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A lot of people have business ideas, but few ideas turn into actual businesses. Sometimes, an idea is just not compelling enough; sometimes it’s simply not compelling enough for you, and that’s ok! If you don’t feel the urgency to draw up a business plan anytime soon, it’s hard to say whether you’ll feel up for the rigors of running a business months or years down the line.
Owning a business is demanding and risky; by some estimates, half don’t survive their fifth year. But the awesome flip side is, half do survive. Some even thrive— bringing on not just profits, but an incredible sense of personal fulfillment. That’s how I feel about my company, hint®. Not in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d be running a beverage company, but hint® turned out to be the perfect business venture for me. If you’re wondering whether your business idea has potential, and more importantly, whether it’s the perfect venture for you, it’s worth keeping in mind these five important questions.
- How passionate are you about the idea?
If the answer isn’t “Extremely!”, then you may want to re-think your idea. A business requires inordinate amounts of time, energy, and enthusiasm, even on bad days. So your idea has to feel compelling to you. You have to be all in, and that passion is your fuel.
For me, keeping healthy is incredibly important. I try to start each day with a hike and I watch what I eat and drink. When I began to add cut up fruit to my water, it was a revelation: I never liked the taste of plain water, so that subtle flavor kept me hydrated and healthy. By replacing diet soda with water, I lost a little over 20 pounds in two weeks, my skin cleared up, and I had more energy than I’d had in a long time. The results were dramatic, and when I learned that there was no product like it already on the market, I felt compelled to share my discovery. So, hint® has never been simply about selling a product, it has been about sharing something I deeply believe in: the importance of good health and knowing what you’re putting inside your body. This is what makes me excited to come into the office every day.
- What problem are you solving?
Even for entrepreneurs who have no intention of making the world a better place, they’ve still got to make a difference; after all, that’s pretty much the definition of a good business idea. Whether it’s something on the level of a medical device, dating app, or factory widget, a successful business idea fills a gap in the marketplace and changes its target customer’s life for the better.
As for me, I didn’t intend to solve a problem—until, one day, I went to my local Whole Foods hoping to pick up a stash of unsweetened flavored water. I had been making my own at home but was looking for something more convenient and portable. All the manager could show me was a drink with artificial sweeteners. That’s when I knew I could be on to something.
- How will you test your idea?
The typical advice is to run your idea by your friends and family and see how they react. If they seem confused or their eyes glaze over, it probably won’t work. But the thing is, if you’re trying to disrupt an industry, your idea may, in fact, be met with confusion. That shouldn’t stop you. My husband initially thought I was crazy for wanting to start a healthy-beverage company, and we hardly told our friends and family because they probably would have reacted the same way. But when I was able to persuade my local Whole Foods to put ten test cases of unsweetened flavored water on the shelf, they sold out overnight.
So if you have a novel idea, don’t be afraid to take it outside the confines of your inner circle. You can start small. For instance, put together an inexpensive prototype for a local vendor, or provide some barebones information about your service online. The response might surprise you.
- What are your superpowers?
Self-awareness is crucial when it comes to running a successful business. As with any job, you’ve got to know what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. But when you’re launching a business, it also pays to know what you’re good at and what you’re great at. This subtle nuance comes in handy whether you’re calling someone for advice or putting together a team.
Remember, too, to tap into your past experience, however unrelated, and use it to disrupt the status quo. Having worked in the tech industry for so long, I became accustomed to always trying to figure out how an existing business could work better. That reflex turned out to be helpful in identifying the need for something like hint®. Later on, I tapped into my e-commerce background to sell my product online, which is how a large portion of our consumers now get our product.
- Are you willing to be scrappy?
I realize I told you to delegate the workload to play to your strengths, but I’ll also say it’s important to be willing to roll up your sleeves and do whatever it takes to help your business succeed. This is especially key when you’re just starting out as resources are limited, and a staff is non-existent. My husband and I brought our initial cases of hint® to Whole Foods ourselves and I found the manager and implored him to put them on his shelf.
Beyond legwork, being scrappy also means pushing past your comfort zone. I didn’t know anything about the beverage business when I first started. So I did lots of research and learned the jargon. Armed with that knowledge, plus the research I’d already done to get healthy, I gained even more confidence in my product.
One more thing about being scrappy: Be bold and trust your instincts. When a big soda company executive dismissed my product and told me that “Americans love sweet,” I didn’t give up. I had done too much research to know that he was wrong. Instead, I kept talking to him—this was my opportunity to gain insight into how the major players think! I hung up knowing that my product offers a much-needed alternative and that I should run with it.
If your business idea motivates you to do the work, if it solves a problem deeply important to you and propels you to defy the current “experts,” then you just may have hit upon a business venture that’s perfect for you. Draw up a business plan and see how far you can go.
January 29, 2019 at 03:37PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs