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How to Generate Business Ideas

There’s an old saying that goes: Creativity is one part inspiration two parts perspiration. Coming up with a good business idea is one part inspiration, two parts perspiration and a whole lot of persistence. Here’s an example of idea generation in action from the younger generation.

Maria and the Moon

Two-year old Maria is obsessed with the moon. Every chalk circle she sees, every ball she bounces, every round logo in her magazine play pile is named moon. In the evening, before her bedtime, she sits in her daddy’s arms in front of the living room window and says goodnight to the moon.

“Want moon,” she says to her daddy pointing at the sometimes full, sometimes half, sometimes hiding in the clouds moon in the sky.

“It’s way high up,” says her daddy. “We would need a rocket ship to reach it.”
“Get rocket ship,” says Maria.
“We can’t get a rocket ships,” says her daddy. “It would be too big to fit in our garage.”
“Ok,” says Maria. She rests her head on her daddy’s shoulder and drifts off to sleep.

She sleeps well, protected by the moonlight that shines through the slats in her blinds. In the morning after she wakes up and wiggles her way through getting dressed, eating breakfast and brushing teeth, she pulls out the play dough.

She pounds the yellow blob with her fist and then squeezes it between her palms. She looks at the flattened dough and frowns. The outcome is not what she hoped so she enlists help.

“Mommy, make a moon,” she says handing her mother the dough. The helpful mom tears off a piece of the play dough and rolls it into a ball.

“Mommy, make a moon again,” she says handing her mom more dough. Maria’s mom makes a bigger and sets it on the table. Fifteen minutes later, the top of the table is piled with yellow, blue, green and pink moons. Since Maria couldn’t have the moon in the sky, she invented her own child size portable moon. And then she mass-produced it so others could experience the excitement that she felt when she held the tiny moons in her hand.

Maria started a business.

Generating Ideas

Like the toddler, we are brimming with ideas. Adults keep notebooks of product sketches, story plotlines, music snippets—anything that gives our brain a jolt. Ideas may be born out of practicality such as improving on a product or process to make it work more efficiently. Others may be pure novelty—think plastic vomit and whoopy cushions. Businesses are built on ideas—but not everyone with an idea starts a business. To determine if your business idea is the next big thing start with research and a little introspection.

First, define your business idea. Determine what you want to sell. If you have a laundry list of ideas, narrow the list down to those that excite you the most. Strong positive feelings about your business idea will help you stay motivated while you build your business.

Write down what makes your idea unique. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your product have features that make it easier to use? more attractive, longer lasting?
  • Do you offer a service that is hard to find?
  • Will your product or service fill a niche?
  • Are you an expert in your field?
  • Can you offer your product at a lower price than competitors?
  • Can you offer a higher level of customer service than competitors?

The answers to these questions will help you determine whether you have a product or service that can compete in the marketplace. When you have a completed list, show it to family and friends. Expect some laughter, some naysaying, but also some valuable insight into the potential for your business idea to be successful. Listen and refine. Refine and listen. Give your idea form and shape, like Maria and the tiny playdough moons. Then set it aside. If you are still gung-ho about moving forward after receiving feedback from your sounding board than move to the next step of learning how to start your business.

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