What do you do when your great business idea starts to feel not so great?
This is the issue I have been facing for the past couple of days. I have been working with Startup.SC, a South Carolina startup business incubator, on a new business concept called Yumbev, a unique-craft brewing-business model I am hoping will capitalize on the craft-beer boom in the U.S.
I have validated the business idea, but for the past couple of days, the idea has stalled. It is not a lack of motivation, but rather a nagging hunch that I am missing something -- something rather significant.
It is a feeling I know every startup entrepreneur has at some point.
Luckily, because I have been open about the idea with friends and colleagues and work with a great cohort at Startup.SC, the constant brainstorming and feedback has helped tremendously to identify three key questions to ask when your idea lands in this sandpit of apprehension.
1. Is our idea unique enough? If you cannot rattle off immediately and passionately why your company is going to be different and much better than any competitor in the market, then you do not have a solid foundation on which to build your business model. And if your default response is something generic, such as "customer service," then you better be able to explain why the "customer service" that you provide will be that much better than what is already being provided to consumers.
Remember, your unique value proposition is what will separate your company from all others.
2. Is your idea relevant enough? Ask yourself, honestly and bluntly, if customers will use your product or service today and tomorrow. These days, consumer preferences change at the drop of a coin, and too many entrepreneurs chase and develop businesses around trends or technologies that will be obsolete in a few years (or even sooner). Consider if your business model can stay relevant and continue to solve problems effectively long after the original idea has passed.
3. Is your idea big enough? After you have identified the problem you want to solve, brainstormed how your business is going to tackle that problem in a unique and relevant way, and determined how to make it sustainable, consider that you may still need to think even bigger. This is difficult for some entrepreneurs, who pour massive personal energy into their business ideas.
For this reason, it is critical to engage others, including other professionals and entrepreneurs, who will provide you with candid and even painfully honest feedback. Do not take the criticism personally, but instead understand that there may yet be a larger underlying problem that needs to be solved -- and you just may be the person to solve it.
Here is the test to find out if your business idea sufficienty answers these three questions. When you deliver your 30-second explanation to someone, if they shrug, pucker their face with any apprehension or simply give you a soft smile, that is your sign you have missed something. Start asking what they do not like or how you can improve it.
What you want to see is raised eyebrows, a thoughful glance in another direction, and a slow and comprehending nod, much like the instantly recognizable silent approval you see in the great Robert De Niro.
When you see that look, it means you truly have an idea that is worthy of consideration.
Do you have a similar experience? Please share with others in the comments section below.
Related: Your Ideas Have No Value