hold.

A quick Google search will turn up a bunch of results for individuals and institutions that systematically think about the future and develop theories about its trajectory. They use signals that exist in communities all over the world to help us develop foresight.

‘Signals’ are often things, technologies, prototypes or developments that look weird or strange and exist outside the mainstream. Futurists ask: What is going on here? Why? What is causing this situation?

Do some poking around the ideas and theories of futurists. Where do their ideas overlap? What might these ideas mean for people’s lives, and whether they become easier or harder, more integrated or less connected, happier or more frenetic?

What are the products, services or platforms that might make the future brighter?

5. Bolt two (or more) existing concepts together

Let go of originality. Think of all the excellent products and services that already exist.

Now start bolting two or more great concepts to come up with business ideas that are greater than the sum of their parts.

A one-hour drycleaner inside a gym.

A cafe that sells notebooks and stationery.

A hairdressing salon in the arrivals lounge of the airport.

Now you give it a try!

5 questions to determine whether your business idea is viable

To turn your idea into a business, you must first figure out if your idea is even viable.

Here are five questions you should ask yourself before you decide if you’re onto a winner.

1. What’s the need you’re fulfilling for your customers?

Businesses exist to help solve problems for people, so one of the first things you should be asking yourself is how your idea is going to help your customers.

Whether it’s a cheaper way for them to travel or a fun, new place to go on a Friday night, you need to be crystal clear in terms of how you’re helping them.

2. What alternatives already exist?

Chances are, some solutions already exist for the problem you’re trying to solve.

But don’t throw in the towel just yet! Just because other solutions exist doesn’t mean customers won’t want to buy yours, too.

Understanding what other choices your customers already have will help you understand if there’s room in the market for your solution, too. That will help you develop a better product or advertise it more strategically.

2. What’s better about your solution?

Knowing how your product or service is better than your competitors’ is worth its weight in gold. Literally.

Knowing what makes your business stand out will mean that more people find out about your business, which will (hopefully) lead to more money in the bank.

If you don’t think your idea is better than your competitors’, then ask how yourself how you can make it so. Sometimes the one-percent differences go a long, long way!

4. How can you validate your idea?

Ideas are just theories until you test them. The next stage of turning your idea into a business is getting real evidence that your business will make money.

There are a number of ways you can do this, and you can learn more about how to carry out market research here.
And if you can’t find enough evidence to prove that your idea will work, don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board – changing and adapting your idea is almost always necessary when building a successful business.

5. How will you execute your idea?

Once you’ve been able to prove that your idea is viable, it’s time to bring it to life.

Think about what you need to do to develop your first product or carry out your first service.

Who will your first customers be? How much money do you need to make your minimum viable product and deliver on this first sale?

All of this happens in the execution phase. Once you get here, congratulations! You’re well on your way to success.

Top 3 takeaways

  1. The first step to building a business is coming up with an idea
  2. The next step is finding evidence to support that your idea is viable.
  3. Don’t be afraid to change your idea or evolve your business if that’s where your research is guiding you.

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