How To Find A Good Business Idea

It’s week 1 of my “start a business challenge.”

I have not made the progress I’d hoped since the announcement of the challenge.

Turns out, my daily schedule doesn’t leave much time for starting a business:

6A-9A: Play with son, prepare son’s food, walk around aimlessly looking for socks, take son to daycare.
9A-10A: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
10A-2P: SumoJerky / New Business Challenge
2P-3.30P: Write / Internet Surf
3.30P-5P: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
5P-10P: Family time
10P – 6A: Sleep

I plan to rework my schedule a little and will share anything useful. Hopefully, you can identify as I’m guessing starting a business in your shoes would be very difficult too. Not enough time, conflicting priorities, unsure of exactly what to do next: these are all things I’m struggling with.

Here’s what I have done this week.

Consolidate existing ideas into one place.

No need to reinvent the wheel if one of my existing ideas works. Maybe I had a good idea in the past that I had forgotten about or was too busy to pursue?

A Google Drive search for the word “idea” yielded several ideas hiding in my documents and spreadsheets. A Gmail search for emails sent “by me, to me” with the word “idea” helped me find more.

I got one idea off a Trello board that I had forgotten about. A couple more ideas were scribbled in the journal on my nightstand — score!

Altogether, I ended up adding about 30 existing ideas to my idea list.

Where possible, the scattered source files were deleted or tossed. I’m not sure if this decluttering was necessary, but it was comforting.

I wanted to make sure I wasn’t leaving behind a good idea from the past and I also wanted to create a single place to store all my ideas for this project.

Come up with new ideas.

This was fun when I didn’t have to start a business. Now that I do have to start a business, I’m feeling pressure which isn’t great for creativity. There are 3 ways I’m coming up with ideas right now.

1. Organically – I see something happen, go “aha, that’s an idea,” and jot it down.

For example, my son, Jacob, loves drinking cans of LaCroix sparkling waters. Monkey see, monkey do. It’s great, except occasionally he sticks his finger in the can opening and cuts himself on the sharp edge. He also frequently takes 2 sips and pours the rest on his chest.

Solution? A snap-on soda can lid that protects his fingers and restricts the amount of liquid flowing through the opening. I quickly Googled and saw this probably already exists, but I did want to share this example of how I brainstorm based on problems I experience in my day to day.

2. Ask Somebody – Depending on the conversation, I might ask a friend or family member for some good business ideas.

I also took a more structured approach by polling my first 100 readers (mostly friends, family, and acquaintances) with a short Google Survey and asked them what problems they have and would be willing to spend $100 or more to fix.

This didn’t yield a ton of ideas but it was helpful to see what problems are most top of mind for my closest friends & family.

3. Brute Force  – I’ve spent like 10 minutes on the brute force method so far and it’s already yielded an interesting idea.

In 2014, I wrote a blog post about finding business ideas proactively. In theory, my blog post was intended to be evergreen so I’m getting a chance to test that theory.

The #1 bullet point recommends searching Kickstarter for the most heavily funded projects to see where there’s demand. I did that, and found card games and board games were heavily funded.

So, I came up with the idea of a card game for parents of kids to help them come up with activities to do together.

This solves a problem of mine as parenting can be exhausting and you need ideas for quick activities that will keep your child busy while sitting peacefully indoors.


Me: Watching the game. Gets card from Jacob & reads it: ” Jacob, what does the cow say?”

Jacob: Moo!

Me: Okay, Yes! Pick another the card. (Repeat 1000 times)

I plan to spend more time next week going through the recommendations in my post to see if I can come up with more ideas.

Research ideas that grab me.

Ideally you would gather all your ideas, pick the winners you like, and then research them all at once to decide if any are worth pursuing. That’s the preferred sequence.

In actuality, that’s not what I’ve been doing.

As soon I come up with an idea, I start picking at the profile of each idea and deciding whether it’s one that excites me. Most of this is just mental gymnastics and internal thinking:

Can it make money? Who would buy this right now? Would I enjoy this business? How long would it take to get it up and running?

Other times, I’m Googling around to see what’s out there.

My goal is to see if any ideas get me super excited and pass my logic tests. If an idea survives my logic tests and if I’m still excited about it after a few days pass, I’ll give it more attention — which just means more research.

Again, ideally, these steps would be done in sequence, but in practice I find myself looping in and out of these steps at whim.

What’s next?

Next week I plan to come up with more ideas as well as research a few existing ideas more deeply as some have passed my logic tests.

I’ll share details about how I research ideas.

Ideally, I’ll find one or more ideas ready for validation which is where I’ll try to pre-sell it and confirm demand. Fingers crossed.

You can see all my business ideas here. Feel free to take them for your own use if you desire.






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17 thoughts on “How To Find A Good Business Idea”

    1. Ryan, I have only tangentially followed your emails this past year or so, I’m not even sure I ever bought beef jerky. Reading through your post I appreciate the careful thoughtfulness of the issues about idea creation. I’m going to try and keep up with your blog and maybe put one of my ideas into action. Thanks for the insight.

    2. One suggestion about ideation I always make:

      I heard that when Thomas Edison struggled to solve a complex problem he would use mental incubation time to relax the mind. After he spent a long time brainstorming and studying a problem he would sit back in his chair and go to sleep with a ping-pong ball in his hand. When he finally relaxed enough to drop the ball it was make a noise and wake him up. Suddenly the solution would be there!

  1. Great thoughtstarters here on ideation! As a devil’s advocate argument to seeking out demand on resources like Kickstarter is that while you’re seeking out demand, you’re also probably swimming in the red ocean of supply/competition.

    So much easier said than done, but often times, the best ideas come from needs people don’t even KNOW they have (or are willing to pay the $100 you mentioned above).

    Looking forward to more to come here and thanks for the insights!

  2. Wanted to follow up on your maid idea. What if you get more specific and do a cleaning service catered to Airbnb owners. It’s an idea I’ve been juggling around for quite some time. Just wanted to share and see your thoughts and opinion.

  3. Are you looking at ideas for both service based B-2-C business or just physical product based?

    Also, have you looked at current working models and the idea of tweaking those? Eg: creating a similar business to Sumo-Jerky centred around a different product?

  4. Hi Ryan, This was a good read.

    Is the aim $100,000 yearly income or $100,000 monthly income? Both are on the site (yearly on the header frame, monthly on the subscribe box)

    Maybe that’s an idea editor/copywriter for bloggers service

  5. I’ve often found myself mulling over ideas that pertain to our kids as we watch them or travel with them. I swear I came up with the kid gear rental idea as we were struggling on our first airplane/out of state trip with our first kiddo. Then again…I also swear I came up with the DVR when I was about 5…

  6. Hi Ryan,
    I would probably add another method of building up ideas. Actually I’m using it to try to come up with a business idea on my own (although I would love to steal your “how do I get slimmer without sacrificing my weekly booze). I´m at a very preliminary stage so far, but if hopefully would help me to figure something that it would worth to try.

    I´m looking at mega trends that are out there (millions of agencies that publish their own) and try to cross them with recent ideas that I see, for example, DIY kits satisfy the need for personalization, Veggie restaurants tackles healthy and wellness. Next step is to apply them to a different business currently on-going – a simple yet complete tool box for women that live alone (that is actually not bad).

    I will try to come up with more robust ones before the end of this year and would be happy to ride along with you. Who know we might end up building an idea that would serve to both US and Mexico!!!

    Looking forward to seeing the posts on how to take it out of the paper and put into something real. Maybe your experience with Sumo Jerky could help!

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