Is there a would-be business owner in there?

“I’d love to start a home-based business, but I don’t have a great idea. What kind of business should I start?”

This is a question that business counselors hear on a daily basis from people looking for that magic answer. Unfortunately, there isn’t one. Instead, there are many more questions that need to be addressed before an answer (magical or not) can be found.

What kind of entrepreneur might you be?

When pondering this question, ask yourself the following questions from Courtney Price’s book, Courtney Price Answers The Most Asked Questions From Entrepreneurs:

  • What do you like to do?
  • What are your interests and hobbies?
  • What are your areas of experience/expertise?
  • Do you have any special skills or talents?
  • What industry interests you?
  • What are your financial needs?
  • How much financial risk are you willing to take?
  • Would you be more comfortable running a small business with a few employees or a larger business with many employees?
  • How many years do you want to work?
  • Will your current physical condition withstand the pressures and stresses that come with starting a new business?
  • Where do you want to live and work?
  • How many hours are you willing to work?

But the questions don’t stop with soul-searching. Next, it’s time to look at the market.

Where do your market opportunities lie?

Is there a demand for your experience and/or your area of interest? Where and how can you successfully fit in? Can you solve any problems? Research has shown that many successful ventures come from gaps in the marketplace or from ideas that solve problems people have personally encountered.

Here is a wonderful, true story about how a successful company got its start because one woman couldn’t find the perfect Christmas gift for her niece.

Not so long ago, an aunt named Pleasant searched all around the Midwest for a nice doll to give her young niece. All she found were Barbies and other commercial knock-off dolls, but none she felt were special enough for this child. Finding a market niche that wasn’t being filled, she created a company that made the kind of doll she envisioned for her niece.

Not only does her company offer historical dolls with names like Kirsten, Samantha and Molly, but it also offers books, clothes, toy furniture, jewelry, computer software and magazines to go with them. That’s right, this is the story about how the American Girls Collection was created.

The nice aunt is Pleasant Rowland, founder of the Pleasant Company. Her company supplies not only wonderful dolls, but also a whole mini-culture that teaches girls ages 7 to 12 about the lives of young American girls growing up in various eras.

In their book Finding Your Perfect Work, Paul and Sarah Edwards identify the following signs for spotting a business opportunity:

  1. Complaints and problems.
    What do people hate to do? What do they complain about? Would they be willing to pay someone else to do it? Remember, within each complaint or problem lies an opportunity.
  2. Trends.
    Think about the business opportunities that might arise from the following trends, for example: less free time, concern about the environment and changing family patterns.
  3. Special needs.
    Be on the alert for people and organizations with special needs that aren’t being met. How can you determine these needs? Try number 1 above — listen for complaints and problems.
  4. People like you.
    Think about what you like and apply your skills to meeting the needs of people like you.
  5. New technology.
    New technology not only provides new opportunities, it also creates secondary needs for products and services: selling, consulting, teaching, maintaining, developing accessories and so forth.
  6. New legislation, regulations and policy changes.
    Many legal or policy developments create the need for new products or services, so ask yourself how you could help others adapt to these changes.

Take stock and decide what you can do. If starting your own business is a call you want to answer, look around for opportunities or gaps in the marketplace that need to be filled. If these opportunities or gaps complement your strengths and interests, you’ll be ready to narrow down the field of possibilities and choose a business that’s a good match for you.

For personalized assistance, contact a business development specialist at a Small Business & Technology Development Center. Visit our courses for a listing of business training events in Missouri.

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