How do I Choose a Good Small Business Idea?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

The concept of starting a small business is a dream for many people. While the thought of owning and operating a business is attractive, many would be entrepreneurs are unsure how to go about choosing a small business idea that is right for them. Here are some simple tips that will help you come up with the ideal small business idea and be well on your way to establishing your own new business.

A small business can grow from a hobby such as jewelry making.
A small business can grow from a hobby such as jewelry making.

While it is a good idea to consider your own background and talents as you seek business ideas, don’t limit yourself to those alone. This is a mistake many people make. While there is some merit in going with something you already know well, there may be other aspects of running that particular type of business that you do not know well and may find very hard to assimilate. While looking into potential opportunities that draw on your primary skills, don’t hesitate to also consider opportunities that are less directly connected with your background. The ideal business idea could be one that you would never have considered otherwise.

People who enjoy antiques may start a small business buying and selling items.
People who enjoy antiques may start a small business buying and selling items.

In addition, resist the temptation to go with a business idea simply because the product or services are those that you already know and like. Keep in mind the idea is not to cater to your personal likes and dislikes, but to offer something that will capture attention and market share within your scope of operation. Unless you know there is a market for what you can offer, and that there is room in that market for one more provider, don’t spend a lot of time investigating or pursuing that small business idea.

The best business ideas focus on the potential for repeat business.
The best business ideas focus on the potential for repeat business.

Some of the best business ideas focus on the potential for repeat business. This is because you want to not only gain new customers but also retain those you have. A small business idea that revolves around supplying something people need or want and that has a limited life is a great way to build residual income, hang on to your satisfied clients, and be able to use their good recommendation to secure new customers. There are many ideas that meet this criterion, from telecommunication services to operating a beauty salon.

You also want to consider a small business idea when the profit margin is relatively high. The costs associated with producing or securing a viable product should easily be offset by the sales of the products and still provide a tidy profit. Larger profits don’t only mean more money in your pocket; they also mean money to invest back into the business or to place in a contingency fund in the event that the market changes and you have to lower prices or change the focus of your business.

Even when the potential for repeat business and a large profit or present, there is also the need to look closely at the market potential associated with the small business idea. Ask yourself which consumer markets you would want to target in terms of building a customer base. Find out if there is room for one more competitor in those markets. Also consider what you can offer consumers that they can’t get from someone else. If you find there is room in the market and you can be competitive with the more established businesses on something other than price, you may have the perfect small business idea.

Keep in mind that it is not always the size of the market that determines if there is room for one more business. Even niche markets with relatively small consumer bases can be extremely profitable, if the competition is low and your products are versatile enough to cross-market to several different markets. Your ideal small business idea may allow you to quietly earn market share in several niche markets and remain under the radar of larger competitors, making it possible to operate successfully and with relatively few losses to your client base.

A small business startup may have it's own storefront.
A small business startup may have it's own storefront.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments

umbra21

@bythewell - Personally, I think the best home business ideas grow organically out of ideal circumstances. If you get told over and over that you have the best jam people have ever tasted, that's a clue to what you could do as a business. If you are the one who organizes all the parties for your friends, then that's a strong hint that you have a marketable skill set there.

bythewell

@clintflint - Organization and motivation are another two very big components when you're working for yourself. I work from home and I find it extremely difficult to get motivated sometime when I know there isn't a desk waiting for me at a particular hour or workmates who will notice if I'm not there.

A small business requires absolute confidence, because you might not get a lot of feedback at first and you have to be able to stick to your idea regardless.

The best small business ideas are realistic, but they have passion behind them.

clintflint

I definitely agree with this. I think, rather than looking exclusively at your hobbies and skills (which are definitely a starting point, don't get me wrong) I would take a look at what you would actually have to do in order to get your small business idea off the ground. You might love dogs, but making coats for them doesn't actually mean you'll get to hang out with dogs. It means a lot of time at home, probably working by yourself for long hours.

If you are a people person, you need to find some idea that will help you to work with people. If you are a more solitary person, then you need to make sure you will get the alone time you prefer. Trying to force yourself to do one thing or the other if you aren't that kind of person, is just going to lead to a lot of stress.

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