Australian entrepreneur, Matt Harbottle formed SitePoint with Vancouver-based entrepreneur Matt Mickiewicz in 1999. Revenue quickly dried up during the dot com bust, so they had to pivot. “We had to reinvent ways to make money, so we turned to our users at SitePoint to see what they were up to,” Harbottle said. “We found a lot were printing our articles and reading them offline, so it sparked us to move into publishing print on demand books.”
He and Mickiewicz worked out what their customers wanted and responded to it. Several years later, in 2008, they came up with another fresh idea that led to the development of a global multimillion-dollar business which would later become one of the world’s largest online graphic design marketplaces––99designs.
In 1998, three friends––Cambridge university graduates working and living in London––realized there was a gap in the market for smoothie drinks based on ethical values and natural ingredients. They spent the next few months mixing and blending until they came up with a product, which would later be called Innocent Drinks–taking 15 months to go from ideation to market with outside investment.
They later sold sequential stakes in their business to The Coca-Cola Company. Today, the founders have a minority holding and the company sells more than two million smoothies per week. Their smoothies and juices are sold in supermarkets, coffee shops, and various retail outlets.
Leveraging lightbulb moments
Both of these companies and their founders experienced lightbulb moments. They started with simple ideas, and with a few twists and turns along the way successfully brought their ideas to market.
As you’re reading this, perhaps you’ve experienced a lightbulb moment. You have a cool new business idea, but now what?
Research the market
Start by identifying potential customers and ask yourself a few of the following questions.
- What segment of the population has an identifiable need for your product or service?
- Does your idea address a practical everyday need, a one-off special occasion, or both?
- Does your idea fulfill an environmental or social need?
- What other products or services in market addresses these needs?
- How is your idea different and what is your unique selling point?
For example, one events and entertainment trend that has experienced traction over the last few years are escape rooms. As a result, I decided to take the adventure escape room idea to market in Melbourne, Australia.
For an unconventional night out or social event, a variety of unique escape room experiences for friends, families, and coworkers are popping up across the globe. An adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints, and strategy to complete specified objectives, escape rooms can consist of a large, single room, or span multiple rooms. Escape rooms can be a part of a fun quest, used to cultivate team-building skills, or just as a fun day out, the USP of our concept.
Get qualified feedback
Talk your idea over with trusted friends and allies, particularly if they are a part of the demographic you want to reach. It is important to get some honest and qualified feedback from the start so you can begin to refine your idea. If you don’t have anyone you can talk to, then join a local meetup, incubator, or attend entrepreneurship events and start networking.
Consider joining a local business network that meets face-to-face or informal and niche Facebook Groups. You can also attend trade events to check out the competition or just talk with others who have been on a similar journey. This is all part of the initial planning phase to help improve or rethink your original idea. Don’t forget to embrace the challenge and change as Harbottle did while pivoting and building new products to meet an observed need.
Put pen to paper
Writing a draft business plan is the next vital step to equip you to launch your business idea. Using simple management techniques such as a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis will help, as you develop the business narrative, especially if you plan to approach potential investors. Use a standard business plan template, and ensure to include operations and financial goals along with projections and targets. Carry out a proper financial analysis, and consider consulting a third-party for financial analysis.
List the resources needed to implement the idea, everything from staffing requirements and specialist knowledge to supply chain relationships, marketing, and sales needs. Capital equipment, office space, and technology should be on the list, as well as software uses, such as a company website. Don’t forget standard business licenses, business entity formation, legal fees and so on.
If business planning is not your forte, there is plenty of free advice, financial and trade organizations, and incubators that can help facilitate the process for low to no cost.
Begin product development
Product development begins once you identify a market need. From there, conceptualize and design the product, build a product roadmap, develop a minimum viable product (MVP), release it to users and iterate based on actual user feedback.
For example, Innocent Drinks launched with a small range of drinks and sold them at a music festival. They set up a booth with two signs that read: “Should we market these drinks? Yes or No.” Consumers were asked to sample the drinks and vote. The rest is history.
If you have a product you can take to trade fairs, test in the market, or showcase to investors in the appropriate forums, it makes it easier for people to understand the concept. You can also assess the features and benefits that are a priority to your target audience.
Now you’re at the point where you understand the next steps and how much it will cost to get your product off the ground. There is a number of different ways to fund a business: personal savings, bootstrapping, borrowing from friends/family, crowdfunding, small business loans, grants, angel investors, venture capital, and so on.
Consult with a financial advisor, if needed, to help clarify the best method for your particular business idea.
Get to it!
Having considered all of the above steps, you should have a good idea of where you stand with your business idea and will be ready to launch it. Buckle up and settle in for one of the most exciting and demanding journeys of your life. Above all, don’t forget to enjoy every moment!
Michael Armstrong is the founder and owner of Ukiyo and Deep Space, adventure escape rooms located in Melbourne, Australia. From a young age, Michael always had an interest in video games and puzzles. He is passionate about creating interactive and story-driven experiences, using cutting-edge technology and immersive themes. Now, Michael has brought his creative ideas to life – in the form of an unforgettable experience for friends and families to enjoy and discover together.