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Where do new business ideas come from?
Whether you want to start a new business or are looking for new income streams for an existing business, the very best business ideas are likely to be right in front of you.
Sometimes they arise out of your every day discussions with friends and business acquaintances. I had dinner with a friend a couple of nights ago, and our conversation about the things we were each doing in our spare time conjured up two different ideas for new businesses.
Other times ideas for new businesses or new revenue streams for an existing business grow out of challenges and problems you, your family, business associates, and friends are experiencing.
Let me give you some examples.
Years ago, I worked as a freelance writer. I enjoyed writing but what I really wanted to do was start my own newsletter or magazine. My problem: I didn't have the money to start a print publication. I did own a computer and a modem, and used the commercial online services occasionally. Before long, I realized that these online services (GEnie and CompuServe at the time) were really a new form of media. I submitted a proposal to GEnie to create what was essentially an online magazine. They liked the proposal, and, before long, I was on my way to being an electronic publisher.
Tim Carter, the founder of AsktheBuilder.com, has changed direction several times to navigate rough seas over the years. In the late 1980's, while Carter was still a hands-on builder and remodeler working with a tool-belt on, he determined his body would never stand up to all the abuse it was taking from building. In 1993 after being named one of the Top 50 Remodelers in the USA, he decided to take his 20-plus years of collective building knowledge and share it with millions of homeowners in a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Two years later he launched his website that's now visited by over 30,000 people per day.
AsktheBuilder.com is a fantastic resource for home improvement and home remodeling information. But, in 2011, Carter faced another huge challenge when a major algorithm change at Google cost him 65 percent of his traffic. Once again he took out the sextant and charted a new course to Amazon.com where he's now going to sell his knowledge to people who acknowledge that high-quality information that saves time and money comes with a small price tag.
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Opportunities to solve problems and create businesses or create new income streams for business aren't limited to online opportunities, of course. They're everywhere – everywhere there's a problem, in fact. You just have to open your eyes and your mind to see them.
One of my neighbors was looking for a way to make extra money and started a sideline business as a mobile car repair service. He got a lot of business on referrals because he'd go to people's homes and perform minor repairs and tune-ups right in their driveway. The service was popular because it solved a problem for people – they didn't have to leave their car at a service station for a day when it needed minor repairs.
Much bigger businesses grow out of problems and challenges, too. Think recycling, for instance. And think about millions of gallons of used cooking oil restaurants have to dispose of appropriately each year. A number of enterprising companies have created businesses picking up this waste oil and converting it into biofuel that they resell.
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What if you think you don't have any special talents or skills? Remember that things you know how to do well aren't necessarily things other people can do well. Furthermore, as the population in the US ages, there will be an increasing number of people who need someone to do everyday tasks for them that they can no longer do themselves, or that they no longer care to do for themselves. Many of those people will pay, or have families who will pay, for a wide range of mundane services such as painting rooms, cleaning, cooking, and even shopping.
So, if you're longing to start a business, and want it to have the best chance of success, don't start by asking yourself "What business can I start?" or "What business will make a lot of money?" Start by asking yourself "What problem can I solve that a lot of people have?" When you have some possible answers to that question, then narrow down your opportunities by focusing on money questions such as "How much will people spend?" "How often will they buy?" and what it will cost to get the business going and reach the people who need what you'll be selling.
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