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How great business ideas are born

By Winnie Makena | March 25th 2020 at 11:00:00 GMT +0300

In business, if you try to be the next Bill Gates, Zuckerberg or Chesky, odds are you’ll fail miserably. Ideas are where businesses germinate and looking for business ideas is just as much work as building the business up. So where do you get a business idea:

1. First, find your passion

Take a pen and paper and list five to ten things about yourself. What do you like to do? What are you good at? No matter how personal it is, like “I love kids” write it down. Whatever comes to mind that you love to do and would do for free, jot it down.

Think about how you could turn these things into a business. For example, if you are passionate about healthy living and spend your free time researching recipes, finding new ways to work out and read up on the newest health trends, that is an idea. Start a blog or coaching business with your expertise.

You could also look at your past jobs and analyse what you liked and didn’t like in your role. Think of industries and types of businesses that would allow you to do more of what you like. For example, if you loved working with people in your customer service job, why not build a coaching or consulting business?

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Michael Bloomberg became the richest man in media when he used the financial know-how and information technology expertise he developed as an employee at Salomon to create the Bloomberg terminal software system.

2. Think about making life easier

All great businesses have one thing in common: they address a real need.

An idea could come from something that bothers you and your community or something that could make your life easier. Think about what you are facing and ask yourself these set of questions. Why exactly do I think it is a problem? What do I usually do when I have these problems? What can be a solution to this problem? Would I use this solution in exchange for some money? How many people might have the same issue? Would they be willing to pay money in exchange for solving this problem?

Answering these questions will give you a business idea, or many. Great entrepreneurs see the world as a collection of flaws.

3. Do the opposite

You might think that everything good is already created and you cannot think of anything better. This is not quite true. Let’s say you want to come up with the business idea in a certain field, which is a field of your competence. Think of the brands that are the best in your field and try to think about the opposite of it and why it can be attractive to customers. Take the airlines as an example, for a very long time flying from one country to another was very expensive and was considered to be a luxury experience. The brands have been emphasising the luxury, exclusivity and great flying experience. However, now there are a lot of budget airlines that did nothing more than offer the opposite - cheap experience.

4. Don’t reinvent the wheel, redesign it

One of the biggest mistakes budding entrepreneurs make is thinking that they need to innovate to be successful. Think of Paul Brown in 1991 who came up with a smart idea that was later used by Heinz to solve a simple problem of how to get Ketchup out of the bottle.

Brown wanted to create a dispensing valve for a new kind of shampoo bottle, so that the bottle could be stored on an edge of a bathroom tub without dripping. Brown created a little silicone dome with right angle slits in it. When the sides of the bottle were pressed, the dome’s slits opened. When the pressing stopped, the air that was sucked back into the dome caused it to retract. In 1995, Brown sold his company for about $13 million.

Think of the products that exist independently, and how they can be mixed together or applied elsewhere. Simply combine two things that already exist. For example, the very popular Red Bull Vodka. It that was created by merging two already popular products.

5. Import your ideas

In 1984, Dietrich Mateschitz, an Austrian who was traveling through Thailand, drank a bottle of Krating Daeng, an energy drink popular with the country’s public transportation drivers and other workers enduring long working hours. When Mateschitz’ jet lag was cured by the small drink, he set up a company in Austria to sell it. We now know Krating Daeng as Red Bull.

Same happened with StarBucks. On a business trip to Italy, Howard Schultz became fascinated with the country’s coffee house culture, which emphasised the relationship between the barista and the customer. Schultz returned to the United States and convinced the Starbucks founders to test the Italian coffee house concept.

If you have the means or opportunity, travel and travel widely and find a way to recreate them at home. You can even do it locally. Take an idea that is fascinating in Nairobi CBD and see if you can implement it in your estate at home.

6. The idea could be right under your nose

Becoming a trends hound is another effective way of getting ideas.  Look at the trending topics on Social Media Sites like Twitter, Reddit, Buzzfeed, YouTube etc. Remember the Fidget Spinner? If you are able to jump onto trending topics fast enough by creating or reselling related products or services, you can build a valid business.

Becoming a trend spotter yourself is as easy as reading widely. Pick an industry that interests you and spend a couple of months reading everything about it. Do it until you get to the point where you are able to spot and predict upcoming trends yourself. By expanding your knowledge, you are expanding your realm of business ideas.  

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