How to pick a business to start, is a common question that many who hanker to do their own thing, ask. They ask me and like me in my early years, they ask themselves.
A little about me. I’m David and when I’m not moonlighting as a marketing kinda guy, I operate retail businesses, be they direct to consumer brands, or straight brick and mortar. At my core, I’m a shopkeeper.
As a kid, I always wanted to be rich, retired and done by the time I was 30. I’m way past that now and I’m not done yet. That said, I’ve only ever really worked for myself and I’ve learned a few things. I hope within my small business guides hub I can help you in some way.
These things, I will dispense here.
They say it takes 10,000 hours to master something. As most business owners will tell you, they’ve done three times that and still not nailed it. I’ve not nailed it, I’m still learning new things every day, but for new business owners or start-ups navigating their way in the world, I can help you avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made.
Let’s start with the foundations.
How to pick a business to start
At my wedding my best man and best mate Nick, read out a list of business ideas I had toyed with. Here’s a brief breakdown:
- Selling Empty Shop’s window space for local business advertising – aka ‘Shopwindowstorent’
- Pound Shop (To my US friends, a Dollar Store) – aka One Pound Ninja
- Car Flag importer – No name
- Online Nigerian Football Scouting Academy – aka Scoutezi
- Pitch Deck self-build platform (I hadn’t heard of Prezi) – aka PitchFWD
The list goes on and I’m sure I will add to it in time, but the reality is, none of these took off as they failed the first tests. Is it truly unique or does it provide a solution to a problem that people need solving?
Actually, the online football academy I still think is a great idea, but the link we had, managed to get investigated for corruption and my business partner in it discovered the Bible in a big way. His desire for time to go street preaching and knocking on people’s doors selling God, kind of created a bit of inertia.
Marriage came along and so did new projects.
Which meant that failed an additional test – are you passionate?
To my then partner’s credit, he’s now a minister and I am yet to scout any of the next big African football talents.
If you want to know how to pick a winning business idea there are some questions you need to ask yourself, but first, let’s talk about where to find them. Step 1 of how to pick a business to start – understand what makes a good business idea.
What is a good business idea?
The best business ideas come from finding a solution to a problem.Mike McGee | Founder Starter League
If you look at the very definition of what an entrepreneur is, it describes the common trait nearly all great business ideas share. Effecting change.
We have this idea of what an entrepreneur is and what it has become, but the word, a French word, translates into a change maker. Making change socially, economically, structurally, industrially or commercially. A business that effects change is one that has a head start from the off.
Every single person that approaches me with a business idea, is met with these six questions:
- What are you changing?
- Why are you doing it?
- Who else has tried it?
- How big is the market?
- How will you promote it?
- Can you test it?
These questions get to the bottom of the depth that most people have put into the idea.
If you have a solution, that you can test cheaply and easily, that no one else has thought of and there is a sizeable market you can promote to, that would genuinely thank you, you should start today.
Because this sounds like the essence of what is a good business idea. If you think you’ve nailed how to pick a business to start, check out our how to brand your business next.
What is a bad business idea?
Well in short it’s anything that won’t work.
But if you are being pitched it directly to earn quick money, easy money or ‘passive income’ – then historically you are being sold snake oil and should steer clear.
A warning sign is if you earn money from recruiting others to join it. If that sounds like something you are considering, then please first check out this hero on Youtube.
His name is Mike Winnet and after selling his stake in a successful business, he decided, (partly through boredom) to purchase these get rich quick packages. He then shows them for what they are.
He’s also hilarious.
What is a USP?
If you have an idea that can offer something more than just a difference, but profound betterment, then you have a unique proposition. A USP or unique sales point.
If you don’t have that, then you are merely planning on opening a ‘me-too’ business. The mistake many make is to look for a USP after they have decided they would like to open their own business and X product or Y service is the conduit for them to do that.
If you are not solving a problem in a way that you can sing from the rooftops with utter clarity and confidence, then you have no USP and you have a business you will never truly be passionate about.
The business idea is to your benefit not to anyone elses.
It will statistically be likely to fail completely.
Why is being passionate important to a business success?
Firstly let me counter this with a little caution. Passion can blind you. Passion can make you blind to the flaws of a business and it’s prospects when it is no longer going to work. But it is also this very passion that can help you win.
When you believe in something the force of your convictions will spark other people’s interest and motivate them to help you achieve your goals.Richard Branson | Virgin
This means, let passion drive you, let it push you to achieve BUT always first go back to those 6 questions.
How to find business ideas
Having been that guy who was always on the lookout for an idea to get rich quick, it doesn’t surprise me to see the huge growth in fake gurus selling courses on drop-shipping or MLM’s continued presence.
Millions of us want to take our lives into our own hands and be our own boss.
Clearly most of those nutters have never been their own boss to know it’s rarely a fun experience. You go from being chained to one boss, to being chained to many bosses. Your team, your customers, your landlords, they all become your bosses.
The very existence of your business is a vital source of income to those who rely on you.
Still want to run your own business?
If so, you’re a touch insane, but then you have to be to live this life. Let’s continue
Here’s one tip I will give, which is the easiest way to turn something you love into a business.
Long-tail – niche reviews, blogs or vlogs about something you love are great for a home-based side hustle. If you like it, someone else does too. These require little upfront cost and are great side projects to learn about business, with the only risk being time.
They come to you
The easiest ideas for a new business are those that come to you organically in your daily life. Think of any successful inventor who found a solution to a problem, or someone who improved on a service that a place they worked for were already doing poorly.
Your first successful business is likely tied in some way to what you’re doing in life. Sometimes it may spawn from a couple of failures and the people you meet, or you may strike lucky first time. By understanding the tools you can use to operate a business from, you may not need to look far to find some way to capitalise on something.
- What are problems you face around the home
- Problems you face when shopping or going out
- Problems your customers at your workplace seem to never be able to solve
- Maybe it’s just writing a blog answering questions that you could never seem to find answers to and you advertise from it
If you want to know how to pick a business idea to start with, consider picking a problem you want to solve.
Why I picked my retail business
When I set up my retail business, I did it because the only place that consumers could buy vape products was from petrol stations. In the US there were specialist stores. This wasn’t a thing where I lived, and I guessed that smokers didn’t see a petrol station as the first step toward a healthier lifestyle.
Nor did I think Dorothy in the petrol station was either trained in the products to explain them or cared. It was just another product to her.
I believed there might exist a market for a specialist store that could help the millions of smokers in the UK. On a more macro level, in my home town.
I was right.
This was a problem with distribution and marketing of a product that my solution solved locally. I didn’t need much money to start and no one else was doing it.
We went from 1 shop to 30. The gamble checked out.
You see, the solution doesn’t need to be a problem globally, just for enough people you can effectively reach.
How I picked my next business idea
Having been involved in one business I saw the evolution of a new market, CBD, from here I felt the audience was different and there was scope for a different type of business altogether. More lifestyle and wellness focused. We launched our first brick and mortar stores as well as an e-commerce platform.
Then something else happened. We saw that the branding of the products didn’t resonate with many demographics who would be interested in it. That has led to one of our direct to consumer brands Our Remedy, which in 2020 won acclaim as the Best CBD for Women at the UK’s Hip and Healthy Awards. The branding is targeted and has now appeared in Cosmopolitan, the Daily Mail and many other publications.
All of this came about, because I went to America and bought a vape kit 11 years ago.
Don’t pick a business, discover a solution
So I hope I have explained myself in some way and we are going to break things down more within our resources hub. But the best ideas aren’t promoted in a Youtube advertising reel. They aren’t available when you spend £99.99 for a course from a guru, or $9 for a ‘legacy bundle’. They come to you from the world you absorb.
There isn’t an honest list that I can share with you. There are businesses that are better than others to start cheaply that can show profit margins, but I am not going to waste your time talking to you about a list of hobbies you could monetise that you may or may not follow.
For me, ideas come from travel, for you, it may be from frustration at work, or when you’re out, by staying on top of science or fashion trends and news, by seeing common questions people have on Reddit, Quora or Facebook. But always test those ideas against those 6 questions. And this is how to pick a business to start.
Finally, be different but not for difference sake.
That’s my work done here,
David at Deathground