Innovations, Opportunities and Small Business

Innovation is a key element for the successful small-business owner.

When many want-to-be owners read that statement, however, it often makes them think that their idea for a product or service must be something new, something different.

Yet the reality is that many successful businesses don’t sell anything new or different, they just have taken a different approach in how they sell or where they sell or some other business process. Maybe it’s just a new approach to customer service or taking advantage of a new technology.

The “new” can be something big but it’s often easier to find a little tweak that gives you just as much advantage as a business owner.

The challenge is finding the innovation. This video, “What is Innovation,” might help you see that more dots do exist. As it notes, fire was once a dot as was the wheel.

So as you think about what small business you might start, think about dots. Where are the holes that you can fill?


Finding Ideas

Ugly Food of the NorthIt is not uncommon for individuals wanting to start a business to struggle finding a  business idea.

Many people do know what they want or are told that something they are already doing would be a good business. But not everyone falls into one of those categories.

Even for those who know what they would like to do, they know that making money would be hard, if not impossible, and so they end up searching as well.

Sometimes finding that idea happens by luck. Often, though, it happens by staying open to opportunities. 

I want to share an example of sometimes are right in front of us. And while this group is doing something for a social good, this same idea in other places has been turned into a viable business idea.

Ugly Food of the North sprang out of the discussions of a group of North Dakota thinkers. Like many ideas, the issue was right in front of a whole community. Yet few saw the opportunity and even fewer took action.

So are you looking for an idea?  Just let your mind wander. It might be right in front of you. Perhaps invite a group to wander with you.

Just one way to find your idea.

Local Foods Offers Taste, Freshness and Stronger Communities

Farmers' Market

Photo by USDA

Each year, people across the country anxiously await spring and summer and the local foods that become available. While there is the possibility for some form of local food practically year around, it’s this time of year when baskets are overflowing.

Local food has seen tremendous growth in recent years. In 2014, local foods sales were estimated to have topped $11.7 billion according to the USDA. In 2008, sales were less than half at an estimated at $5 billion.

People access their local foods in many different ways. Direct-farm sales is one. Others may enjoy it at restaurants where it is a current culinary trend. Schools have been including it more often in their offerings. More grocery stores have local food sections where you can shop. And still others are members of a CSA or community supported agriculture endeavor where you purchase a share that brings you a basket of local items on a regular basis, often weekly.

One of the largest supply sites are farmers markets. Today there are over 8200 farmers markets across the country. They range in size from those having just two or three producers meeting weekly to those that operate on a daily basis in multiple buildings or cover several blocks.

Local foods are a great way to connect with your local producer. Local foods is identified as supporting over 163,000 farm families. This is the connection where local foods not only provides for our needs but it builds families and the communities where those families live, go to school, and shop.

While local foods offers a direct connection to enjoying local foods, it also does things such as building community as people to town. Local markets become a gathering place where you may also find entertainment, food vendors and a festive atmosphere. It is not uncommon to hear grocery store owners comment that people come to their store after visiting the local market to purchase other items needed to complete a planned meal.

Local foods represent a win in so many ways. But probably the most important win is what your taste buds say when you are eating them. So get out and experience local foods. Your taste buds, your local producers, and your community all appreciate your support.

Taking the Leap

Are you thinking of taking the leap and turning your hobby into a business? Then listen to Becky Mannon, Bears-n-Woods, discuss her journey in doing so. Listen to her passion and what helped her decide she was ready and it was time to make the move.

As the conversation notes, she worked on her idea for 15 years developing a unique, quality product. This also allowed her to build a customer base who were willing to spread the word, some of the best marketing you can get.

Becky discusses how developing a business plan made her think about the steps she would need to take. It also was a reference and a reminder of her eventual goal. An audience was identified and she could begin to consider things like pricing, production, etc. She now is looking forward to adding to her first initial product line with another complementary item.

Additional resources are available for the aspiring and existing small business owner at Power of Business. Get access to additional conversations with other business owners and more tips. And make sure to tune in on the first Friday of every month at 12:15 ET. Click here to register.

Are you thinking of “taking the leap?” Is it time?  Becky encourages people to consider it and comments, “there is nothing like it.”

Business Ideas – Keep Your Eyes, Ears and Mind Open

Opportunity Sign

Photo (CC) by One Stock Way, on Flickr

This post may bring a few smiles and maybe some chuckles.  I know when I read it a smile came to my face.

I also suspect that several of you will say, “I could have thought of that.” How many times haven’t you seen a new product only to proclaim, “I had that idea,” or that you had already saw this was a need.

So what was this idea? The Tooshlights © story can be found in the Sept issue of Entrepreneur, p.82. We have all been there, entering a public bathroom only to wonder what stall is open. Did we ever dream of developing traffic lights? And what really caught my interest was their plan to add an app (what would we do with out our mobile devices) to get a sense of how busy the bathrooms are at any one time.

Business ideas. For many potential entrepreneurs coming up with an idea is the hardest thing to do. This article represents just one way to do it, we experience it.

A way I recommend for rural business owners is to take a ride. Go to several towns that sort of match where you live. Drive around and see where the lines are long. Each one of those might be something you could duplicate in your town.

The challenge is being creative and looking at the world in a different way. Ask yourself what might be.  It means opening your eyes and ears and all your other senses. Perhaps more crucial, it means opening your mind to what might be.

What brings out creativity? That varies by person. In terms of opportunities, it can be anytime and anywhere. You just need to be ready to see the possibilities.

Most ideas, in fact probably very few, are not huge leaps forward or even little jumps. Many represent just a small step at taking something and improving it. Think about how brooms have and continue to change. It seems simple enough but they continue to evolve.

So looking for an opportunity? Open your senses and let your mind wander around the possibilities we come across.