You know you want to start a business—you’re dying to tell your boss, “So long,” and take charge of your own destiny. There’s just one problem: You’re not sure what type of business you want to start. Maybe you’ve got a general idea you want to start a business in a certain industry—such as fashion, restaurant or e-commerce—but you’re struggling to come up with a specific concept. Or maybe you have no idea at all.
That’s OK. Not every entrepreneur grows up knowing exactly what they want to do or has a “lightbulb moment” when they’re hit by the perfect business idea. If you’re not sure what type of business to start, that doesn’t mean you can’t become an entrepreneur. It just means you need to brainstorm a business idea.
Here are four steps to successfully brainstorming a business idea.
1. Start your business brainstorming by getting your creativity flowing.
To inspire yourself, take in as much information as you can about small business, business in general and business trends. If you have a specific industry in mind, immerse yourself in information about that industry, too. For instance, do you think you might want to start a restaurant? Then, read restaurant industry publications and websites. Visit all kinds of restaurants in your area. Also, check out restaurants’ close competitors, such as bars, grab-and-go eateries, food courts and food trucks. Maybe one of those will capture your imagination more than a sit-down restaurant will.
2. Next, think about businesses you admire, use, and rely on in your daily life.
What do these companies have in common? For example, maybe you can’t live without Amazon because it makes your life so easy. Perhaps you love visiting the local independent sandwich shop for lunch because they’re so friendly and always know your order in advance. Or perhaps you can’t stay away from that little boutique that has unique gifts for everyone you know. Write down everything that comes to mind about why you like these companies, whether it’s their outstanding customer service, their one-of-a-kind products or the way they really “get” what you want.
3. Think about the issues you are facing in your own life.
During a typical day, what are the problems that commonly frustrate you? What do you wish was easier to do at work, at home, or during your downtime? If enough other people feel the same way, it could be you’ve discovered a business idea. For instance, maybe your whole family loves sushi, but there isn’t a single good sushi restaurant within 50 miles. If there’s enough demand, perhaps you could start a sushi restaurant or a sushi delivery service. Survey your friends, co-workers and family members about their frustrations, too. Some of the biggest businesses around grew out of frustrations or unmet needs.
4. Using all the information you’ve gathered, you should have generated dozens of possible business ideas.
The last step is to narrow them down. Enlist some friends, family members or businesspeople you know, and see what they think of your ideas. Better yet, find some impartial people in the target market you’re considering (such as sushi lovers) and ask them what they’d want to see in a business serving their sushi cravings.
The word “impartial” is key here. If you only talk to friends and family about your business idea, they’re likely to either discourage you (because they’re worried you’ll lose money) or encourage you too much (praising every idea you have).
In addition to unbiased target customers, make it a point to get advice and feedback from an impartial business expert before you take further steps to launch your business. The expert mentors at SCORE can help you assess your ideas, inspire you to come up with new ones and choose the best idea for you given your time constraints, finances, experience level and ultimate goals.