How to Come Up With a Business Idea

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One of my favorite inspirational quotes is by the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

That saying applies to everything from goal attainment and small business success to academic achievement and career advancement.

Taking challenges one step at a time and being motivated to persist until you succeed  are among the qualities of a success-bound entrepreneur.

If you’re thinking of starting a business of any size, it helps to adopt this type of  entrepreneurial mindset. Without the right attitude, your journey into self employment  is sure to be a short one.

To put it bluntly: “An untrained mind can accomplish nothing!” (Source: A Course in Miracles)

However, if you train your mind to be both goal oriented and action oriented, then your chances of entrepreneurial success are greatly increased.

Another invaluable source of inspiration for entrepreneurs is the classic success book by Napoleon Hill, “Think and Grow Rich.” I believe that if every aspiring business owner, college student,  and entrepreneur read that book — and took it seriously — then a lot more people would be reaching their potential and having a positive impact on the economy.

For many self employed people and small business owners, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a good business idea — one that they’re passionate about and that inspires continuous action, innovation, and mental focus.

Coming Up With a Good Business Idea

So how does one come up with a good business idea? Well, in many cases, good startup business ideas are the result of being able to identify an unmet need or an unsolved problem in the marketplace — either locally or globally.

All things being equal, it’s generally best to avoid going into a business in which there’s a lot of stiff competition — especially if you’re just starting out. Although some people have done it successfully, it can be an uphill battle to try and penetrate a highly competitive or saturated market.

An exception: In some cases, however, competition may not be a stumbling block and may actually represent an opportunity. For example, if your potential customers are dissatisfied with the existing service, quality, selection, turnaround time, or responsiveness of the company they’re now doing business with, they (the prospect) would be receptive to your proposal to switch providers or suppliers. If you can provide more value, better service, and superior customer satisfaction than the competition, then you may be in a position to successfully enter a competitive market and gain a growing market share.

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Elements of a good business idea

Coming up with a good business idea usually includes the following ingredients:

  1. Identifying an unmet or inadequately served need among the general population or (better still) a specialized market segment.
  2. Coming up with innovative, compelling, and cost-effect ways to reach your target demographic and market your business. (The best business idea in the world is destined to fail if you don’t know how to effectively communicate the advantages and unique features of your product or service to your target audience.)
  3. The starting point of many successful startup businesses is the ability and willingness to leverage one’s own skills, knowledge, areas of expertise, passions, training, education, resources, personal contacts, and natural talents to acquire customers (AKA “marketing“) and provide them with superior quality, service, and satisfaction. (Satisfied customers relead to repeat business, customer referrals, and favorable online reviews and positive word-of-mouth advertising.)

If it’s your goal to come up with a viable business idea and nurture it to fruition, it’s also vitally important to associate with positive-minded people — specifically, other entrepreneurs, family members, mentors, and friends who will encourage, support, and inspire you, rather than bombard you with reasons why your business ideas might not work.

Granted, all business ideas should be carefully considered, researched, and evaluated before investing time or money in them, but business success can only be achieved when you go into it with an attitude of positive expectation.

Small Business Ideas List

One method of coming up with business ideas is to peruse lists of possible choices, based on what other entrepreneurs are engaged in, researching, or thinking about. I hope the following list of 115 business ideas will help you narrow down the possibilities and zero in on the right business idea for you.

  1. Photography
  2. Photo booth rental
  3. Consulting
  4. Cleaning [Start your own PT office-cleaning business*]
  5. Lawn care, mowing, yard cleanup [Free audio: Lawn business tips and tricks*]
  6. Landscaping
  7. Non-emergency medical transportation
  8. Construction
  9. Handyman business [Getting started*]
  10. Interior/exterior painting
  11. Graphic design
  12. Transportation
  13. Taxi service, limo service, party bus rental
  14. Moving services, trucking business
  15. T-shirt design and sales (online or offline)
  16. Real estate sales, investing, house flipping, rental property
  17. Tutoring
  18. Musical instrument lessons
  19. ESL instruction
  20. Catering
  21. Event planning
  22. Wedding planning, party planning
  23. Princess parties
  24. Floral business
  25. Candy bouquet business [Details here*]
  26. Retail
  27. Computer Repair
  28. eCommerce
  29. Buying and selling on eBay, Craiglist, garage sales, etc.
  30. Jewelry design and sales
  31. Pet sitting, dog walking, dog training, dog grooming, dog breeding
  32. Franchise businesses
  33. Clothing business
  34. Lingerie sales
  35. Food business, such as food truck, ice cream, hot dog cart, Italian ices, bakery, pizza
  36. Home health care
  37. Personal trainer or starting a gym business or fitness bootcamp
  38. Life coach
  39. Carpentry, woodworking*, furniture refinishing
  40. Flooring installation
  41. Plumbing
  42. HVAC
  43. Roofing
  44. Electrical services
  45. Pressure washing
  46. Pool cleaning, maintenance, seasonal openings and closings
  47. home staging
  48. Interior design
  49. Payroll services
  50. Bookkeeping
  51. Medical billing
  52. Accounting/tax preparation
  53. Personal assistant
  54. Virtual assistant
  55. Answering service
  56. Transcription services
  57. Vending machines
  58. Marketing/advertising services, including social media marketing
  59. Blogging
  60. Carpet cleaning
  61. Daycare
  62. Crafts
  63. Sewing
  64. Candle making, soap making, sales
  65. Etsy business
  66. Flea market business
  67. Art business
  68. Consignment sales
  69. Recycling
  70. Wholesaling
  71. Web hosting
  72. Mobile oil change service
  73. Roadside assistance
  74. Window tinting
  75. Property preservation
  76. Snow plowing
  77. Tree trimming
  78. Junk removal
  79. Import/export
  80. Buying and selling used cars
  81. Security guard services
  82. Home security system installation
  83. Home automation
  84. Home inspection services
  85. Home remodeling
  86. Window cleaning
  87. Rental business
  88. Antique dealer
  89. Locksmith
  90. Welding
  91. Printing Business
  92. Background checking services
  93. Safety consulting
  94. Management consulting
  95. Security consulting
  96. Career counseling
  97. Resume writing service
  98. Corporate recruiting
  99. Karate studio (dojo)
  100. Music recording studio
  101. Yoga studio
  102. Gymnastics
  103. Offering classes, continuing adult education
  104. Hair styling, makeup artist
  105. Financial planning
  106. Freelance writing
  107. Personal chef
  108. Boat charter business
  109. Guided tours
  110. Gift basket business
  111. Pest control
  112. Rental property business (apartments, condos, houses, vacation rentals, etc.)
  113. Hotel, B&B
  114. Restaurant, cafe, diner, coffee shop, coffee service,
  115. Delivery service, courier
  116. Linen rental
  117. Dry cleaning business

Thanks for checking out my latest blog post on all things entrepreneurial! Stay tuned for more business ideas, marketing strategy, and motivational resources.

Best of luck in coming up with a winning business idea, this year!

–Joel
Business blogger, freelance writer, marketing strategist, coffee drinker

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*Disclaimer: I am a compensated affiliate of the products, services, courses, and software featured on this blog.

Cautionary note: A startup business is like a marriage: It should not be entered into lightly! Carefully evaluate all business opportunities and ventures before taking the plunge, seek out trusted and qualified business advisors, and bear in mind that all businesses entail a degree of risk.

But… with that caveat in mind, remember the following quote:

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. (John A. Shedd)