“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.”
Once upon a time…
I saved $4,000 by being stupid. At the time I was 19 and had no idea how business worked. I’d had a full time summer job and worked while in school. This allowed me to save up over four grand.
One day I was watching Fight Club and got to the part where Ed Norton’s character talks about how much money he and Tyler Durden make from selling soap. At that moment I knew that I was destined to go into the soap industry. Robert Koch, soap mogul had a nice ring to it.
I ended up setting out to learn everything I could about how soap was made. I bought books, read forums, and studied recipes until the wee hours of the morning. At the same time I started learning about how business worked. I cold called stores asking if they’d like to buy my soap, I read books like Good to Great, and I pestered every successful person that I could find.
While I was enthusiastically telling someone about my lofty soap making plans, they interrupted and pointed out a slew of issues that I had overlooked. I’d need to store my soap, find a reliable place to buy inexpensive ingredients, transport the product, and find a way to market myself against the 10 million other artisan soap makers that live in Iowa. It was then suggested that I save my money, at the time I hadn’t actually bought or made any of the soap yet, and try making a business that had less moving parts.
Since then I’ve started several small businesses. None of them have ever cost me more than $100 and some time. While not every one of them has been awesome, most of them have done pretty well. I attribute a lot of that success to the fact that all my ideas are as simple as possible.
How to come up with a business idea in 15 minutes.
- Make something with no input.
I’d suggest making your first few businesses both simple and affordable. Building a theme park or opening a restaurant are going to be way too expensive and time consuming for most people. You’ll want to create something that you can run without having to take out loans. Internet businesses are great from this standpoint, because they don’t require you to rent an office building or do hire a staff.
- Have a unique gimmick.
I made more money off of Fiverr than I did at my actual job. My entire business took me three minutes to create. I simply looked at what types of gigs where selling, and added my own twist. At the time review writing services were booming. While most sellers were offering one 300 word review for $5, I decided to offer two 125 word reviews. I actually did less work, and brought in more customers. In two months I even became the number one review writer on the entire site.
- Look for something that interests you.
I came up with the idea for my latest site after reading a Cracked article about funny penny items on Amazon. I liked the article enough that I though making a site about various one cent wares would be a good idea. While the project hasn’t made me rich, it has paid for itself already. If you’re going to create something, make sure that it interests you. This way it’s fun to work on even when you aren’t making money.
- Create a business that can be summed up in an elevator pitch.
The biggest problem with my soap company was the fact that it was too complex. If you had asked me to describe it, I would have wasted a good 15 minutes trying to sum it up. If you can’t summarize what you will be doing, it might be a little too complex for you. While there are some obvious exceptions, I’d try and avoid starting out with a sprawling and undefinable business. “I will write your company a high quality SEO article within the next 24 hours,” is a much better business idea than “I will build a house on a remote mountaintop and hire a staff of artists and writers to freely express themselves in this environment, I will then compile an analogy of their work and try to sell it to various museums.” The second one might be “cooler,” but your going to need a lot of money just to get it off the ground.
While not a requirement, I’d also recommend that aspiring entrepreneurs go out and pick up a few business books. While there are plenty of great blogs and videos about making money, they pale in comparison to actual memoirs and biographies. How to Get Rich and The $100 Startup are both available on Amazon for less than $10 a piece. Both books are worth the investment.
Try to keep your business ideas simple. Just because something is complicated does not mean that it is profitable. You’d be better off making a bare bones company and expanding it, than you would from starting huge and trying to manage all kinds of different aspects. Even something as laughably simple as writing articles or making a blog that reviews gummy worms, is better than a grandiose plan that requires loans and employees to function.