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Every journey has a beginning. In the world of entrepreneurship, that beginning is usually an idea.
For this newsletter, we’re starting at that beginning and each week we’ll take the next step along our journey.
Over the next few weeks we’ll:
After all of that, the real fun begins! But we’ll get there soon enough.
For some, ideas are a commodity. We see possibilities and opportunities everywhere we look. We can’t shut it off.
For others looking to carve their own path, the idea is a struggle. So for those who are getting started but don’t know where to begin, let’s explore 5 techniques for coming up with ideas.
BTW, even if you’re a great idea person, read on. Existing businesses pivot or you may want to do something different down the road. Either way, ideas are instrumental.
While I said the idea is the beginning, sometimes pain comes first. Many business ideas stem from removing that pain, also known as solving a problem. Sometimes it’s your own problem, sometimes it’s someone else’s. Either way, problems exist everywhere, in every line of work, and in every industry.
Not every problem deserves to become a business. But we’ll talk more about qualifying your ideas later. For now, we want to generate as many ideas as we can.
What to do: Keep a notebook or some other means handy to capture problem ideas when they pop up. I don’t find it productive to sit at my desk and try to think about what problems I have.
Problem inspiration is more of a point-in-time activity. So don’t loose the idea/problem when it presents itself.
Even if a problem isn’t enough for a business, it might be a great idea to incorporate into a larger business. Capture them all someplace where you won’t loose track.
Also, take a few notes about the context in which the problem popped up. That way you don’t look at it later and wonder what you are talking about.
Example: Blenders Eyewear
Surf coach Chase Fisher couldn’t afford the pricer sunglasses he wanted so he created his own brand of shades at a more reasonable price point. The shades had to be comfortable, stylish, and fit well without breaking the bank. With a $2000 loan from a neighbor Blenders Eyewear was born. Seven years later, the company’s value is $90M.
Example: Thinkers Notebook
Jerod Morris, Sean Jackson, and Daniel Reiling created an optimized notebook for the modern world. There are a ton of note-taking systems out there, digital formats and analog, but none of them worked for the trio. The way we capture and collaborate on ideas has changed. So they decided to create their own system and Thinkers Notebook was born.
No matter what it is you spend time and money on there are others who spend it there too.
The thing I like about looking at where I spend my time and money is that it tends to already be a niche of some kind.
It also tends to be something I enjoy. And while I don’t recommend falling into the “follow your passion” trap, it doesn’t hurt to love the topic.
When I make a list of things I spend time and money on it looks like this:
What to do: Make your list. It doesn’t have to be long and there will be sub-topics that may emerge. For example, I lumped fine dining and wine together but they can broken apart. I could even focus on a specific wine region or type of food.
Again, we’re trying to come up with a list of ideas, we’re not qualifying them yet so write them all down!
People spend a lot of time playing sports, working out, watching sports, playing fantasy sports, and so on. Danyel Surrency Jones and husband Darnell Jones started PowerHandz in 2014. They wanted to increase skill development for athletes. So they invented weighted gloves as their first product. PowerHandz is now sold in 86 countries and has over $46M in revenue (according to RocketReach).
We’re all good at something so leverage your strengths and start making money at it. Even if you’re not excited about it, you may find the excitement builds when it starts paying off.
One of the responses I get a lot is “I’m not good at anything.” To which I say B.S. We’re all good at something, you may not recognize it but it’s there.
Things I’ve figured out I’m good at include:
Keep in mind, I’m not claiming to be the best at any of those things. But I am confident in my abilities with them and have often received positive feedback on them. Sometimes that feedback comes in the form of praise, often it has been in the form of money.
What to do: If you don’t know what you’re good at ask friends and family. They’ll often see things in us we don’t see in ourselves. If it feels awkward to ask, start with those closest to you and tell them you’re doing a little soul-searching. I find people are usually pretty understanding.
Write down the responses in your notebook. We’ll be organizing all of these ideas later.
First, a trend isn’t a fad and it’s important to understand the distinction. Trends have history and show things moving in a direction. Fads are short-lived and tend to fizzle out. Some trends start as fads but don’t confuse the two.
Where to research trending business ideas:
Start with Google Trends. You can research what people are searching for and see how a topic is trending over time. Google Trends will also give you a sense of seasonality, geographic trends, and more.
If you want detailed analysis and content take a look at Trends.co (that link will save you $100 off the subscription price). It’s a subscription service and well worth the price (I am a subscriber).
What to do: If you’re not sure what to search on, start with the list you created of things you spend your time and money on. Then go down the rabbit hole! Google Trends will show you related topics so you can explore and see what people are searching for.
Example: Niche Sports
One recent post highlighted the spike in niche sports (think darts, ping pong, pickleball, etc…). More people spending more time, and money, on those activities smells like opportunity. Pair that with the uptick in e-commerce brought on by the COVID pandemic and you can see the opportunity.
Sometimes the thing to focus on isn’t so much a problem as it is a gap. You’ve identified gaps if you’ve ever found a need and thought, “I can’t believe no one is doing this.”
Sometimes it’s because no one has yet seen the opportunity. Other times it’s because it’s a lot of work. But your willingness to do what others won’t is often all it takes to differentiate you.
What to do: You guessed it, write down the gaps you see. This is another one of those point-in-time things to capture. But If you sat and thought about it you could also come up with some ideas.
Example: Local Media
My wife and I started Lifestyle Frisco to address a lack of digital media in the fastest-growing mid-sized city in the country. We’re also big believers in supporting local businesses. Local media is a perfect way to help tell the story of the city while supporting those businesses. Local media is tough but we turned it into a solid 6-figure business.
We’re about to make a big pivot in how that business runs. Things are changing and the model has been the same for 8 years. But there is still a lot of opportunity in local media. If you want to chat more about it feel free to drop me a comment below.
Even if you already have a business or ideas, start taking notes. By now you should have places to write down and track:
Next week we’ll look at organizing and qualifying your ideas.
If you’re still not sure what to do or want some feedback, drop a comment below and I’ll chime in.
If you want to do a deeper dive into developing business ideas, Noah Kagan has a video that’s sure to get your brain going. By the end of the video you could have 5 – 20 ideas:
I also recommend checking out 29 Passive Income Ideas For The 21st Century from Codie Sanchez at Contrarian Thinking. Her newsletter is absolute fire.
You don’t have to start a business. Buying an existing business is often a faster path to success. Take an inventory of the skills you have and how you can apply them to an existing business and knock it out of the park.
I’m not an expert at buying existing businesses but I am looking into it so we’ll talk more about it as I learn. In the meantime, if you want to learn more check out Unconventional Acquisitions.
If you found this useful please consider sharing this with someone you know who may benefit.
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As of the first Rogue Mogul newsletter (this one), we have 40 subscribers, starting from scratch.
What I’ve done so far:
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The Next Step(s):
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