How To Come Up With a Business Idea

Good Business Ideas Are All Around You

Brainstorming Business Ideas
How to come up with a business idea. Photo: Philipp Nemenz / Getty Images

Wondering how to come up with a business idea? Some ideas come from a careful analysis of market trends and consumer needs; others come from identifying an unmet need that you see. If you are interested in starting a business, but don't know what product or service you might sell, explore these ways of coming up with a business idea.

Key Takeaways

  • Think about your existing skills as a spark for new business ideas.
  • Keep an eye on current events and trends that are creating new market needs.
  • Look for new markets or gaps in an existing market. 
  • Consider different pain points in your life and how a product or service might solve them.
  • Create a business name and write up a business plan before you launch. 

1) Examine Your Own Skill Set for Business Ideas.

Do you have a talent or proven track record that could become the basis of a profitable business? Look at what you do in your day job as well as after work, and consider how you could use those skills in your own business. For instance, you may be able to start a consulting business with your office skills, or start a dog-walking service with your home-based skills. 

To find a viable business idea, ask yourself, "What marketable skills and experience do I have? Will people be willing to pay for my products or services?"

2) Identify Underserved Needs

Keep your eyes and ears open to find areas that have an unmet need in the business world. One strategy is to read the news regularly with the conscious intent of coming up with a business idea. You may be surprised at how many opportunities your brain generates when you’re keeping up with current events and identifying market trends, new fads, industry news—and sometimes just new ideas that have business possibilities.

For instance, after same-sex marriages became legal in Canada, entrepreneurs began selling tourist travel packages that included a marriage ceremony for same-sex couples from other countries.

3) Invent a New Product or Service

Look around your life and ask yourself how different pain points could be solved or improved throughout your day. Ask people about additional services that they'd like to see. Once you start brainstorming, focus on a particular target market and create ideas for services that that group would be interested in. 

For example, there are millions of aging gardeners across North America. What products or services could you create that would enable them to garden longer and more easily? 

Finding a niche market and exploiting it is one of the best paths to success in business, especially if you focus on an area you're passionate about.

4) Add Value to an Existing Product

You don't need to reinvent the wheel in order to build a successful business. Instead, think of ways to improve an existing product. Here are some changes that can be made in order to make something better:

  • Delivery
  • Location
  • Cost
  • Customer experience

Can you take an existing product and make it better by having it delivered? For instance the Quip toothbrush takes a relatively standard idea (a battery powered toothbrush) and adds the convenience of mail delivery for not only the brush, but also new brush heads and batteries every few months. 

Could you bring a new product or service to a geographic market that’s underserved? Or improve customer experience by, say, creating a community around the product or service you’re offering?

Think about products you buy and what you might do to them or with them to add more value and create a profitable business.

5) Investigate Other Markets

Finding a new market for an existing product is another way to come up with a business idea. One strategy is to implement low-end disruption, which positions your product at the bottom of the market with a low-priced product or service. Then you can work your way up to serve higher markets.

Alternatively, you can create a new market in an existing segment. Essentially, you are bringing new innovation and access to customers.

6) Get on the Bandwagon.

Sometimes markets surge because of current events; masses of people suddenly want or need something, and the resulting demand can't be immediately met. For example, during the second quarter of 2020, Etsy sellers sold $376 million worth of handmade masks.

Look at existing businesses and the products and services they offer and determine if there's a need for more of those products or services. If there is, develop business ideas to fit the market gap.

Bottom Line

Are you brimming with ideas for starting a business now?

Write your ideas down. Let them swirl around in your head and coalesce. And keep an open mind and continue to assess everything you read and hear from an entrepreneurial point of view.

You don't want to run with the first business idea you think of; you want to discover the idea that's best suited to your skills and desires. Dream, think, plan—and you'll be ready to transform that business idea into the business you've always wanted.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can I come up with a business name?

Consider names that reflect your brand and product or service and stand out from the competition. Then do a business name search with your state to see if the name is already taken. Check with your state’s secretary of state or other agency that’s responsible for business entity filings. Once you’ve found an available name you like, register it with your state. You can also register it as a federal trademark.

How do you start a business?

There are a number of steps involved with starting a business. The first is to perform market research to validate your idea. Then you can write up a business plan and figure out what type of funding you need to launch. Choose a business structure, name, and location. And finally, apply for any licenses or permits you need, and open a bank account for your business.

Updated by
Lauren Ward
Lauren Ward
Lauren Ward has over 10 years of experience writing about personal finance topics, including estate planning, investing, real estate, and more. She has written hundreds of articles and ghostwritten three e-books in the financial space. Her work has appeared in Time, MSN News, HerMoney, and other online publications.
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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Harvard Business School Online, "How to Find a Need in the Market."

  2. Harvard Business School Online, "How To Identify Business & Market Opportunities."

  3. Etsy. “Etsy, Inc. Reports Second Quarter 2020 Financial Results.”

  4. U.S. Small Business Administration, "Choose Your Business Name."

  5. U.S. Small Business Administration, "10 Steps To Start Your Business."

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