If you want to start a business, but are struggling to find the perfect business idea, you are in the right place.
Finding the right business idea is the first (and perhaps hardest) step to starting your business.
After all, the ideal business for you has to tick a lot of boxes. It should be one that (i) is interesting to you, (ii) plays to your strengths, (iii) works within your budget; (iv) fits with your current lifestyle and situation; and (iii) has the potential to grow and generate strong and reliable profits.
In this article, we are going to cover 9 strategies to find that perfect business for you, including a huge list of potential business ideas that you can explore at the end of the article. I have written articles on how to start each of these business ideas (and provided links), so definitely check it out.
1. Look For Unfilled Needs
One of the best business ideas you can have is one that will fill an unmet or even underserved need. It’s just classic supply and demand. If there’s high demand but no supply (or at least low supply), you are going to be printing money filling that demand.
So how do you find these unfilled needs?
Sometimes it’s as simple as identifying an area of frustration in your life. Chances are that if you are struggling to find a product or service that can help you solve a particular problem, others are facing the same problem. You can also keep your ears open for complaints from others in your social circle. What may at first sound like simple griping may turn out to be your next great business idea.
Another great strategy is to see if there are groups of people that are being underserved or that share a common interest.
This can include ethnic groups or other minorities, the physically disabled, or even Yoga lovers, cat lovers, etc. There are plenty of examples of highly successful business that have catered to a subset of people. Think Lululemon (yoga pants, but now so much more) if you’re looking for an example on a grand scale. On a smaller scale, you don’t have to look farther than your local ethnic grocery store or restaurant.
2. Look at Trends and Try to Be Ahead of the Curve
A business that caters to an emerging trend can also be highly profitable.
If you closely follow a particular area (it can even be a hobby), you are in a great position to identify the next big thing in that area. It could be something in tech, fashion, gaming, finance, beauty, or any area of commerce. There are emerging trends in all of these areas if you are paying attention.
One way to determine if (and how much) a topic is trending is through Google Trends.
I like to use Google Trends as a starting point for determining this. Just go to Google Trends and type in your business idea to see whether search traffic for that type of business is trending up or down.
That should serve as a pretty good barometer of how popular that type of business is currently and its trend over time. Here’s a stark example – type in “fidget spinner” and select a five year view. You will see a very clear spike in 2017 and basically a flatline after that.
Another great source to identify trends is Reddit. If you go to the appropriate subreddit, people will be discussing the latest trends and offering their opinions about recent developments in the applicable area. It can be a goldmine of information and ideas.
3. Improve an Existing Service or Product
While being first to latch onto an original idea or an emerging trend can be incredibly rewarding, it’s not the only way to create a successful business. Sometimes being second works really well too if you can do it better than the first mover. For example, taxis have been around for a long time, but Uber came and offered a car service that operates in a better, more convenient way for customers.
The same thing holds true for e-commerce. Amazon was not the first e-commerce business out there, but it found a way to dominate the space by offering a potent combination of convenience, affordability and selection.
Again, I provided some large scale examples, but it works just as well at the local level too. Let’s take a simple example. If you have amazing baking skills and the bakeries in your area are mediocre, you can dominate the space by opening up your own bakery and offering a superior product. It’s really just as simple as that.
4. Start a Business That Provides a Cheaper Product
Another business idea is to look at an existing industry and offer a cheaper product. I know it sounds obvious, but that’s the whole concept around a dollar store. It’s also the main reason why Walmart became a retail juggernaut.
Don’t underestimate the power of this type of business. That being said, it’s not easy to do. You will likely have thin profit margins and be facing stiff pricing competition when your rivals figure out what you are doing.
5. Start a Business That Provides a Better Customer Experience
You can also start a business where you can differentiate yourself by offering a superior customer experience.
This is what Amazon did to capture a dominant portion of the online retail marketplace. They have a relentless focus on customer convenience and it’s what keeps people coming back.
On a smaller scale, I know of a local real estate investor who was frustrated by the poor customer service he received from the local dumpster rental companies and decided to start his own. A lot of them were very small and didn’t have an organized call center. It was a nightmare to schedule them. Often they would be answering phones in the middle of a job or would not pick up at all.
He knew he could do better and it was a simple fix. He hired a great phone operator to schedule jobs and he diligently followed through on his commitments. As you can imagine, he was able to rapidly grow his business.
6. Think Internationally
Another way to find inspiration for a business idea is to look for ideas beyond the boundaries of the U.S. Howard Schultz founded Starbucks because he admired the sidewalk cafes on the streets of Italy and wanted to bring something like that to the U.S. His little idea became a smashing success. Now there are Starbucks locations on nearly every corner of America.
Depending on where you live, I am sure you have seen businesses that have imported ideas from other countries.
An obvious example is any ethnic restaurant or grocery store. Where I live, Korean Fried Chicken is extremely popular and franchises have popped up all over the place that serve this unique style of fried chicken. In fact, I wrote an entire article on the best Korean Fried Chicken Franchises in the U.S, which turned out to be among my most popular articles.
7. Combine Products or Services That Work Together
Another way to come up with a great business idea is to combine existing products or services. This is a bit tongue in cheek, but I love Reese’s peanut butter cups and I believe combining chocolate and peanut butter in the way that they did creates something that is greater than its individual parts. Maybe you remember the commercial that brought this point home (ugh, I am probably dating myself)
But in all seriousness, there are a million examples of products that have been combined to create smashing businesses. But not every combination is going to work. In fact, most probably won’t. Be discerning and picky about developing a combined product. You don’t want to become that eccentric scientist wearing a contraption on his head that combines a hat, binoculars, a propeller, and a toaster.
When it comes to combining products well, successful sellers on Amazon are masters at this.
You will probably see sellers offer the main product, but also throw in complementary items that work well with the main product. For example, if you want to buy press-nails, they will often include ancillary items like adhesive tabs, a nail file, a cuticle pusher, and alcohol pads. That’s because selling on Amazon can be incredibly competitive and the successful sellers have learned how to offer the best value proposition to customers.
Not a bad lesson to learn if you want to follow this approach of combining products.
8. Leverage Your Specific Skills and Experience
The last and perhaps most important tip is to use the skills and experience that you already have to start your new business. Choosing a business idea that takes full advantage of your skills will give you the best chance of success because you are already an expert in the area. Whether it’s starting a consulting gig if you are a marketing expert, or starting a trucking business if you are a licensed truck driver, your new business will have a massively better chance of surviving and thriving if you know what you are doing already.
9. Lists of Business Ideas
If you still need a little bit of help deciding on the right idea, check out these businesses for inspiration (each link will take you to my guide on how to get started in that particular business):
As you can see, there are a ton of great business ideas out there. So don’t give up – find one that resonates with you and move forward.
“There’s no shortage of remarkable ideas, what’s missing is the will to execute them.” – Seth Godin
If you are interested in taking the next step, check out my ultimate beginner’s guide to starting a business. It is designed specifically for beginners and will provide you a step by step roadmap to get you from ideation all the way to launch.