What you like can fuel ideas for business

score Question:
I am looking to start a business. I have the money, and I'm ready to work hard, but I don't have ideas. Where do you find ideas, and how do you distinguish a business opportunity that you will succeed at?

Answer:
It used to be that people were buzzing with ideas and money was scarce. Today, money for new ventures appears faster than ideas can be formed.

A successful business idea should pass several personal and business tests.

Michael Glauser writes in "Glorious Accident: How Everyday American Create Thriving Companies" about how ordinary people came up with business ideas and made them work.

"People succeed because they know the terrain, seize the opportunity, radiate zeal, work with tenacity, give mind-boggling service, build a powerful team and get more from less to succeed," he wrote.

The entrepreneur and professor toured the nation taping stories. One is about Mary Elten Sheets, founder of Two Men and a Truck in Lansing, Michigan.

After 20 years of marriage, she was left with a daughter in college and two boys in high school. To make ends meet, her sons bought an old pickup and earned money helping people move.

After her sons left for college, the phone kept ringing for their moving service. She decided to continue the business by hiring movers to work for her. Then she began franchising the business: she has 77 in 22 states.

Her lesson: "Do something you really enjoy because this isn't a dress rehearsal."

Here are some ways you may find the idea that suits you.

  • Fill a need in the marketplace. Joe Corente saw a need in the hospital industry for disposable gowns for patients, which led to his business Protect-A-Med Corp. He had the right idea, just the wrong product. There was too much competition in selling gowns, so he switched to disposable sheets and found a ready market by adding disposable pillowcases and blankets.
  • Come up with a new product or twist on one. Abby Waters of Boca Raton invented a product she couldn't find. One Thanksgiving, she didn't have enough chairs to sear the family and friends. she had to use folding chairs at the dining room table. To spruce them up, she developed fancy covers. The idea spawned a business, Abby's Idea Factory. Water has a patent on the chair covers and a licensing agreement with manufacturers.
  • Choose work you like to do. Build off your experience and skills.
  • Be selfish. Ask what please you and what you like. What do other people come to you for help or advice on? It may be something you've researched and read about that jumps out at you. If so, do more research - go to the library, visit similar-type businesses, talk with the owners for confirmation of the idea.

Just jump in on a small scale when you find one that fits the majority of your goals and talents, then give it all the enthusiasm you can muster.

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.


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