By Lindsey Hobbs
Just look at the movie trailers– in the year 2014, it’s difficult to come up with truly, NEW ideas. But that shouldn’t hold you back from taking YOUR idea and turning it into your own business.
Just look at these folks who made their ideas happen– even though they weren’t truly original. The key is figuring out what is missing from a current idea.
Can you remember a life before Uber? I can’t. Just how did we get around before this car service invaded our cities like a swarm of sleek, black locusts? Oh, right. Taxis. Buses. Various forms of public transportation.
So what has investors all-in for Travis Kalanick’s “not a transportation service” car company? It’s not the idea. It’s not even the technology! All of Uber’s tech, from the map service to the credit card aspect, existed beforehand in the magical world of open-source. So WHAT is it?
Disruption. And boy is it disrupting. Taxi companies all over the globe are protesting Uber’s services and some cities are scratching their heads to determine if it is even legal in the confines of their personal laws. But, on the ground level, it is merely disrupting by giving consumers another option, which is a very simple idea of business. Uber merely added another layer of convenience and accessibility to public transportation.
Ice cream is definitely not a new idea, but how about ice cream as…art? That is what Jeni Britton Bauer of Columbus, OH thought to herself while an art student at The Ohio State University in the early 2000s. She recognized that she could cultivate the same sensory experiences of her art classes in her at-home hobby of making ice cream, and make it stand-out in the crowd of dairy desserts. And she even closed up shop on her first business, too, and took two years to re-focus and remodel her business plan. However– during that time she developed a way to make her ice cream even more artisan, and that was creating more than just great tasting, interesting ice cream– it was creating a community. “My business was raised by the community of Columbus,” she has said. Local produce and dairy farmers. Shops in each little corner of the city. Being a brand ambassador for Columbus and in turn, churning up an adoring fan-base that loves the idea that their ice cream is both incredibly tasty and also adds value to the very place they live.
Maybe your idea isn’t even about introducing a new option to the marketplace. Maybe it’s about taking a product that people already love and changing the mindset behind it. That’s what Cindy Monroe of ThirtyOne Gifts did and her business made over $700 million in sales in 2012.
Cindy was a Pampered Chef consultant, and thought to herself that direct-selling gigs like Pampered Chef and Mary Kay were great opportunities for those who wanted to control their own income, but she wanted to sell an item at a lower-price point and with enough functionality that it would be easy to sell. Handbags are not a new product, but Monroe changed the mindset behind them, from a luxury item or splurge, to something that women didn’t need to feel guilty about buying or gifting. In doing so, she opened up these direct-selling opportunities to an even wider audience, who were not only buying and gifting these products, but also choosing to become consultants themselves!
The number of news outlets vying for our attention is at critical mass, so launching your own news start-up can sound impossible. But Carly and Danielle of theSkimm are two twentysomethings who simply identified that while the popular news outlets are trying their hardest to attract you, some people just don’t have the time or the interest to consume news. Enter: theSkimm, a sleek, sassy e-newsletter that brings all of the most important news stories to your inbox, in a skimmable format. Their mantra is that they do the reading, so that you can do the skimming and stay up to date on the world. The time commitment for the reader is minimal, and so is the effort.
Now Carly and Danielle have Skimm-bassadors in droves and folks raving about their favorite morning email. All because they identified a problem with a current product and figured out a way to fix it.
When Mark Zuckerberg was dreaming up Facebook is in his dorm room at Harvard, there were already some widely used “social networks” out there. Remember the smiling, t-shirt wearing website creator that was Tom of Myspace? And even before then, folks were detailing their days and their secrets on online journaling sites like Xanga. But Zuckerberg had the idea to market a social networking site as “exclusive.” He wanted people to want to be a part of it because not everyone was allowed to.
Facebook is such an integral part of life nowadays that we forget that you used to have to have a college email address to use it. I think it’s safe to say that now it’s just Facebook’s world and we all have to live in it. That’s a long way to come from simply marketing an old idea in a new way.
Choosing to take the road to entrepreneurship is daunting, to say the least, and sometimes it seems there are countless reasons NOT to try your own business. But the fact that your idea already exists in the marketplace should not be one of those roadblocks.
If anything, it should encourage you! Because giving people another desirable option, or forming a community around your product, or opening it up to another audience, or making it more accessible, or even make it less accessible– these are all reasons that your business might just be No. 6 on this list some day.
>> Lindsey calls Columbus, Ohio her home, where she is an online marketing strategist by day, and a red wine sipper and budding kickboxer by night. You can read about her mission to learn programming at the614project.com or fuel her Twitter obsession at @hobbsie11.
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