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How to come up with a business idea

3D printer printing a dinosaur

If you’re reading this, you probably want to start a business but you’re not yet exactly sure what that business should do. Maybe you have ideas, but you’re not quite confident in them. Maybe you have a problem you want to solve, but you’re not sure how to make that solution into a viable business. Maybe you feel like you don’t have a clue, but you want your work to be more meaningful and you know that entrepreneurship can make that possible.

Coming up with a winning business idea is hard, and there’s definitely some luck involved, but it’s not magic. Asking and answering these five specific questions should get you on the right track.

1. What do you care about?

Entrepreneurship takes a tremendous amount of work—you’re going to be pouring blood, sweat, and tears into your new endeavor. It’s a lot easier to find the energy if you’re working on something that you find intrinsically interesting and valuable.

The first step in defining your niche is to list out your greatest values and interests. Maybe you love animals, music, numbers, human connection, the environment, robotics, or efficiency. Or maybe you’re interested in communication, education, and forging connections.

Your list of passions probably won’t look anything like a list of viable business ideas, but that’s not the goal yet. Let’s move on to the next question.

2. What are you good at?

Now, it’s time to think about your skills and experiences. Try to consider all of them, even the ones that don’t seem work-related. Maybe you’re really good at climbing rocks, or meditating, or puns. Maybe you’re a wizard with numbers, or you have a knack for distilling complex ideas into a quick sketch or a few sentences.

3. What problems can you solve?

For example, the founder of Hey Puppy, Claudia Monge, created a line of products inspired by her love of animals, her knack for finding practical solutions, and her Mexican heritage. The founder of Layover Stop, Reham Alsharif, founded her touring company because of her love of travel and making other people happy.

This step can be a challenging one, so give yourself some time and remember you’ll likely have to generate many ideas before you come up with a great one. Consider bringing in some friends or a mentor, and try brainstorming techniques or other creative exercises to generate ideas.

4. Is there a market? What’s the competition?

At this point, you probably have some rough ideas for actual businesses. Now it’s time to narrow down the list, to fine-tune the best ideas, and start testing them out a bit.

Here’s a guide on how to research keywords associated with your ideas. This research will give you an idea of how big your potential market is and how many people you’ll be competing against. It also covers how to narrow down your niche if your initial idea is a bit too broad

Other questions to ask during this step include “What resources will I need to get started?” and “How will this business be profitable?” This will allow you to eliminate ideas that aren’t feasible and fine-tune ideas that need to be tweaked in order to become financially practical.

How’s this going to work?

After you’ve asked and answered all these questions, you should have an idea you’re excited about. Now it’s time for the last step—testing your business idea in the market. The goal at this point is to gather as much information at a time when you can still easily make adjustments and improvements based on your learnings.

Testing the market could mean starting to offer a product, on a very limited scale. Another option would be putting up a website advertising that your business is coming soon, and then tracking how much traffic you’re getting. It might mean talking to the people who will make up your target market and asking for their honest feedback. Here’s a guide that goes through a variety of useful strategies for testing in the market.

That’s it!

An entrepreneur’s work is never done … but at least now, you’ve found the right place to get started. Take a moment to celebrate this accomplishment before moving on to the next one.


Hi there! This post exists to offer you (hopefully) useful information but it cannot take the place of personalized professional advice. Please consult a qualified expert if you have questions about your business. Also, Azlo doesn’t endorse any third-party sites that are linked here.

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