So you’ve decided you want to become an entrepreneur, and you couldn’t be more excited. The promise of working for yourself, making a difference in the world, and connecting with a tribe of people you really, really love…the entrepreneurial life tons of benefits, so it’s no wonder you want to try it on. After all, a recent study by the Kauffman Foundation found that 40% of new businesses are started by women—and a lot of those are happening among the millennial age group.
But where to start? Taking first steps into entrepreneurship can also seem daunting. To succeed, it’s important to invest time upfront to find a business idea that really works for you.
The ideal business will be one that joins your passion and skills with a need that people have (ideally people you like and relate to), and produces a product or service that those people will pay you for.
It’s probably safe to say that most small businesses grow out of someone’s passion. But a lot of them fail because people begin with an idea that’s too general and don’t take time to focus it. They don’t know exactly who they’re trying to reach, what they’re trying to do, or what problem they’re trying to solve. Because of lack of focus, they don’t differentiate from all the other people out there starting businesses in similar fields.
Focus is important in all parts of your business, but if you identify your passion first, the rest of the puzzle pieces will be easier. That’s because the more you love what you’re doing, the better prepared you’ll be to weather the storms and challenges that are an inevitable part of being an entrepreneur.
Now, the irony is that focus begins by casting a wide net and brainstorming a list of lots of passion ideas. Why? Because the first idea you come up with might not meet other criteria for business success. Maybe your passion lies with making a product for which there’s no real demand. Or it’s in a market that’s already saturated, or you can’t realistically manufacture it at a price people will pay. Etc.
Another reason it’s smart to examine your own passions is that it can be easy to feel attracted to someone else’s business idea. We see a friend raking in money with a coaching business or online shop and think, “I could do that.” And maybe we could do it—but does that business fit our true passions?
These are all common pitfalls of exploring a business idea. The point is to really get to know yourself and what excites and motivates you.
So let’s get started on making a passion list for your entrepreneurial adventure.
Focus on What You Love
Write down a list of twenty things or activities you love or that you’re passionate about. Don’t overthink this. Just write. It might be hard to get to twenty. Maybe your list starts with “I’m passionate about helping single mothers find good housing,” and by the time you get to twenty, the only thing you can think of is “I’m passionate about pizza.”
This is a brainstorming exercise and there’s no right or wrong. Being passionate about pizza could someday blossom into a business. Try not to judge what you love.
Next, think back to your childhood. What activities, places, people, subjects did you always look forward to? What were your hobbies? What excited you? Summer camp…climbing trees…your collection of My Little Ponies? What about each thing made you happy? Was it the people you were around? The location? The creative energy? Be specific.
Now, mentally go back through your working life job by job and try to remember if there were times when you were so caught up in what you were doing that you lost track of time.
Again, pick out specific elements of that experience that made it so absorbing—get at the who, what, when, where, and why. Maybe you were working at a clothing store in a mall during college, and every shift, the time just flew by. What was it about that experience that you loved…working with the clothes and the colors? People interaction? Dealing with money? Write it all down.
What Are You Good At?
At this point you should have a list of ideas of activities, skills, or other pursuits from your own life that you’re passionate about.
The next step is to look realistically at how prepared you are to pursue these. To succeed in a business built around any of these areas, you’ll need to either have expertise or be able to acquire it.
Make a list of skills you have right now. What do you excel at? What formal training do you have, and informal or on-the-job skills have you gained? How do these cross over with the passions you’ve identified? What would it take to get proficient at a passion you’ve identified, but lack expertise in?
Look for Creative Synergies
By now you’ve done a lot of self-examination and learned a lot about what you love, and what you know. This is important work in helping you find a business niche that’s uniquely you and that you can sustain.
You can now explore creative ways your passions and skills could intersect or overlap to create a totally fresh business idea. Look at your list of passions and imagine putting any two (or more) of them together. How could you pair a love of running with a law degree? What would happen if you combined an interest in herbal medicine with a passion for writing? See what you come up with!
Keep all your ideas together, because you’re probably going to want to refer to them again in the future. You might also want to make a vision board where you can collect photos and images that help you pull your dream out of your mind and into something tangible that gives you direction.
This guest post is courtesy of Kavita Sahai is the CEO and Founder of Have BIGplans, LLC, which virtually, conveniently and affordably connects entrepreneurs with certified business coaches. As the first-ever text business coaching platform, Have BIGplans has revolutionized the business coaching industry by providing unparalleled dialog between certified business coaches and small business owners in the digital age.