Some people start companies from scratch and turn them into major brands. Others buy existing businesses and grow them into successful companies. While the entrepreneurial landscape encompasses ventures of all sizes and types across a range of industries, there’s much that can be learned from seasoned, successful entrepreneurs about starting and growing businesses.
Whether you’re a grad looking to start a business or an aspiring entrepreneur wanting to work for yourself, it’s always worthwhile to seek advice and counsel from those who have “been there, done that.”
The good news is that you don’t have to look far to find a good opportunity, or even a good idea that you can leverage into a profitable venture. It takes an awareness of what’s needed in the marketplace, some creativity and the skill and tenacity to make it happen.
“There are many sources for new venture opportunities for individuals,” says Harvard business professor Raffi Amit. “Clearly, when you see inefficiency in the market, and you have an idea of how to correct that inefficiency, and you have the resources and capability — or at least the ability to bring together the resources and capability needed to correct that inefficiency — that could be a very interesting business idea.”
He added that “if you see a product or service that is being consumed in one market, that product is not available in your market, you could perhaps import that product or service, and start that business in your home country.”
Sometimes, the opportunity presents itself when you least expect it.
In 2003, Jim Poss, just happened to be walking down a street in Boston when he saw a garbage truck picking up litter. The truck was idling and blocking traffic as exhaust smoke filled the air and litter was strewn around the street. Poss became curious. After looking into this, he learned that garbage trucks use more than a billion gallons of fuel in the U.S. alone while averaging only 2.8 miles a gallon. Furthermore, they’re very expensive to operate. Poss figured that there had to be a more environmentally friendly way of doing this.
After much exploration and discussion, he and a group of associates experimented with several options, finally developing The Big Belly, an innovative trash receptacle that holds five times as much content as a typical garbage truck while reducing fuel use and emissions by up to 80 percent. He began to involve others, choosing a team based on who he knew might be interested within his social network.
“We are motivated in part because we care about the environment,” he said, “and in part because we know this can be financially successful.”
One of the industries that’s been attracting new entrepreneurs in recent years is real estate, a potentially lucrative field. Sam Mizrahi, owner of Mizrahi Developments in Toronto, suggests that entrepreneurial types look for underdeveloped opportunities that allow you to carve out your own niche in the development world.
According to entrepreneur John Rampton, who founded the online payment company Due, your new business should meet an existing need.
“This can be a tough characteristic to find when looking for new opportunities,” he writes, “but it’s probably one of the most important. Whenever you evaluate an opportunity, ask yourself if there is really a need for the product or service. Does the product or service solve a problem for consumers? You may want to consider using Google Consumer Surveys or a similar survey service to talk directly to the target audience. After all, the best way to see if people are going to be interested in your business is to ask them.”
He also notes that if the need is already being met, you need to determine if the company you are looking at can do a better job.
Neil Patel agrees. The co-founder of CrazyEgg, Hello Bar and KISSmetrics writes, “The greatest business ideas are born out of solving problems. Someone confronts a problem, comes up with the solution, and sells it. What’s the problem? And what’s the solution? Something to trap the mice that are eating the chips in your pantry (mousetrap). A device that keeps diaper odors from ruining your entire home (diaper champ). An electric orb that eliminates unwanted darkness (thank you, Edison).