Chances are, you’ve come up with a business idea at some point in your life, whether you realise it or not.
Some people come up with a possible idea for a solution to a common problem and dismiss it, never to address the subject seriously again.
Others generate an idea for a business and fixate on it, trying to take action but never getting off the ground.
Ideas come in many shapes and sizes, and while most bad ideas are recognisable as bad ideas immediately, not all “good” ideas are created equal.
A “good” idea, in theory, is one that solves a problem adeptly, with no major drawbacks. But not every good idea can sustain a good business.
For example, your idea, while good, might not be cost effective, therefore preventing you from generating a worthwhile profit.
If you have a good idea, but you aren’t sure whether the idea is sustainable as the foundation for a real business, ask yourself these questions:
Are you solving a common problem?
The first question to ask is an easy one. Think about your idea. Does it solve some kind of problem that an average person would face?
The first key here is that you’re actually solving a problem and not introducing some new function that nobody ever needed. The second key is that the problem you’re solving is widespread.
For example, if you invent a device that allows someone to play accordion and perform automotive repairs at the same time, you probably aren’t going to reach a wide audience.
You can do some market research to back up your idea here, but for now, a common sense thought experiment should let you know whether your idea is solid.
Are people going to pay for your solution?
Following the same rules as the question above, you can conduct some market research to get a surefire answer, but just think about this question in a practical setting.
Imagine you didn’t come up with this idea, and that instead, someone was coming to you with it. Would you be willing to pay that person for this product or service?
How much would you be willing to pay? These two questions should immediately let you know whether this idea has the potential to make real money.
Making money, believe it or not, is only the first step of the process. To thrive as a business, your idea needs to have room to grow – the term for this is scalability.
Can your idea gradually expand to new markets? Can you come up with new, improved models? Can you expand your business into other areas to make more money?
If your idea isn’t scalable, and it can only exist in its current form, it may not be worth pursuing as a business.
Has someone else beaten you to it?
This is an important question to ask, and one quick Google search should provide you with a succinct, direct answer.
See if there are any other companies that are already using your idea. If it’s a great idea, there’s a good chance that someone else already thought of it.
If you see at least one competitor with a version of your idea that’s as good as or better than yours, your idea probably isn’t sustainable.
Could anyone do this?
Imagine for a moment that nobody else has jumped on this idea yet. If you introduce it to the world and start shopping around a prototype or preliminary service, how easy would it be for someone else to replicate your idea? How easy would it be for them to make a subtle improvement?
If your idea isn’t unique, or if it can be easily copied, it has a high chance of being taken advantage of by copycats and idea thieves working well within the confines of the law.
Can it last for more than a year?
This may seem like an obvious question of sustainability, but think critically about the nature of your idea. Does it take advantage of a current fad or trend? If so, remember that fads don’t usually last long.
Business ideas that take advantage of a fleeting interest do not succeed – instead, you need something that solves a long-term problem with a long-term solution.
If you can answer all of these questions confidently, and backed with ample research, you’ll have a good chance at turning your idea into a successful enterprise.
Just remember the ideation phase is only the first step of the process. From here, you’ll need to do exhaustive research, write a business plan and start shopping your idea around to investors. It’s a long, trying process, but with confidence in your idea, you’ll be off to a great start.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Calling All Social Entrepreneurs: Be SA’S Next Changemaker With The Nation Builder Social Innovation Challenge
In partnership with LaunchLab and the Mergon Group.
Nation Builder, together with the Stellenbosch University LaunchLab and the Mergon Group, is inviting business pitches for their inaugural Social Innovation Challenge. The competition aims to identify and support South Africa’s social entrepreneurs, with an opportunity to win a share of R150 000 seed capital.
Entrepreneurs with a self-sustainable business idea – no matter how simple or small – that addresses particular social issues, positively impacts communities, empowers the disadvantaged, or has the potential to solve local problems in innovative ways, are invited to enter the Social Innovation Challenge.
Ten finalists will receive exposure to a broader network of business investors at the final pitching event, which will be hosted by LaunchLab in Stellenbosch on 13 June 2018. Three final winners will receive their portion of R150 000 funding capital, as well as business support from LaunchLab.
Related: How To Be A Social Entrepreneur
In addition to social innovation specialists, media and social development experts, the judging panel will consist of astute business leaders who have successfully walked the entrepreneurship journey.
“Social entrepreneurs are those who see social challenges as opportunities, devise sustainable business solutions to meet those needs, and positively impact many South Africans in the process,” says Keri-Leigh Mac Donald, Executive Director of Nation Builder, an organisation that supports businesses in leading social change in South Africa.
“Social entrepreneurs are the next wave of change makers and social reformers. Nation Builder wants to support and showcase some of these great and emerging home-grown social businesses as a means to challenge us all to think differently when addressing our local social challenges,” she adds.
According to Brandon Paschal, Head of Incubation at LaunchLab, most of the start-ups that the LaunchLab currently work with already have a strong social conscience. “We have worked with many great small businesses in sectors such as mental health, financial inclusion, job creation, empowerment, and sustainability. We’re excited for them to have this platform with Nation Builder and the broader network of great socially-responsible companies. It is a wonderful way for them to gain more exposure, but also to work with like-minded partners that can help take their businesses forward, without compromising on their social conscience and the greater purpose of their business.”
The winning entrepreneur and their business idea will also be showcased at Nation Builder’s In Good Company conference in Gauteng in August 2018. In addition, they will receive exposure through the various Nation Builder, Mergon and LaunchLab media channels.
“The societal benefits from these enterprises can bring about increased economic activity and opportunities for many more South Africans, while playing a pivotal role in breaking the cycles of social ills that many people are facing daily. The Nation Builder Social Innovation Challenge is a first step in fuelling and highlighting local social innovation solutions,” says Pieter Faure, CEO of Mergon.
Submission requirements: Submit a 3-minute video (cell phone footage can be submitted too) of yourself explaining your business idea with your entry form which can be found on the LaunchLab website: http://www.launchlab.co.za/nationbuilder2018
Pitches (video entries) need to focus on providing the following information:
- Provide a brief summary of the business/social innovation idea and its history.
- What is the particular social issue that the business idea aims to address?
- How does the business idea solve or address the social issue?
- Explain how the business intends to make money and be sustainable, while clearly describing the target market or customer profile.
- What key milestones have been achieved within the venture already?
- What is the strategy to grow the business and scale the social impact?
- Anything else that the panel needs to know?
Submissions opened on 14 March, and the deadline for online submission entries is 11 May 2018. The top ten finalists will be notified by the end of May. Finalists’ transport to and accommodation in Stellenbosch for two nights will be provided.
LaunchLab’s terms and conditions apply, and are available to download here: https://launchlab.co.za/innovationchallenges/competition-terms-conditions/
The three winning pitches will be announced at the pitching event on Wednesday 13 June 2018. The panellists’ decision is final.
How To Be A Social Entrepreneur
If you’re ready to launch a business, but want to make a real social impact too, the social entrepreneurship model might be right for you. Here’s how to get started.
A social enterprise is an organisation that serves a social and/or environmental purpose, generates income from business activities and reinvests its profits back into driving its mission.
Examples include African Schools of Excellence (provide world-class schools to poor communities at a low cost); Hands of Honour (upcycles waste and provide employment for former drug addicts and ex-convicts); and my own social enterprise, Nkazimulo Applied Sciences (helps young people become scientists regardless of their background).
Some people say most of the profits should be reinvested into the mission, but others say a worker is worth their wages.
Doing business differently
Social entrepreneurship is a different way of doing business. Previously, few people cared about whether a company did good or not. Today, food outlets that serve healthy eating options are growing their market share because consumers now care about their health.
Farming responsibly opens the growing market that cares about the environment. More people care about the quality of education South African children have access to and support the efforts in this area. This is where social entrepreneurs can make a real, sustainable difference.
The entity can take any legal form, from a non-profit organisation, to a private company, a trust, or adopt a hybrid structure. Each has its pros and cons. Social enterprises take attributes from commercial entities.
They generate income from business activities. They also take attributes from non-profit organisations and government departments by tackling challenges previously addressed by these organisations, such as poverty, inequality, poor education and unemployment.
They run more efficiently, and are more accountable and transparent than public sector organisations. They are less dependent on external funding than non-profit organisations and charities. Worldwide, there is not enough grant funding for all the non-profit organisations looking for it.
Sustainable social models
An important element of successful social entrepreneurship is social impact monitoring and evaluation. The enterprise must constantly improve on delivering its mission and communicating the results of the impact to all its stakeholders.
Measuring impact may seem difficult. How can you tell a child became a doctor because they had access to lab facilities they previously had no access to? Maybe they were influenced by another factor. There are several tools to help a social enterprise focus its activities on outputs that will lead to the intended outcome which can then be measured.
These outputs become inputs that form a series of outcomes that, together, achieve the intended overall impact and become indicators the enterprise measures. Instead of measuring the number of learners who become doctors, the measure is the number of learners with access to lab facilities where none existed before. This is better than looking at the number of lab facilities provided, which is an input.
See the bigger picture, collaborate and achieve collective impact
These tools are called Logic Models. Demonstration of impact communicates why an enterprise should be supported by stakeholders. The use of Logic Models envisions the bigger picture and identifies other players to collaborate with to achieve collective impact.
Thompson Reuters Foundation reported that South Africa comes third in Africa after Egypt and Nigeria as the best place to be a social entrepreneur. This is very encouraging and is much needed in not only boosting the economy but addressing social and environmental issues.
IN ACTION: Using a logic model to prove your impact
A logic model is a visual representation of how day to day activities of an organisation relate to their overall mission or long-term goal. The model is key in deciding what to measure for impact evaluation.
It has six components:
- The current situation: The problem being solved.
- Inputs: Resources used to address the problem.
- Outputs: Activities and services delivered by the enterprise.
- What outcomes will come about because of the inputs?
- External factors, or circumstances in the environment that influence the problem but which the enterprise has no control over.
- Assumptions that are conditions needed for the success of the programme.
Involve all stakeholders in drawing up a logic model. The different perspectives help draw a complete picture. Impact measurement indicators are then based on these inputs and outcomes.
Logic models link inputs, outputs and outcomes and ensure that the correct indicators are monitored and measured as an enterprise achieves its mission.
3 Internet-Based Businesses You Can Start In 2018
Online experiences connect people worldwide to your brand and the solutions you offer – without requiring a big budget to launch your digital storefront.
No doubt many people resolved to boost their income during the new year. (Of course, it’s never too late to start a business).
The internet provides endless ways to make money. The best part? Most internet-based businesses can be launched immediately, without a giant budget. Here are three awesome gigs you can start in the comfort of your own home.
1. Become a seller on Amazon
Amazon is a monster. According to eMarketer, Amazon accounted for more than 43 percent of e-commerce sales in the United States during 2017 – and about half of those transactions came from third-party sellers. There are many advantages to joining Amazon’s ranks:
- Given the site’s popularity, you can tap into a gigantic amount of traffic. Many consumers are ready to buy when they visit Amazon.
- You operate under the umbrella of the biggest and most trusted name in online retail. If you opted to launch your own e-commerce website from scratch, you’d learn that establishing trust is perhaps the most difficult and time-consuming part of the job. Selling through Amazon omits this entirely.
- You easily can manage your entire online business through Amazon’s Seller Central dashboard.
So, how do you get started? First, you need to choose your Amazon category, or niche. These include labels such as clothing, healthcare, jewellery, electronics, beauty and more. Then, identify which products are in high demand.
Related: 10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!
The easiest route is to become a Fulfillment By Amazon seller. This means Amazon will take care of shipping, delivery, returns, exchanges and other logistics. You’ll need to stay in tune with supply chains and demand estimates. Tools such as forecastly make this task simpler. And Sourcify can help you find a manufacturing facility, if your idea includes creating a new product.
It’s easy to become an Amazon seller, but being a successful one requires a good deal of work on your end. In addition to choosing the right niche, you must demonstrate some savvy marketing skills. While Amazon functions as your sales outlet, you still need to market yourself as you would a typical business. This involves blogging, social media, email marketing, forums and other activities designed to direct traffic to your Amazon Seller page. Netrush is just one company that can help you establish your brand on the Amazon marketplace after you start making sales.
If you pay close attention to trends and market your products correctly, you can make serious money. Entrepreneur, investor and yogi Nate Ginsburg sold his his Fulfillment By Amazon business for $1 million after three years.
2. Become a Facebook advertising consultant
Facebook has taken over the online advertising market. In 2016, Facebook accounted for 77 percent of the digital ad industry’s overall growth. It’s safe to say Facebook is giving Google a serious run for its money in the world of online marketing. Facebook has enabled all types of small businesses to advertise online with a smaller budget – something that wasn’t possible in the past.
To illustrate the effect, Google’s cost-per-click for digital ads is $10. Spend that same ten-spot on Facebook, and you get 10 clicks. It’s just one reason I predicted last year that Facebook will beat all other digital marketing channels.
Helping online businesses use paid campaigns to establish a Facebook presence is a fantastic way to make money online. However, even though the technical side of advertising on Facebook is made easy, it’s not exactly a cakewalk. You need skills to write copy that converts sales, conduct in-depth research on audience profiles, find the best times to promote, keep a close eye on result metrics and glean the proper insights. Of course, you also must have exceptional client communication.
In reality, Facebook advertising puts money into a system over which you have a limited amount of control. Be sure you do your research on the profession beforehand. Others’ experience shows you can make a lot of money this way if you understand the market. In 2014, former pastor Nicholas Kusmich and his wife capitalised on the emerging market for Facebook advertising. The couple opened a boutique Facebook marketing agency that brought in around $2 million in 2017.
3. Become a part of cryptocurrency ecosystem
If you’ve tuned into the news over the past few months, you’ve certainly heard something about the drastic surge of bitcoin and rise of blockchain. Based on the huge spike in demand, bitcoin is shaping up to potentially become the universal digital currency. The result? Everyone worldwide could make international transactions without worrying about exchange rates or fees to third-party banks.
In terms of business opportunities, there are several possibilities to consider.
One of the most popular is becoming a cryptocurrency miner. If you want to get in on this gig, now is the time. Bitcoin mining is a nonstop online accounting process by which transactions are verified and compiled into the public ledger. While you can make good money doing this, it’s important you understand what you’re getting into. The idea may seem simple, but the actual practice of bitcoin mining takes a good deal of effort.
Start-up costs generally run pretty high, and you need to choose the right hardware, software and bitcoin wallet. You also must make regular upgrades to your equipment – all while keeping a close eye on the bitcoin market. As long as you stay on top of your research and updates, this can be an incredible way to boost your income.
Another stellar opportunity within the cryptocurrency ecosystem involves solving niche or industry-specific problems using blockchain. Blockchain companies are on the rise, and industries around the globe are changing. The concept is very new, so becoming a consultant can be a great way to make money while you play a role in disrupting the status quo altogether.
For example, many freelancers use popular sites such as Freelance.com and Upwork to connect with companies. These platforms take a cut of the earnings from each project. A blockchain system essentially cuts out the middle person, connecting freelancers with companies directly and avoiding work-based fees.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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