How to find an idea for a great business

To start a business, you need to start with a good idea. But where do you find one of those? Here’s just three ways to come up with an idea for a brilliant business, as inspired by others who have already been there…

1. Solve a problem

Every business needs to do more than just be a good idea – if it’s going to be successful then it needs to solve a problem that consumers are having. Leah Busque, founder of TaskRabbit, came up with the idea for her business one snowy night in Boston when she and her husband realised they were out of dog food. They wished there was a solution where if someone from their neighbourhood was at their store they could find out and ask them to grab a bag for them. That conversation turned into TaskRabbit.

Solving a personal problem that you’re having by launching a business gives you a connection to your business that goes beyond the financial. Essentially, you become your own first customer.

“It’s always important to have a mission – to have something to work towards,” Busque said.

2. Make an existing product more accessible

Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa founded Warby Parker to make glasses more affordable. After Gilboa lost a pair of $700 glasses while backpacking in Asia, he was disgusted by how much glasses cost. And then they discovered that one company was behind many eyewear brands, including Ray-Ban, Oakley, and also held the exclusive eyewear licenses to most major fashion labels like Chanel, Prada, Ralph Lauren and DKNY.

“Most consumers don't realise that when you walk into a Sunglass Hut or a Lens Crafters, you see 50 different brands of glasses, but all those brands are owned and produced by the same company that also owns the store that you're standing in, that also owns the vision-insurance plan that you're using to pay for those glasses,” Gilboa said in an interview with Business Insider. “It just didn't make sense to us that that was the only way that you could design, manufacture, and sell glasses to consumers.”

After incubating their idea for a year and a half Warby Parker launched, selling glasses for as little as $95 and met their first year sales targets in the first three weeks of operations.

3. Go into an industry that’s lacking recent innovations

Richard Branson has been in business for nearly half a century but each time Virgin launches a new business, they only do so if they are innovating in an industry. That’s exactly why he started Virgin Atlantic in the 1980s. Having decided he was fed up with airlines that didn’t care about their passengers, he bought a Boeing 747 and set up a completely different kind of airline.

“At Virgin, we only enter industries when we think we can offer consumers something strikingly different,” the Virgin Group founder said. “Virgin Atlantic was able to persevere and flourish, despite immense competition, because the airline filled a gap in the market by providing customers with something of great use that made a real difference to their lives.”

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