How to Come Up With a Business Idea

No matter how long you’ve dreamt of starting a business, thinking of the right idea is crucial. Figuring out how to come up with a business idea isn’t always the easiest thing—often, it seems like everything has already been done and it can be difficult to determine how to innovate in a crowded business landscape. However, there’s still a business idea out there for you.

We’ll cover different ways to come up with a business idea that can help you find one that you’re excited about, and that has the potential to make you money. We’ll also cover what to do when you find an idea that you’re excited about, and review the questions to ask before you go forward beginning your business.

5 Ways to Come Up With a Business Idea

You might stumble across a great business idea without trying, but that doesn’t always happen. Here are six thought-starters that can help you land on your best business idea.

1. Look to Your Own Interests and Hobbies

One of the most surefire ways to come up with a business idea is to look at the things that you most love to do. After all, if you’re able to put passion into your project, people will notice your fire.

For instance, are you really into collecting comic books? Perhaps you might be able to start a business that centered on this, such as a comic book and graphic novel store. Or maybe you love to garden. There are plenty of business ideas around gardening, such as cultivating houseplants to sell, landscaping, and more. Maybe you love martial arts and want to start a dojo.

One other great thing about starting a business that stems from your interests is that you likely know the space very well. You know what succeeds and falls short since you’re a customer yourself, and you might also know what the industry is missing based on the kind of things you’ve looked for in the past to cultivate your hobby.

2. Think About Your Unique Skills

If you have a unique skill, you might be able to leverage it into a business idea. As you’re thinking about what you’re great at, try to get specific—since if you can offer a very unique service, you’re more likely to be able to stand out in the business landscape.

As an example, maybe you know everything there is to know about mandolins. You could start a business that helps people learn, tune, and repair these specialty interests.

As you’re positioning yourself with marketing and outreach, make sure to emphasize that you’re an expert in whatever you choose for your business, which can help customers trust you.

3. Make an Existing Business Better

There’s a good chance that you’ve patronized businesses before, only to come home and think, I could do this better! If you’re looking for how to come up with a business idea, this could be a great jumping-off point. Think about experiences you’ve had with other businesses, evaluate where their weaknesses lie, and come up with specific ways you can solve these problems.

Remember that just because you see a weak spot in another business doesn’t mean that you have the ability to solve it outright. Don’t forget that owners of the businesses you patronize may have special skills that you don’t yet and might need to learn, and there may be a reason that the business you’re trying to innovate on does things a certain way. Consider this as you’re thinking about a plan to make an existing business better.

4. Address a Need That Isn’t Being Fulfilled

Many successful businesses take off because they directly address a need that isn’t otherwise being fulfilled. For instance, is there a service that you wish you had access to, or a product that you wish you were able to buy? This could be an interesting way to come up with a business idea.

Don’t only think globally. Many communities have needs that aren’t being fulfilled, and starting locally could be the key to coming up with a great business idea. For instance, maybe people don’t have a good place to buy pet supplies in your town. It’s a simple need to address, but could provide a strong market.

5. Solve a Problem

Do you often run into a certain problem, but have never found a solution to solve it? Your business idea could be right in front of you: Fix the problem yourself with a new innovation. This might require lots of research on your part, but the deeper you get into the weeds, the more likely you are to accurately address the problem.

If you’re having a hard time identifying a business idea, ask people what they would like to have access to that they don’t, what kind of problems they’re encountering, and what needs they’d like to have fulfilled. People who are your potential customers might end up being the best people to tell you exactly what kind of business to start.

Analyzing the Viability of Your Business Idea

So, you’ve come up with a business idea—but should it turn into a business? Before you go forward, you want to make sure that the idea you have is viable. In other words, if you put the effort into starting a business, do you have everything you need to succeed?

Here are four important questions to ask before you dive into your business idea:

1. Is there a market for your product or service?

Even though you might think that your business idea will be a universal success, you want to make sure that there’s a market for the product or service you’re planning to create. It’s not just a question of whether people want it—but it’s also about whether people are loyal to the competitors you’re taking on and if there’s a need for another business in the space.

Doing market research will help you answer this question. It could be as simple as sending around a survey or email, or asking people on the street. If you don’t see a market for your business idea, that doesn’t mean you have to give up entirely—you might just need to pivot or rethink a few key elements before you move forward.

2. How quickly do you want to get up and running?

Are you looking for a business to start very quickly, or do you have some time before you need to be up and running? You want to make sure that the business idea you have fits in your timeline. For instance, setting up a home-based business can stand up a lot quicker than, say, a business that needs brick-and-mortar space, such as a retail store or restaurant.

Don’t forget to consider whether or not you need staff, and whether that staff needs training. If you’re running a solo enterprise, you’ll likely be able to get going faster.

3. Do you need capital or financing?

Some business ideas don’t need much money to start, such as a tutoring business. But lots of other businesses need supplies, equipment, or physical space, all of which you’ll need to be able to pay for. If your business idea requires capital, it’s important to figure out both how much you need and what the source of that capital will be.

You have a few different options. You can “bootstrap,” which means you self fund; you can look for investors to help you out (even family and friends); or you can look into small business loans, such as a business line of credit or equipment financing, both of which can help you access the business capital you need to get going. A business credit card is even an option. We have a resource on how to calculate your startup costs so you know what to expect.

4. Are you aiming to start something in the short term or the long term?

Are you searching for a business idea because you’re looking for a side hustle or short-term operation, or are you hoping to build the foundation of a business you can run full time? Understanding what you want in terms of long-term viability is important in evaluating your business idea to find out if it’s both a good one as well as serves your own desires, and not just the needs of your customers.

Next Steps

When you get serious about the business idea that you’ve come up with, the next step you should take is drawing up a business plan. A business plan will help you get deeper into the business idea, exposing some of the weaknesses and help you build on the strengths.

With this document, you outline how you’re planning to operate and market your business as well as come up with a plan for your financials. Although making a business plan takes work, it’s very important to help you understand the viability of your idea and will help keep you from making mistakes and just flying in the dark. Along with that market research you’re conducting, you should consider showing your business plan to others who may be able to point out blind spots that you have, or make great recommendations for how to improve it.

Sally Lauckner

Sally Lauckner is the editor-in-chief of JustBusiness and the editorial director at Fundera.

Sally joined Fundera in 2018 and has almost 15 years of experience in print and online journalism. Previously she was the senior editor at SmartAsset—a Y Combinator-backed fintech startup that provides personal finance advice. There, she edited articles and data reports on topics including taxes, mortgages, banking, credit cards, investing, insurance, and retirement planning. She has also held various editorial roles at AOL.com, Huffington Post, and Glamour magazine. Her work has also appeared in Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and ColoradoBiz magazines, as well as Yelp, SmallBizClub, and BizCrat.

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