How to Come Up With Hundreds of Business Ideas
Given the chance, many people would start their own businesses. The numbers are overwhelming. According to a research by the University Of Phoenix Business School, 39% of employees hope to become business owners one day.
The younger they are, the greater the desire to own a business, with more than 50% of employees in their 20s hoping to become business owners one day.
So, what’s stopping them? While there are several reasons that keep people from starting a business, one of the major reasons is that most people don’t have a good business idea. They just don’t know where to start.
For some people, generating great business ideas just comes naturally to them. Think of serial entrepreneur Elon Musk. After dropping from college, he started Zip2, which gave businesses an online presence. He sold it to Compaq and became a millionaire. He then co-founded PayPal, an online payments and money transfer service.
After PayPal was sold to eBay, Elon went on to found several other companies, including SpaceX, Tesla, Neuralink, and the Boring Company. Clearly, coming up with business ideas is no biggie for someone like him.
While we might not all be like Elon Musk, the truth is that coming up with a business idea does not need to be so difficult. There are numerous opportunities to identify great business ideas, if only you know where and how to look.
Below are some ideas on how to come up with great business ideas.
FIND A SOLUTION FOR SOMETHING THAT BUGS YOU OR OTHERS
You might have heard that every successful business solves a certain problem. So, what better way to come up with a business idea than to find a problem to solve? Think about how Virgin Atlantic was started.
Virgin founder Richard Branson was trying to get to the British Virgin Islands to meet his girlfriend, but unfortunately, the airline could not fill enough seats to warrant a flight, so their flight was cancelled, leaving Richard and his fellow passengers stranded in Puerto Rico.
Not one to let such a problem stop him from seeing his then girlfriend and now wife, Richard chartered a plane, charged the stranded passengers $39 each for a ticket on his chartered plane and helped them get to the British Virgin Islands.
From there, he bought a second hand plane from Boeing and Virgin Atlantic was in business. Richard simply noticed that there was a problem in how airlines treated their passengers (they didn’t care much about passengers) and started a business to provide a solution for that.
You might not be ready to charter a plane or buy a second hand 747 from Boeing, but your greatest bet for coming up with a business idea is to come up with a solution for something that bugs you or other people near you.
Think about your day to day life.
What things do you find yourself complaining about? What do your friends, family, or colleagues regularly complain about?
If you can provide a solution for these frustrations, you have a business idea on your hands.
SOLVE PROBLEMS THAT MAY EXIST IN FUTURE
After becoming the richest person in the world, Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos plans to invest a huge chunk of his fortune on his space exploration company, Blue Origin. Why invest in a space exploration company?
Bezos believes that due to problems such as climate change, it might one day become necessary for humans to take industrial activities to space, where manufacturing can be done without a risk to planet earth and the survival of the human race.
If this happens, there will be a need for logistics companies to ferry finished products to earth. With Blue Origin, Bezos is positioning himself to become a logistics provider for space transportation, long before humans think of setting up the first industry on the moon or in Mars. He is working on solving problems that will emerge in the future.
Just like Bezos, you can come up with a business idea by thinking about problems that might need to be solved in future. Think about the future, brainstorm about problems and challenges that might emerge in that future and start thinking of solutions to these problems.
FULFILL A NEED
Apart from solving problems, another major reason why people pay from products and services is to fulfill a need. Do people around you have a need that is not being met? Is there a way you can help them meet this need?
There are a lot of businesses that are built to satisfy human needs. Consider products like green tea and other health and fitness products, beauty products, clothing, and so on.
These products try to fulfill the human need for esteem. When people look good, their confidence and their esteem gets a boost. Think of products like Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels.
These products help people fulfill the need for love and belonging.
Think of a way in which you can help people fulfill their human needs and see how you can turn it into a profitable business.
ASK YOURSELF “WHAT’S NEXT?”
Another great way to come up with a great business idea is to think ahead of the curve. Take a look at trends and technologies that are being developed today. What opportunities will these technologies create once they become ubiquitous? How can you take advantage of these opportunities? For instance, many tech and automobile companies today are working on developing autonomous cars.
While the technology is not completely ready, there is a high chance that all vehicles will become autonomous within the next one or two decades. What opportunities will self-driving cars create? For one, cars might become more of a service than a product.
In this case, there is an opportunity to start a mobility as a service business.
Alternatively, there might be a need to create software to manage fleets of autonomous cars.
All these are opportunities presented by technologies that are yet to take root. By starting on them today, you can be way ahead of the competition when the time comes.
So, try to think of current trends and figure out what opportunities will follow the trends and you will have a great business idea.
DEVELOP A CHEAPER VERSION OF AN EXISTING PRODUCT
How many times have you wanted to buy a certain product but could not afford it? How many other people do you think face the same challenge? If you could develop a cheaper version of the product, how many people do you think would be willing to pay for it? That right there could be a business idea.
Think of Chinese smartphone companies like Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo. With major smartphone brands like Apple and Samsung offering their flagship phones at ridiculously high prices, these Chinese brands saw it as an opportunity to offer much cheaper smartphones with an almost similar set of features. This definitely paid off, with Chinese Brand Huawei surpassing Apple to become the second largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.
Just like the Chinese smartphone brands, you can come up with a business ideas by looking for products that are in high demand and have prices that keep a large chunk of consumers out.
If you can come up with a way of developing cheaper versions of these products, that right there is a great business idea.
MAKE PEOPLE’S LIVES EASIER OR MORE CONVENIENT
People will almost always choose the path of least resistance. If you have a product or service that makes life easier or more convenient, most people will have no problem paying for it. There are a lot of products and services whose main aim is to make our lives easier or more convenient.
Instant noodles. Microwaves. Dishwashers. Vacuum cleaners. Ride hailing services. Meal subscriptions. Clothing subscriptions. All these products and services were developed to make life easier and more convenient.
Instead of struggling to come up with a completely new idea, just think of existing products and services and think of how you can make them more convenient or easier to use.
For instance, many people don’t like the trips to the local grocery store.
What if you came up with a subscription service where people pay a monthly fee to have a selection of vegetables and products delivered to their homes every Saturday evening?
Instead of simply offering your freelance writing services, why not offer a package where clients get a hands-free blog management where you come up with content ideas, write them, post to their blogs and promote them?
Simply find a way to make an existing product or service easier to use, less stressful, more convenient, or more user-friendly and you have a business idea.
HELP PEOPLE SAVE MONEY
Making money is not so easy, and at the same time, there are so many needs. Because of this, people will always appreciate any opportunity to save money. If you come up with a way to help people save a few bucks here and there, you have a winning business idea on your hands.
Think of products like energy saving bulbs and power strips, budgeting apps, coupons apps, water efficient shower heads, solar panels, and such other products.
Most times, they are more expensive than their alternatives, yet people still buy these products because they help them save money in the long run. Try thinking of things that cost you money in your day to day life and think of solutions that can help you save some of that money. If you can do that, you will have identified a great business idea.
FUSE DIFFERENT INDUSTRIES
What skills do you have? Would they be useful in a different, unconventional field? How about fusing two ideas from two entirely different industries? Fusing ideas and skills that are completely unrelated is a great way of coming up with unique business ideas.
A product like Google Glass, as well as other wearable technology is a result of fusion between the fashion and technology industries.
GE Healthcare came up with the GE Adventure Series of children-friendly MRIs by fusing MRI technology and entertainment. The Nike Shox shoes were adapted from Formula One racing shock absorbers. All these are examples of ideas resulting from combining totally unrelated ideas.
Try to think of two unrelated concepts that would go together and you might stumble on a great business idea. Can you apply the Uber or Netflix concept to different industry? Bingo! You have a business idea right there. Do you think something being done outside your industry can be successfully applied in your industry, even if the two are unrelated? That’s an opportunity right there.
Do you have skills in two or more fields? Is there a way to intersect these different fields in a unique way? If there is, you can turn it into a business with complete confidence that you will be the best at that unique intersection.
INVESTIGATE OTHER MARKETS
Sometimes, we cannot see ideas because they are not suited to our local markets. These same ideas would appeal greatly to foreign markets. I will use a very simple example to illustrate this. If you were born and live in an English speaking country, being an English tutor is not a very viable business idea.
However, if you came up with a way to package and sell your English classes to people in non-English speaking countries, for instance those who want to learn the language because they want to study in an English speaking country, there would be high demand for your services.
By investigating the market opportunities in other regions and cultures, you can find a business idea that might not be so obvious in your local setting.
Alternatively, you could also look at ideas that are working in other locations and see how they can be applied in your local setting. For instance, let’s assume that during a trip to a foreign country, you came across an on-demand vehicle repair service, which has not made it to your home country. You can copy the idea and apply it in your country or city.
TURN YOUR HOBBY OR PASSION INTO A BUSINESS
Do you have something you enjoy doing or something that you are good at? Is there something your friends constantly say you are good at, or ask for your help with? Is there something you always find yourself doing during your free time? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to start thinking of how you can turn whatever you enjoy doing or are good at into a business.
It doesn’t have to be a skill you learned in school. It could be anything – organizing parties, painting, writing, graphic design, social media marketing, drawing, you name it. If you are good at it, you can turn it into a business.
I have a friend who loves drawing. Most of his weekends are spent working on one drawing or another. For him, it was just something he did for fun. Sometime last year, he decided to draw a portrait of a girl he was dating as a birthday present. After presenting the drawing to the girl, her friends were impressed. A number of them asked him to draw portraits of them and offered to pay for the service.
That’s when it hit him that he had been sleeping on a business idea. From then, he has turned his passion for drawing into a little business that earns him a nice income on the side. Just like my friend, if you have something you are good at, there will be people willing to pay for it, so you should think of turning it into a business.
Apart from doing whatever you are good at in exchange for money, you can also turn it into a business by offering to teach others how to do it. If you are good at playing the piano or guitar, you can package your knowledge into an online video course and start a business teaching people how to play the guitar. The good thing with a coaching business is that any kind of skill can be turned into a business.
Even something as simple as asking girls out. Know how to talk to girls better than your friends? You can turn it into a business. There are lots of guys who want to learn how to as girls out and are willing to pay for the knowledge.
The point here is that if you have something you are good at and passionate about, you can turn it into a profitable business idea.
TURN YOUR DAY JOB INTO A BUSINESS
Another common way of identifying a great business idea is to look at what you get paid to do at your day job. Whatever you do at your current job – whether you are a web designer, a content writer, an accountant, a logistics manager, or any other job – you can step out on your own and build a business out of it. There are different ways to do this. The first one is the coaching approach, which I discussed above. Simply start teaching others what you are good at.
The second is to start your own company instead of working for someone else. For instance, if you are a web designer, instead of working for a web design agency, why not start your own web design agency? You can start as a one man business and then expand as business grows.
Of course, finding clients when you are starting will be challenging, but your own business allows you to charge your own rates and gives you the option of scalability, which you don’t have when working for someone else. To avoid starving as you hustle for your first clients, you should start it as a side business and then focus fully on it once you are confident that it can provide you with a sufficient income.
Alternatively, you can start offering consultation services within your field. Another option is find a way to automate your work process and then offer it as an app or software.
Think of businesses like Buffer, Hootsuite, Asana, Basecamp, MailChimp, Hubspot, Shopify, Zendesk, and other business automation tools. The founders of these services came up with a way to automate their work processes and created businesses out of these process. If you can find a way to automate your day job, you have a winning business idea.
TALK TO CONSUMERS
Another way to come up with a winning business idea is to actually talk to consumers and find out their needs and requirements. Let’s assume you are interested in the fashion industry, but you don’t have an idea on what kind of fashion related business you should start. Go out and talk to shoppers and find out what they need. Go to fashion stores and talk to the customers.
Run online surveys and ask customers what they wish they could find when shopping for clothes and fashion industries. By talking to the actual consumers, you might uncover something that has been ignored by existing businesses and use it to come up with a unique business.
The best part about talking to consumers is that you will be confident that there is a demand for your idea.
ADD VALUE TO OR IMPROVE EXISTING PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
You can also come up with great business ideas by finding ways to add value to existing products. Think about products that you and your family, friends, and colleagues use on a day to day basis. Is there a way to add value to these products? Is there a service you can combine with the product to make it even more valuable? Is there anything else you can do to improve an already existing product or service? Think of the KFC franchise.
Before Colonel Sanders came up with his unique fried chicken recipe, there were other restaurants selling friend chicken. However, he found a way to make his fried chicken way tastier than what competitors were offering, thereby creating a business that is currently worth over $7 billion.
COPY AND MODIFY OTHERS’ IDEAS
There is hardly a completely unique idea in this world. Think of how some of the most successful businesses in the world today were started. To create Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg copied and modified the initial idea from the Winklevoss twins.
To invent the light bulb, Thomas Edison built on the work and research of several other inventors around the world.
The truth is that most other seemingly innovative ideas simply find a way to build on already existing ideas, so why not do the same? I’m not saying that you should directly copy another person’s business idea like for like.
There is a high chance you will fail if you do this. Instead, take an existing idea you like, find ways to make it better than it currently is, and turn it into a winning business idea.
I hope that by now, you are convinced that coming up with a business idea does not have to be a challenging task. The methods listed in this article are just a few of the different ways you can use to come up with a business idea.
There are many more ways.
What I will emphasize here is that you should not sit back and wait for a business idea to strike you in a light bulb moment.
Instead, you should be proactive in trying to identify business ideas. If you keep that in mind and apply the methods discussed in this article, you won’t have a shortage of business ideas.