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How to develop your small business idea

Looking to start your own company but struggling to come up with small business ideas? This list of tips and tricks will help you develop your unique concept.

7 min read

If you’re looking to start your own business in the UK, there’s a lot you need to do, from budgeting and registering with HMRC to advertising and finding customers.

 Before that, though, you need an idea: a notion of what your business is, what you can provide and what you aim to achieve. Too many budding entrepreneurs stumble at this first hurdle. After all, we’ve all had that stressful experience of staring at a blank sheet of paper, seemingly unable to refine an idea

If this sounds familiar, don’t worry. In this post, we’ll run through some of the best strategies to help you generate and develop the perfect idea for your small business.

QuickBooks’ top tips for developing small business ideas

1) Get inspiration from small business owners

As with any other creative project, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when developing small business ideas. With so many businesses already up and running, how could you possibly come up with something new?

Rather than agonising over this question, it can be helpful to take a step back and let go of the belief that your idea has to be totally original. With more than seven billion humans on the planet, the chances are a great idea has already been thought of.

And that’s fine! A major part of market research is looking at what’s already on offer and seeing where you can slot in. There’s no reason why you can’t start this process early and take inspiration from those who are already succeeding.

2) Repurpose an idea from abroad

On a similar note, looking further afield can be a great way to identify an untapped niche back home.

One of the best things about travelling is experiencing new and different cultures and surroundings, and often that means recognising that things you had assumed were general or universal are actually local and particular. Just because every other business in your area does something one way, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a different or better way.

Travel, research and talk to people from different places to learn about novel products and practices. You never know – you could find something that’s perfect for small businesses in the UK!

3) Host a brainstorm

If you feel a bit stuck even after looking at how others are doing things at home and abroad, it can help to gather a few people around you and develop ideas with them.

The key to a good brainstorm is ‘blue-sky thinking’: taking time to come up with creative ideas without getting hung up on practical concerns at this stage. Even something that seems unworkable can provide the seed for a great business concept. Sourcing a range of opinions and perspectives from others is a great way to provide an environment for that seed to grow.

4) Solve a problem

Many of the best ideas in history have come from looking at a problem and thinking open-mindedly about a solution. This approach can be especially fulfilling as it involves zooming in on the things that really bug you and actually changing them.

It can help to start in your home and move outwards from there. Great products, from dishwashers to automated vacuum cleaners, have sprung from the simple human urge to not have to spend quite so long doing boring chores.

Look for what annoys you and think of what it would take to make it better.

5) Think ahead

Look at some of the most successful companies of recent years – Google, Facebook, Amazon and so on. What do they all have in common? One important thing is that each of these companies takes advantage of changes in technology.

Facebook wasn’t the first social network on the internet and Google wasn’t the first search engine. But each of these companies looked at the world around it and made predictions about the future.

At Google, for instance, the founders looked at the increasing dominance of the internet for everything from everyday tasks to academic research and saw a need for an authoritative search engine that could bring users exactly what they were looking for.

Though each of these examples relates to tech, there’s no reason to limit this approach to any one sector. As the problem-solving advice above makes clear, there’s always a better way to do something. Successful businesses look at trends in the world and get ahead of the curve.

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6) Meditate

Recently, meditation has transformed from a niche habit of dedicated spiritualists to a normal part of many of our lives. Apps like Headspace and Calm have made the practice more accessible than ever before, and many across the worlds of work, creativity and business are already feeling the benefits.

Crucially, meditation works best when it isn’t oriented towards any specific goal. This might sound counterintuitive when it comes to generating small business ideas, but giving your mind the space to breathe can help stimulate creativity like nothing else, as this TED Talk from Headspace founder Andy Puddicombe makes clear.

7) Trial and error

‘Perfect is the enemy of good’. It’s a bit of a cliché, but this phrase captures something important: holding out for perfection can mean neglecting and rejecting perfectly good ideas.

To avoid falling into this trap, adopt an experimental mindset. Testing something out doesn’t tie you to it forever, and you’ll often be surprised by what catches on.

If it helps, you can self-consciously think of what you’re doing as a ‘maybe idea’ – something you’re just trying on for size. The key is shutting down whatever voice in your head tells you things need to be absolutely perfect.

8) Use your skill set

Everyone has something they can do well. That might sound a little too Disney–Pixar, but it’s true. There is without doubt something that you are exceptional at.

And, more importantly, your skills aren’t necessarily tied to your current or past employment.

If you’re used to working for others as an employee, it can be easy to overlook the skills you’ve developed both on the job and in your studies. Especially now, as many people are running their own business from home, you should consider how to turn your hobbies into something more. That art you’ve been working on could lead to a flourishing graphic design business, for instance. Don’t feel hemmed in by what you’ve done in the past.

9) Look for new niches

Clever targeting can be the key to a successful business model. If you have identified a potential customer group that’s currently overlooked by the competition, addressing this segment directly in your marketing and communications can lead to a profitable business. What’s more, targeting your business idea towards a niche audience can encourage word of mouth amongst the community and make you a star in a specific customer segment.

Just think about the success that an LGBTQ+ relationship therapist might have, or a grocery store for expats from a specific country. The more specific your niche, the more likely you’ll conquer it.

10) Produce something cheaper

Finally, you should remember one of the simplest rules of business: if you can offer the same product or service as someone else for less money, you’re sure to gain new customers.

It might sound mercenary, but there’s often real creativity involved in providing goods and services for less. Start with your own life: if there’s anything you can identify that seems too expensive, take a look at the production process. You just might find an opportunity there. 

You’ve got a small business idea - what’s next?

We hope this list has given you some ideas to start developing your own small business idea. Be sure to check where you’re at in your business journey with the help of our personalised to do list for starting your own business in the UK.