Most of the aspiring entrepreneurs who come to the ISBDC already have a business idea in hand. In many cases, though, the client’s business idea needs some defining and refining. It’s our job as business counselors to assist in this process, to help the client evaluate the feasibility of the idea and prepare a written business plan.
A relatively small percentage of would-be business owners contact the ISBDC without a business idea in mind. They are searching for an idea – something they will like doing that will be financially successful. They’re looking for inspiration and resources to help them come up with just the right concept. Most new business ideas come from the entrepreneur’s past business or personal experience, his/her educational background, or the desire to take a hobby (say fishing or knitting) or a special interest (dogs or motorsports) and turn it into a profitable venture.
Some entrepreneurs find their business idea by observing what’s new and successful elsewhere and introducing it to their community. There’s some truth to the contention that many trends (social and business) begin on the East or West coasts and work their way to the Midwest. Perhaps the best recent example of this phenomenon is the coffee craze, which started in the Pacific Northwest and now is nationwide. This “Coast to Midwest” process may take years to occur, or it may never occur.
As in virtually every other aspect of life, the Internet is playing a big role in the spread of new and innovative business ideas. There is a variety of websites that post descriptions of business ideas (some conventional and others very unconventional). If you’re looking for a new business concept, or you want to broaden the scope of your current business, take a look at these sites for some inspiration:
Entrepreneur.com – The website of Entrepreneur magazine is a great all-around resource for entrepreneurs and small business owners. The site’s “Business Idea Center” offers profiles of 969 different types of business sorted by industry, interest and profession.
Springwise.com – With a network of observers around the globe, Springwise “looks for the most promising business ventures, ideas and concepts that are ready for regional or international adaptation, expansion, partnering, investments or cooperation.” The site includes a huge “Idea Database,” and you can subscribe to the Springwise free e-mail newsletter to get your weekly “fix” of entrepreneurial ideas.
CoolBusinessIdeas.com – Based in Singapore, CoolBusinessIdeas.com informs their readers of innovative ideas and emerging trends to help them “gain an edge over the competition.” The site provides a list and brief description of scores of ideas in more than 25 categories ranging from automobiles to sports & games. Like Springwise, CoolBusinessIdeas.com offers a free newsletter, so you can receive information on the latest business ideas in your mailbox without ever having to visit the website.
Faithpopcorn.com – Faith Popcorn (yes, there’s actually a person who calls herself “Faith Popcorn”) is a trend spotter. She and her “Brain Reserve” consulting group identify trends while they’re still off in the distance and alert us as they approach. Then they tell businesses how to prepare and take advantage of the coming change, whether it’s revising an existing business model, developing new products, or coming up with entirely new business concepts. For example, right now Ms. Popcorn is predicting that, as a result of a significant decrease in nuclear families, “day and night child care centers will become one of the most important and lucrative services available.”
These websites prove that there’s no shortage of new business concepts. In fact, a problem for many entrepreneurs is that there are so many interesting business ideas and so little time to pursue them all.