A friend of mine is one of the most idea-generating people I have ever met. She is an engineer by profession, but an entrepreneur at heart. Her ideal situation would be to run her own business empire. We are on hold waiting to see that day unfold. Every day she would come up with a great business idea that she would like to start. At one point she wanted to start a bed and breakfast business. She did her research, drafted a business plan, and then before we knew it she moved on to something else. Her latest “passion” is to start an online vintage collectors’ item store. She sends me photos of vintage cameras, stamps and rare items that she believes would be great additions to her future business.
That all sounds great; but it has been years and she has not done anything yet. You may have known people like that, who are looking to find that perfect, original business idea. It was not until we attended a life-coaching workshop that the instructor put her in place. She discussed her numerous ideas in her head, how she believed that they were all great ideas, but did not know why she did not pursue any of them. The coach told her that she was too broad, too scattered and being overwhelmed with so many ideas is not necessarily a good thing; that she needed to be more focused.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs place a lot of stress on business ideas. They seek to find something original, something unique. That is an important requirement of course, but it may not always necessarily be the case. Most great ideas were revolutionising already existing ones. Let’s consider LED light bulbs, for instance. They are not entirely original. They are energy- saving inventions, but they are still based on Edison’s light bulb.
My advice to both my friend and any other aspiring entrepreneur is instead of focusing too much on creating something that has not been done before, focus instead on solving a problem with a current existing product or service, or take an existing product or service to the next step, ie revolutionise it.
Let us take a look at the iPhone glass protector stickers.These are products created to solve an existing problem, and that is how fragile and prone to cracking iPhone screens are.
Another example is that of Billy Myers. In the 1990s many entrepreneurs were looking for ways to make money out of the booming IT business, as more and more people acquired personal computers. Billy, unlike other entrepreneurs who were developing complex software, found a new and simpler way to make money. He was not a sophisticated IT person, but he found a great product opportunity.
While people spent thousands of dollars on personal computer devices, he thought that they would want to protect those devices from dust. Thus he created dust covers for screens, PCs, keyboards and computer mouses. You may have owned some of his products. It was a simple idea, not born as a result of inventing something new, just as other great business ideas are, and as a result it ended up making him hundreds of millions of dollars in profit.
A lot of business ideas were born as a result of personal frustrations. Jay Samit, a digital media expert who launched success start-ups and Fortune 500 companies, started a digital screen business that provided taxi, shuttle and bus data in eight languages. His idea was born of frustration when he landed in Los Angeles airport, and wanted to ask the information desk personnel about the cheapest way to get to his location.
The information booth was unmanned at the time, and there was no other way to find information in the airport. He was 24 then and made a fortune as a result.
No matter what your business might be, always think of it as a form of a solution to an existing problem.
How would your business differ from the rest? What solutions would you provide? What problems are you addressing? Keep these questions in mind, and remember that what frustrates you is probably frustrating others as well. Once you have all the right answers, you will be ready to take the next step towards bringing your business to life.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and entrepreneur based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.
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