Do I Need a Great Idea?
By Chris Freeburn
You know you want to be your own boss and run your own business. You've thought it through and asked yourself the hard questions and you are sure that being an entrepreneur is not only something that you find appealing, but something that you believe fits with your personality and work ethic. Now you need to decide what your new business will do.
Some entrepreneurs start off with a great idea. Maybe it's an original idea for a great invention, or software application, or even a service that no one else is providing to the public. In many cases, these people are so motivated by their idea that setting up a business to deliver on its promise is almost a natural step.
Not every entrepreneur has a Big Idea first, however. Many entrepreneurs begin with the desire simply to own their own business and then decide what that business should be. Having a bold, radical idea is good-even helpful-but it isn't a requirement for becoming an entrepreneur. Many entrepreneurs get their start in well-established, almost generic types of business like dry cleaning, landscaping, or repair services.
So how do you find the right idea for your business?
Start with yourself
The best place to begin your search for business ideas is yourself. First, take a good look at your own skills and interests. Do you have any specific skills or work experience that could translate into a business opportunity? For example, do you possess a technical education in a particular field (electronics, computer science, or engineering, for example)? Or perhaps you worked in a company that did something you think you can do on your own. If you did and you found that education or experience rewarding, than you may wish to leverage that asset into a new business.
Prior educational or work experience in a given field can also provide more than just knowledge -it can give you contacts with potential customers or experts who can help you launch your business.
More importantly, is there something that your particularly enjoy doing? Could that activity be the basis for a new business? Debbi Fields turned her passion for baking into a multimillion-dollar cookie empire when she and her husband founded Mrs. Fields Cookies in the 1970's. It's always easier to put in long hours building a business when you genuinely enjoy the work.
Is there something you think is missing where you work or live? Maybe you've noticed that the nearest dry cleaning business is in the next town, or that there is a pressing need for local child-care or dog walking for people who work all day. You can learn a lot about what products or services people in a given area might be willing to pay for by listening to your neighbors. Is there something they continually complain about needing, or not having nearby? If so, that might be the basis for your business opportunity.
The franchise option
If you want to own your own business, but are having difficulty generating an idea on your own, you might want to consider purchasing a franchise. By buying a franchise you are purchasing the right to open a store, restaurant, or outlet of an existing, and presumably successful, business.
A franchise reduces some of the risk of starting a business by yourself because you are purchasing an already established brand name complete with a track record and some level of support and advice from the corporate parent. Franchises usually have chain-wide policies governing pricing, vendors, location, decoration, advertising, and employment policies. Some entrepreneurs, especially first time business owners, find it easier to have all these decisions already made for them. Additionally, many franchisors-though not all-provide training for their franchisees on the mechanics of running their business, which helps further reduce first time-business owner anxiety.
Thousands of franchises-in diverse industries ranging from food vendors to skin care-are available for purchase in the United States and Canada.
However, owning a franchise isn't for everyone. While some business owners like having the details of their décor, prices, and products dictated by a corporate parent, others chafe under the restrictions. If total independence is something you crave, you may want to look for your own idea for a business.