One reason why young entrepreneurs are so powerful and successful is that they’re full of ideas. You’re a natural problem-solver, and when you see a problem in your everyday life you have several ideas for how to solve it. Or you’ve seen someone struggle with the same issue every day and know how to make life easier for them.
But how do you know which ideas are good and which aren’t worth your time and energy? Sometimes, an idea that seems perfect to you may not be suitable in the real world. (Ahem.) Just because you have an idea doesn’t mean it’s doable, either. The product may be too complicated or the service unnecessary. You might feel like you’re not the one to properly execute this idea in a way that will make sense.
How can a creative and inspired young entrepreneur like you know which ideas are worth pursuing, and which should be set aside? Put yourself on the path to maximize success while minimizing wasted time and money with these tips.
DOES YOUR IDEA SOLVE A PROBLEM?
If the answer is an immediate “yes,” then you’re on the right path.
Look around at your life. What’s something that irks or annoys you regularly? What’s something you wish you could avoid, speed up, or do better? Next, look at your friends and family. Ask them questions. What’s keeping them from feeling happier in their lives?
Odds are good that these problems aren’t unique. If you constantly lose pens and pencils during your school day and find yourself spending a small fortune to replace them, chances are someone else in the world has that same issue.
IS THERE A MARKET FOR YOUR IDEA?
Do a quick google search for your idea. Do several searches with different words and phrases. What solutions already exist? Keep in mind, you’re not out to reinvent the wheel. But this kind of market research can give you a quick (and free!) idea of whether people are buying the type of product you want to make or not.
You should also ask friends and family whether they’d spend money on your idea to solve the problems they just told you about. Do they seem excited? Or are they humoring you? Is this product something they can see themselves using?
DO YOU LOVE YOUR OWN IDEA?
Let’s face it: just because you think you know how to solve a problem doesn’t mean you want to be the person who makes it happen. You may have a million ideas for how to make the security checks at the airport more streamlined and efficient, but that doesn’t mean you want to go into business with the TSA.
The most successful entrepreneurs are those who work in a field they love. The easy explanation for this is that if your heart isn’t in it, you won’t stick with it. Love and dedication are the fuel for your engine on the road to success.
CAN YOU GET FUNDING FOR YOUR IDEA?
Almost all small businesses need money to get off the ground and yours probably isn’t an exception. Even if you have all the startup capital you need to launch your business, take a few minutes to check out GoFundMe and Kickstarter projects. Look for the most funded and most popular projects. Check out projects like yours. What can you learn from this research?
CAN YOUR IDEA IMPROVE ON AN EXISTING PRODUCT OR SERVICE?
Remember when we said you shouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel? While that’s true, you also don’t necessarily need to start from scratch. E-book readers like the Nook and Kindle didn’t invent books. But their creators saw a way to sell books beyond the traditional paperbacks and hardcovers. E-books filled a need for readers by allowing them to have hundreds of books in one lightweight, portable tablet.
Let’s go back to our example of losing your pencils all the time. We already know that pencil cases exist. Does your idea offer a better, more stylish, or more efficient solution? Is there a way you can improve on existing pencil cases?
ARE YOU WILLING TO LISTEN TO OTHERS’ OPINIONS OF YOUR IDEA?
We know that your idea is your baby, and like nearly every other parent out there, you don’t want to hear anyone speak badly about your baby. But before you dive in headfirst to make your idea a reality, it’s worth talking to others about it. Specifically, you should seek out successful entrepreneurs already in your field and ask for their advice. Even if you don’t have someone you consider a mentor, ask your economics teacher or your small business CEO neighbor. Someone in the know will probably have good insight and smart advice for you before you spend a single dollar on your startup.
DOES YOUR IDEA MESH WITH YOUR WORK STYLE?
If you’re bad at building things from scratch and your idea involves handcrafting products, then you maybe need to have an honest conversation with yourself. Are you willing to outsource the production? How would that factor into your business plan and finances? Can you take a class to learn the things you don’t know? Do you have the time and energy for that?
For young entrepreneurs without a great deal of patience, an idea that will take years to launch might not be the best project. Don’t like working with kids? It’s probably best not to start a babysitting service.
While you look at your passions and strengths, be mindful of your dislikes and weaknesses. This way you avoid trapping yourself in a situation that makes you frustrated and uncomfortable.
Figuring out which of your many awesome ideas is the winner will take a little bit of time and effort. Remember that focusing on your ideas now will save you tons of wasted time and money further down the entrepreneurial road. Don’t neglect ideas you think of as “bad,” either. Throw them all out there. See what sticks. You might be surprised and find that something you previously dismissed as “unrealistic” becomes your most successful startup!
If you are a high school student in Florida with a passion for entrepreneurship, click here to find out more about the Kantner Foundation’s college scholarship program.