Finding the Perfect Business Idea
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You may have heard that if you can just find something you love, the money will come. Well, that's kind of true. You definitely want to pick something you enjoy, but you also have to find something that has a market of paying customers. Remember something our friends at E-Myth Worldwide say that I think is right on: "There is a big difference between doing the technical work of a business and running a business that does that work." If you enjoy the work, get a job doing it. However, if you are going to be successful at running a business, you won't be able to do much of the technical work.
So how do you start your search? If you are starting from scratch, Entrepreneur.com's Startup Kits are resources to consider. You may also want to look into buying a franchise or business opportunity. Here are three sources to get you started:
- Low-Investment Franchises: Most of these cost less than $50,000, and some even cost less than $25,000.
- Entrepreneur's Guide To Franchising: This guide helps you understand the differences between franchises and business opportunities, as well as how to do your due diligence when shopping for franchises.
- How to Research a Business Opportunity: Business opportunities are not as heavily regulated as franchises, and they don't offer as much of a "business in a box" as a franchise does, but they can be a great place to start, and are considerably more defined than starting from scratch.
Don't worry if you don't have a lot of money--there are businesses you can start part time or on the weekend. Start with Entrepreneur.com's Low-Cost Startup Idea Center. For books full of business ideas, try searching Amazon.com, Half.com and your local library and bookstore.
Another venue you might want to look into is eBay. Many people have become very successful selling products on eBay. Visit Entrepreneur.com's eBay Center for more information.
In fact, I have a friend who has a very successful eBay golf club business, and I asked him if he'd share some of his secrets. (You can check out how he operates by searching eBay for the user ID firstname.lastname@example.org.) The following three hard-and-fast rules for selling on eBay are based on his advice:
1. Sell a product you know. If you don't know your product, you cannot accurately answer all the questions you will get from potential eBay buyers. A poorly answered question will not get you another bid.
2. Use eBay as your buying guide. If you find something you think will sell on eBay, search the completed items listings to see what like items have been selling for. Don't pay more than 65 percent of what the eBay completed sales history tells you.
3. Ship paid orders the same day every time. Buyers like fast shipping.
Also, there are tons of little things that will help you be successful on eBay, such as listing on a Thursday for 10-day auctions. That means the auction ends on a Sunday, when people are home.
If you still haven't found the idea that's right for you, here are a few articles that might help you generate ideas:
As you can see, there is no shortage of great business ideas. You could spend years just researching them. Take your time, narrow your list, do as much due diligence as you can and then take the dive! Starting your own business can change your life forever--it certainly did mine.
Keith Lowe is an experienced entrepreneur who is a founder and investor in companies in several industries. Lowe also mentors new entrepreneurs; serves as past chairman of the board for Biztech , a nonprofit high-tech business incubator; and is a co-founder and officer for the Alabama Information Technology Association .
This article was originally posted on Entrepreneur.com in 2002. It was updated with fresh resources in 2006.