Posts Tagged ‘small business ideas’

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The United States Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy asserts that small businesses make up 99.7% of all U.S. firms. It’s therefore safe to say that small businesses are the economy’s driving force.

Starting a small business is basically about setting up shop, finding clients and earning money. This is true for whatever form of business you plan to start.

Several more traits are also used to define small businesses as follows:

1. Low startup costs

Depending on the specific type of small business, startup costs are typically quite low. A retailing business doesn’t have to start big; simply buying the initial inventory and renting a suitable space will do. A consultancy service doesn’t have to start in a plush office with a flashy address; starting out in your home office where the overhead costs are minimal is certainly prudent.

2. Just a few employees

It’s typical of a small business to have a single worker – the owner. For this reason these businesses are commonly referred to as “one-man-shows”.

Nevertheless, as operations grow you may need to hire a number of employees. To keep your operating costs low you may, like many other small business owners, find it feasible to hire independent contractors or freelancers.

3. Small market share and intense competition

A small business serves just a small portion of the market. This is as compared to the significantly larger shares of the same market that corporations and larger businesses can control thanks to their bigger capacities.

Also, since there are a huge number of small businesses that need to compete for business opportunities in the same market, competition is rife. This typically results in product/service innovation and differentiation.

4. Limited budgets and funding

As compared to larger firms, small businesses typically operate with limited budgets. With their limited finances these enterprises have little or no choice but to keep their costs of doing business low. Cost-efficiency is the name of the game for small business owners.

5. A single location

Most small businesses operate from a single location; not many of these businesses have branches or outlets in multiple cities or states. Also, the rising prominence of home-based businesses means that a significant number of enterprises are now operating without formal business facilities. To their credit, many small businesses now have a global reach thanks to running internet-based operations.

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During an economic downturn or recession like the one we experienced a few years ago our survival instincts urge us to cut down on spending. This in turn impacts negatively on business owners, some to a greater extent than others. Those businesses that somehow keep thriving during such times can be described as being recession-proof.

While there are some obvious examples, looking at the situation from another perspective can help you to identify even more ideas for your startup.

Think about the new lifestyle changes that people adopt in order to cope with salary cuts, loss of employment, change of work status from full-time employee to independent contractor, and so on.

Generally, there are four traits that can help you to identify a recession-proof job or business idea.

  • A business that provides essential/critical products and services – Here you can think about healthcare provision, pharmaceuticals, education and tuition, plumbing services, etc.
  • A business that is clearly positioned – Here the focus is on businesses that have a strong competitive edge over others in their industry niche. Such competitive edges may be based on effective pricing, excellent customer service, superior expertise, etc.
  • A business that keeps abreast with technological and social trends – The most obvious of such businesses are the ones that provide IT solutions, communications and access services, etc.
  • Businesses that will always sell despite the economy – Such businesses don’t really feel the pinch because what they offer is essential. Restaurants, liquor stores, debt collectors, and the like, fall into this category.

Now therefore, what are some of the recession-proof business ideas you can start making money with?

NB: For some of these business ideas selling online is now the way to go; here are some handy tips about how to go about doing this.

1. Internet marketing

Thanks to the internet, virtually every product and service you require is just several clicks away.

Thanks to the internet, virtually every product and service you require is just several clicks away.

Thanks to widespread and ever-increasing internet accessibility, more and more business opportunities suited for solopreneurs aka webpreneurs are being created. Reading the profiles of some of the blogging industry’s most iconic names you might be surprised to know what these guys were doing before they became big.

Before getting started you’ll want to get acquainted with web traffic optimization. You can then proceed to earn money by doing what you love, say running a fashion advice blog or offering content writing services. There are indeed a slew of jobs available online for freelance specialists and you can make good money offering some of these in-demand services.

2. Food and beverages

People will always appreciate the taste of a fine meal regardless of the times.

People will always appreciate the taste of a fine meal regardless of the times.

Not surprisingly, people kept eating and drink during the recession years…hey, was there an option?

Nevertheless, your decision to start an eatery must be carefully conceived and implemented. After all, just like in any other business, there are plenty of risks to consider.

Making your restaurant’s theme a fit for today’s healthy lifestyles may be a good place to start. A restaurant that promotes healthy eating can do well in recession times because people will identify with the need to reduce consumption, stay healthy, and cut down on unimportant purchases. The “stay healthy” theme will also work well for a restaurant that serves organic food products or another that targets vegetarians.

If you don’t fancy running a restaurant then you might as well consider starting a food catering business.

3. Selling cosmetics

Ladies have and will always want to look beautiful.

Ladies will always want to look amazing.

Regardless of the poor state of the economy you can bet that every lady will always try her best to look gorgeous. A man will grumble and mumble about how unnecessary spending on beauty products is but the mere memory of how beautiful the woman he loves looked during an unforgettable date will be enough reason to make his thin wallet a tad poorer.

The impressive sales volumes of nail polish and mascara in recession-hit 2009 is an apt example of a cosmetic business’ viability.

4. Providing laundry services

Our need for clean clothes is really second nature.

Our need for clean clothes is really second nature.

To avoid looking shabby and unkempt people will always want to wear clean clothes. This is why starting a laundry business is an idea that makes so much sense and cents. It’s hardly complicated. You just need washing machines, dryers, pressing irons, detergent, a good team and effective word-of-mouth advertising.

5. Candy store business

M&Ms were first sold in 1941...

M&Ms were first sold in 1941…

Thanks to the Great Depression of the 1930s we now enjoy tasty treats like Snickers and Three Musketeers. Somehow, our liking for candy surges during economic recessions. Not surprisingly, Nestle and Cadbury reported 11% and 30% profit rises respectively in 2008.

6. Alternative healthcare services

There are plenty of business opportunities in the health sector - even for entrepreneurs who don't have a medical background.

There are plenty of business opportunities in the health sector – even for entrepreneurs who don’t have a medical background.

People interested in the healthcare business but lacking the requisite credentials to offer primary healthcare services, say opening a general medicine practice, can still make good money in alternative healthcare.

There are plenty of other options too. How about designing healthcare software, supplying medical equipment to practices, repairing and maintaining medical equipment, etc?

7. Provision of wedding services

A catalog of different wedding services jointly help to make such a day brilliant and memorable.

A catalog of different wedding services jointly help to make such a day brilliant and memorable.

However gloomy the times are, a nicely organized wedding will always help to ease people’s worries, albeit for several days.

The scope of business ideas in this niche is quite varied. You can think about becoming a wedding and honeymoon planner, offering wedding photography and video recording services, designing customized wedding invitation materials, designing bride and bridal party gowns, offering wedding catering services, etc.

8. Selling baby products

Perhaps it needs a fresh diaper or medical attention...new babies bring new business.

Perhaps it needs a fresh diaper or medical attention…new babies bring new business.

Babies will always be born; baby products will therefore always be in demand. Whether you decide to sell baby wear, toys and gear, baby products like oils and powders, etc, the potential for profitability will always exist.

You can also opt to offer allied services like babysitting (and daycare services later on).

9. Running a funeral parlor or offering funeral-related services

The entire process of laying the dead to rest ensures that several entrepreneurs will get paid.

The entire process of laying the dead to rest ensures that several entrepreneurs will get paid.

Successful undertakers are a unique breed. For them special days like holidays and anniversaries don’t really exist. Why, you ask. It’s quite simple.

Everyday people are always dealing with the demise of family members and friends. As the proprietor of a funeral parlor you will need to respond to the requirements of bereaved people day and night and get the job done; all this while maintaining the desired quality of service and empathy. Providing this service definitely makes for a viable idea – the industry was worth $15.9 billion in 2013.

Apart from being an undertaker, there’s also money to be made in funeral-associated jobs including providing cremation services, making caskets and coffins, designing epitaphic tombstones, etc.

10. Selling beer, wine and liquor

During happy or depressing times you can always expect bars and pubs to enjoy good business.

During happy or depressing times you can always expect bars and pubs to enjoy good business.

Don’t expect people to stop drinking when times get tough. They’ll simply ignore the pricier options and guzzle down the affordable stuff.

During the recession some interesting observations were made in support of this stance. In 2009 bar revenues and restaurant sales of wine by the bottle dipped drastically. Nevertheless, wholesalers of beer, wine and liquor enjoyed good business. Restaurants also saw a rise in sales of wine by the glass.

11. Property staging

Can you make a house look worth its price tag? Real estate agents and house sellers will readily pay for your expertise.

Can you make a house look worth its price tag? Real estate agents and house sellers will readily pay for your expertise.

The work of a property stager is to ensure that a house which is to be sold off looks the part. Basically, you, as a property stager, need to advice the seller on how best the things in the property must be arranged and presented in order to maximize the likelihood of making a good sale.

For starters, you need to have a keen sense for style, décor and detail. Next, you need to make a name for yourself. Making acquaintances with real estate agents and independent sellers is a good place to start.

This business can really thrive in recession times. We can all recall the many property sales that characterized the aftermath of the property market’s fluctuation.

12. Virtual assistance

Reputable virtual assistants are almost always in demand all year round.

Reputable virtual assistants are almost always in demand all year round.

Becoming a virtual assistant is yet another viable business idea that has resulted from increased internet access. This will be a worthwhile option for you if competent administration and organizational acumen are your forte.

Opportunities abound for such persons considering that many companies, in a bid to cut down on operational costs, are retrenching conventional assistants and instead outsourcing the position to qualified persons around the world.

If you are one of those who have been retrenched then making the switch shouldn’t be too hard. After working with several clients you may even think of training and then hiring others with the aim of expanding your business.

13. Tutoring and coaching

Skills are passed down successive generations hence the need for tutors and coaches services.

Skills are passed down successive generations hence the need for tutors and coaches services.

This is especially applicable for people who excel at teaching or instructing others, be it in academia or other skills e.g. playing the piano. If you also can coach/train players in soccer, tennis, baseball, or indeed any other sport, there is money to be made by turning your skills into a business. Despite poor economic times learning, music, acting and sports always thrive.

14. Pet care services

Pet lovers don't hesitate to spend good money on excellent pet care service providers.

Pet lovers don’t hesitate to spend good money on excellent pet care service providers.

The love that people have for their pets doesn’t wane even when the times get tough. The reason is simple – for many people, having a pet helps to soothe them through hard times. Accordingly, pet care service providers enjoyed soaring business during the recession years. Additionally, the low cost of business setup was a boon for service providers, as was the large target market – estimated at 62% of Americans.

Veterinary service providers also enjoy good business from pet owners. Industry estimates for 2014 put the figures at $15.3 billion.

15. Tax accounting

Expert accounting services are especially sought after during lean times because business owners are keener to save more money.

Expert accounting services are especially sought after during lean times because business owners are keener to save more money.

You’d be wrong to assume that during recession business owners’ start doing their own bookkeeping in an attempt to lower operational costs.

It was business as usual for tax accountants during the recent economic slump. The reason is quite interesting – business owners were keen to get maximum refunds while avoiding any errors that would prove costly.

16. Thrift stores

Flea markets and thrift stores will always exist because we all love a good bargain.

Flea markets and thrift stores will always exist because we all love a good bargain.

People will carry on shopping during an economic recession but instead of doing it at elite shops like Nordstrom they will opt for thrift stores.

The numbers tell the story. In 2008 just 14% of Americans shopped at thrift stores on a regular basis; this rose to 20% in 2012. The country’s premier thrift store company, Goodwill, reported a 10% rise in sales volumes annually between 2007 and 2011.

So, do you have a passion for selling secondhand goods at affordable prices? Why not set up now? You may be just in time for the next recession – they do say we expect one roughly every six years, right?

17. Security services

The need to feel safe and secure always necessitates the hiring of security personnel.

The need to feel safe and secure always necessitates the hiring of security personnel.

When times get tough many people become desperate and frustrated. Eager to make quick bucks, many people resort to various forms of crime. Burglary is especially prevalent in these circumstances.

In response to the threats posed by perpetrators of the vice, homeowners and proprietors of valuable establishments, commercial or otherwise, hire the services of security firms. Of course, these services are always in demand even when the economy is thriving.

18. Garbage and/or waste collection

Without garbage collection services our homes, offices and streets would be a mess.

Without garbage collection services our homes, offices and streets would be a mess.

Keeping your house free of garbage and waste remains a priority every day of the year. This is therefore a business idea you can implement – if you don’t mind the dirt, variety of unpleasant aromas, and the typical low regard many people have for this job. No worry, no one will look down on a garbage collection firm millionaire CEO.

19. The sale of contraceptives

To enjoy safe sex people will always need pills and condoms...

To enjoy safe sex people will always need pills and condoms…

Having sex is a natural urge that must be fulfilled. Procreation is not always the agenda though. For this reason people will always purchase contraceptives, be they couples, young adults or teenagers. As the owner of such a business an economic recession will be the least of your worries.

20. Repair services provision

The constant need for repair services at home, in the office, etc, means that handymen will always be in demand.

The constant need for repair services at home, in the office, etc, means that handymen will always be in demand.

Whatever the economy looks like there will always be business opportunities for repair experts. However much you hold off on having your broken window panes replaced, your leaking roof re-tiled, your car’s gearbox replaced, or your blocked pipes and/or sinks unclogged, you’ll eventually have to pay someone to make things right.

If you have the training, skills and equipment required for offering repair services in or more niches you might as well set up shop now. Using word-of-mouth you should soon get a few clients; make a good reputation by offering top-notch services and then keep growing.

There are lots of other recession-proof ideas. How about some suggestions from you?

Every role that an entrepreneur needs to play requires proactive thinking. Do you have what it takes?

Every role that an entrepreneur needs to play requires proactive thinking. Do you have what it takes?

You’ve now launched your own business. A long-cherished dream has finally seen the light of day. Deep within you truly desire to succeed. You’ve read about what legendary entrepreneurs have and are doing to ensure that they are always at the top. You know that being an entrepreneur means you are responsible for making your vision of success a reality. You also understand that this responsibility will require you to play a number of roles. Well, here are some of the different hats you’ll have to wear.

You certainly don’t need to be good at all these roles to be a successful entrepreneur. What you aren’t good at – at the onset – can always be improved upon with time.

1. Head of new customer acquisition

You’ll need clients for your products/services. Unfortunately, they won’t start coming to your premises automatically; you’ll need to attract and then convince them to start spending their money on what you have to offer. At this point in time you already know who your ideal target customers are. You just need to find the best message that will strike a chord with them.

Reaching out to your target customers appropriately will bring them in droves...

Reaching out to your target customers appropriately will bring them in droves…

Marketing your business will be a continuous effort moving forward. You’ll always need to create relevance for your business in order to keep drawing in new clients.

2. Customer experience and service architect

Once customers have started trickling in, it’s upon you to ensure that all their interactions with your business are top-notch. Customers should be assured of satisfaction whatever their engagement with your business involves. This is what superb customer experience is all about – and it starts right from your mission statement which you always have to live up to.

Top entrepreneurs understand that keeping their customers satisfied is absolutely vital.

Top entrepreneurs understand that keeping their customers satisfied is absolutely vital.

Your customer experience strategy will need to be complemented by exemplary customer service which involves all the things a business needs to do to make a customer feel valued and important.

3. Chief salesman

Making sales is the only way your business is going to earn revenue. Ideally, the healthier your sales volumes, the higher your revenues and profits will be. Ensuring that your product/service gets out there and convincing people to spend money on it is an art that you must perfect. Even if you have a sales team it is clear that they will look up to you for inspiration and direction. Simply put, if you lack passion for your product/service don’t expect the sales team to work miracles on the ground.

Self-explanatory.

Self-explanatory.

Selling is an aspect of business where your input on the front lines is really required Steve Jobs-style. Interactions with your customers will reveal many pointers and ideas that you can take advantage of in order to make your sales effort more precise and focused.

4. Minding the business’ coffers

It’s quite ironic that for many entrepreneurs the sight of a healthy bottom line is what causes them to grin widest yet they are stubbornly hesitant to learn about how to prepare balance sheets, profit and loss statements and cash flow statements. While finding and paying fine accountants and bookkeepers to handle these matters on your behalf is undeniably convenient, the truth of the matter is that entrepreneurs who are personally involved in their business’ financial matters are best placed to lead their ventures to long-term success.

Successful entrepreneurs are involved with the money right from the get go...

Successful entrepreneurs are involved with the money right from the get go…

Being in charge of the financials will enable you to among other things know your business’ health, be sure of its tax compliance, and be able to monitor trends such that you can plan ahead based on facts rather than assumptions.

5. Undisputed team leader

As the business owner you also have the distinction of being employee #1. This means that even if your business does not hire other people you’ll be responsible for leading yourself. Being team leader means that you’ll have to espouse all the qualities of an efficient team and lead from the front.

There can be no other way for entrepreneurs to lead - it must be from the front

There can be no other way for entrepreneurs to lead – it must be from the front

Running a business successfully is no walk in the park – it requires dedication, commitment, zeal and focus from everyone involved. The team will eagerly play ball if they see you doing your part with vim and then some.

6. Head visionary and strategist

How big do you wish to grow your business? Does your vision portend success? To achieve mega growth you will need to have a solid strategy for the future. Indeed the most successful entrepreneurs have all grown from the ground up because one eye is firmly fixed on the big picture.

Successful entrepreneurs look at the big picture and strategize on how to get there...

Successful entrepreneurs look at the big picture and strategize on how to get there…

As such, even as you are engaged in the day to day running of your nascent business’ operations, you should ensure that all the present effort is essentially about preparing the groundwork for future growth and success. Long-term vision is imperative.

7. Head of creativity and innovation

Unless you are dealing with something quite unique that virtually nobody else can offer e.g. corks then constantly wearing your thinking cap is not an option. Why? You need to ensure that your business will always remain relevant and competitive.

New and relevant ideas will be key for your business'success...

New and relevant ideas will be key for your business’success…

Businesses often reinvent themselves after their previous brilliant offerings become obsolete. Reinvention is about progressively providing new offerings that can satisfy the needs of your customers. Reinventing is actually an investment of time, money and brain cells. Done well, you’ll certainly reap handsomely moving forward.

8. Chief perceiver of opportunity

Your ability to utilize the entrepreneurial qualities of foresight, instinct and alertness will definitely contribute to your business success. Given the dynamic nature of societal trends, new opportunities and possibilities are constantly being revealed. Only the entrepreneurial eye can identify these opportunities and only the entrepreneurial mind can come up with a blueprint of how to harness them profitably.

As an entrepreneur you need the ability to sense opportunity...

As an entrepreneur you need the ability to sense opportunity…

You therefore always need to keep an eye on trends. Specifically, you need to be aware of changing needs and requirements with the aim of providing innovative solutions.

9. Informed risk-taker

This role is ideally connected to that on opportunity perception described in the previous point. Entrepreneurial risk-taking describes the willingness to perform the actions required to harness an identified business opportunity knowing full well that the actions could result in profit or loss.

...as well as the skill and capacity to make a profitable swoop

…as well as the skill and capacity to make a profitable swoop

As such, considering the unknowable nature of the result you expect, your actions in this regard will need to be based on informed assumptions. It is for this reason that many successful entrepreneurs have on several occasions invested time and money in seemingly profitable opportunities only to have their fingers burnt. On most occasions though, these entrepreneurs’ achievements can justly be described as legendary.

10. Motivation guru

The rigors of running a business are such that you’ll always need steady hands to steer the vessel forward towards success. Even so, the exertion will regularly take a toll on you and the team hence the need for everyone to enjoy some down time for purposes of re-energizing.

Every team member needs to feel fully appreciated and involved in order to be optimally productive

Every team member needs to feel fully appreciated and involved in order to be optimally productive

Keeping the team well motivated is essential and there are many ways to do this besides paying competitive salaries. You can start by making the workplace atmosphere and culture truly conducive to productivity. It is also vital to make the team part of your vision; you can really use some of the bright ideas and suggestions your team can offer. Rewarding effort and goal achievement is also imperative.

Your choice of product packaging tells customers  a lot about what they should expect from you...

Your choice of product packaging tells customers a lot about what they should expect from your brand…

However superb your product may be, its success to a large extent depends on your choice of packaging. There’s no doubt that a product’s performance is more important than its packaging. Nevertheless, the fact that prospective customers can only make an assessment of a product via its packaging means that you have no choice but to get inspired about this aspect of your product.

Effective product packaging should play the following roles:

  • Function – The packaging should be able to protect your product during transit and as it is displayed on store shelves
  • Attraction – The packaging should be able to entice potential buyers to choose, pick and buy your product from amongst all the options available on the shelves
  • Promotion and facilitating the decision to purchase – The packaging should effectively provide relevant information about your product and which may include source, ingredients used, directions for use, etc. This information is vital in helping potential customers to decide whether or not to buy.
  • Differentiation – Your product’s packaging should be adequately unique to enable customers to identify it easily

Adhering to the pointers below will give you success with product packaging:

1. Keeping it simple

Effective product packaging is all about making a potential buyer’s decision-making process as simple as possible. Immediately customers reach the section where your product is displayed they should be able to easily identify it from amongst the rest.

There is nothing excessive about effective packaging

There is nothing excessive about effective packaging…

Simplicity is also vital in case it is a new product or you are launching in a new market. Your product’s name, brand name, package and description should be easy for the eyes thus facilitating and encouraging potential customers to pick and buy.

2. Describing the product for what it is

In an attempt to boost sales you may be tempted to exaggerate the abilities of your product.

Don’t.

Simply state the facts and promise potential users attainable expectations based on your product testing results. If you have a good product you can be sure that sales volumes will gradually increase thanks to the positive feedback and reviews that satisfied users will offer.

Confidently state what your product offers; the consumers verdict will soon be out...

Confidently state what your product offers; the consumers verdict will soon be out…

Exaggeration, on the other hand, will ultimately hurt your product’s sales potential as you’ll have to deal with disappointed, dissatisfied and skeptical customers.

3. Being audience-specific

If your product is designed for a specific market audience you must ensure that its packaging plays the part. Just like the product, packaging cannot be universal.

This also applies for products that target the same core audience. For example, different men prefer different cologne fragrances. As such, the packaging for the different colognes cannot be the same.

Audience-specific packaging helps to facilitate easy decision-making.

4. Standing out from the competition

Prior to launching your product you should scour the market in a bid to, among other reasons, find out what the competition has to offer. Based on what you see you should be able to come up with a packaging design that will enable your product to stand out.

The packaging immediately tells you that this is a brand of chocolate may be worth trying...

The packaging immediately tells you that this brand of chocolate may be worth trying…

Your aim should be to create product packaging that is unique, a huge improvement on the competition’s effort, and relevant.

5. Using high quality materials

Product packaging is indeed a substantial aspect of product development; it does require a considerable chunk of money. This notwithstanding, the need to use high quality packaging cannot be overemphasized.

Your product's packaging design needs to match your core audience's expectations...

Your product’s packaging design needs to match your core audience’s expectations…

Your product’s packaging needs to be good enough to make a strong first impression in the mind of a prospective buyer. As such, you cannot afford to compromise on quality. Get the best of what is available as per your budget.

6. Enhancing user convenience

This particularly applies for products whose packaging affects the manner in which they are used. In this case the packaging design needs to be handy.

Knowing the contents, this product's packaging design is definitely handy...

Knowing the contents, this product’s packaging design is definitely handy…

For example, Harpic’s toilet cleaner is packaged in a suitably designed squeezable plastic bottle with a bent neck and a nozzle, two features that help to get the cleaner under the toilet bowl’s rim.

7. Factoring in future product varieties

After successfully launching the flagship product for your brand you might think of following up on this success by introducing several other product varieties. In most cases your marketing task will be easier if the new varieties will be similarly packaged.

The original Harpic toilet cleaner bottle is blue in color. Subsequent varieties are similarly packaged but the bottles colors are different.

8. Ensuring the text’s legibility

All the text on your product’s packaging should be clearly legible. A prospective buyer should rapidly be able to scan through your product’s descriptions provided on its front and back. This is crucial for decision-making especially if the product is new or use-specific.

The text definitely needs to be legible in this case...

The text definitely needs to be legible in this case…

Proper text legibility is enhanced by several factors including font type, size and color, and overall packaging color scheme. Additionally, only the most important information should be printed on the front. Reserve the back for ancillary information.

9. Vetting multiple packaging designs

Before you settle on a particular design it is advisable to seek other people’s opinions. The idea is to present different packaging design options to several objective persons and letting them pinpoint the design they think will be most appropriate for your product. You, of course need to brief them about what need the product aims to address and the section of the market you are targeting.

Chances are that their feedback will provide you with some insights that you had overlooked; perhaps the design you had in mind may after all not be as suitable as you may have thought.

10. Keeping up with the times

What makes for a great packaging design now may not work when the next generation of your target market emerges. For this reason you need to spruce up your product’s packaging every once in a while.

This is real; top brands do it all the time. Just think of how many times Coca-Cola has changed the shape of its bottles.

The trick is to retain your product’s original charm but to package it for the present.

Some products' classic packaging charm always remains fashionable though...

Some products’ classic packaging charm always remains fashionable though…

The don’ts…

11. Targeting everyone instead of the target market

Borrowing from the old adage “You can’t be all things to all people”, you should realize that your product just cannot work for every other consumer. This is true, even for universal products like table salt and drinking water.

Although this product's use is well understood, the target audience is unspecified...

Although this product’s use is well understood, the target audience is unspecified…

So, forget about universal packaging; go for what will work for your core audience. In the same way that you have developed a product for this target market, come up with a fitting packaging design.

12. Using hard-to-open-and-use sort of packaging

If customers find it difficult to open your product’s packaging and/or find that using the product is inconvenient, chances are that they will explore other options the next time round. As such, don’t go for a packaging design that will require users to learn specialist skills in order to use the product.

Opening and using your product should be quite easy...

Opening and using your product should be quite easy…

There are plenty of design options that you can employ to enhance convenience e.g. perforated openings, flip caps, shrink-wrapping, ribbed bottles, etc.

13. Failing to freshen up your packaging

Very few products can retain their original packaging designs for eons and still sell well e.g. nails, sewing needles, etc. Even so, manufacturers may regularly have to renew their logos, and so on.

Generally, updating your product’s packaging regularly will contribute to its success moving forward. A snazzy look is a selling look.

14. Assuming that words and terms mean the same thing everywhere

While your product’s name may sound amazing where you come from, the word/s may have a totally different meaning elsewhere. This is a crucial consideration if you intend to sell your product to a target market that is spread across different tribes, nationalities, cultures and/or religions. It is for this reason that certain products are sold under different brand names in different markets.

15. Failing to communicate your product’s unique attributes

It is foolhardy to assume that your product will do well even though its packaging bears only a scanty description of the contents. What information will prospective customers use to make a buying decision? This is a no-brainer.

16. Failing to provide different package sizes

For some products you just have to provide different package sizes. Even for regularly used products like cooking oil and detergents, selling a single package size won’t do.

The realization that different types of consumers love and use your product is vital for success.

The realization that different types of consumers love and use your product is vital for success.

Customers make their purchasing decisions based on various factors including price, use frequency, shelf life, sell by date, personal lifestyle, and so on. Ignoring such concerns won’t augur well for your product’s commercial success.

17. Omitting crucial product label details

All consumers, you included, have a habit of trying to find out all about the various products that they use regularly. This will naturally start with a scrutiny of these products labels. The scrutiny is typically more intense after a product has been bought, say after the customer is back home after shopping.

A label-less product is a suspicious product. Consumers need details.

A label-less product is a suspicious product. Consumers need details.

Consumers will be more reassured if your product bears all the typical label information they are used to e.g. environmental concerns, product security, sell by dates, etc. If your product lacks any of these details it is likely to be treated with suspicion.

With some inspiration you can come up with an amazing business idea

With some inspiration you can come up with an amazing business idea

In their quest to find out how organizations come up with new ideas and convert these ideas into successful new products, services, businesses and solutions, researchers from New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute arrived at an interesting conclusion. They discovered that most of the novel ideas behind successful projects were the result of “happy accidents” rather than formal idea-generation processes.

Looking at some of the most revolutionary, creative and enduringly successful business ideas there are around, you can’t help but concur that there is something fluky about them. Perhaps this is why such ideas are not too common. Nevertheless, because the entrepreneur in you is determined to succeed, nothing can or should stop you from creating your own luck.

Coming up with a winning concept is the first step. To get there though, you need to start looking in the right places. Examples of these idea sources are discussed below:

1. Answering the question “What’s next?”

While thinking about current trends and technologies, and then employing entrepreneurial foresight, you can try to anticipate future needs and requirements.

Someday your idea can become reality...

Someday your idea can become reality…

In doing so you may come up with a concept(s) for products and/or services that will cater to these needs. There are indeed plenty of successful businesses that have flourished because the entrepreneurs concerned foresaw future opportunities.

2. Earning money from your hobby

Many people have found entrepreneurial success by transforming their hobbies into businesses. For instance, many food catering businesses are owned by persons who decided to monetize their love for cooking. Similarly, many people have found success in photography, fashion design, jewelry making, etc.

Who knows? Your photos may soon start earning you good money...

Who knows? Your photos may soon start earning you good money…

3. Getting rid of a particularly bothersome problem

All of us have to contend with various niggling bothers in our daily lives. Some can be ignored but some are clearly very difficult to overlook.

Business opportunity, anyone?

Business opportunity, anyone?

Think about one bother that makes you go bonkers. Most probably there are lots of other people in the same situation who are itching for a solution. Can you think of a solution that can double up as a business idea?

4. Identifying an untapped/new market niche

For a given industry, think about the various products and/or services that currently exist. What are the various requirements that are hitherto being catered to unsatisfactorily? Spotting and monetizing such opportunities typically requires some imagination.

For example, many of us couldn’t think beyond bottled mineral water. Some imaginative entrepreneurs did. Now we have carbonated mineral water and flavored mineral water.

Candles need not be plain - there's more money in decorative ones...

Candles need not be plain – there’s more money in decorative ones…

5. Visiting exhibitions

Attending trade fairs and exhibitions, and especially those featuring participants from other countries, can really help to broaden your scope of thinking. At these events you will be able to interact with foreign entrepreneurs from whom you might learn several ideas that are yet to be exploited as business opportunities in your country.

Trade fairs and exhibitions will expose you to new ideas and concepts

Trade fairs and exhibitions will expose you to new ideas and concepts

Apart from inventors and entrepreneurs you might also want to engage with product distributors, sales reps, franchisers and wholesalers. They are obviously interested in expanding their business to your country – who knows, you may end up running the sole local dealership for one of these companies.

6. Transferring your skills to an entirely new area

Imagine using your skills to create a new product that is a clear departure from what you are used to doing. The result could be a business idea whose success may exceed your own expectations.

Apart from water tumblers a glass-worker can also make various attractive collectibles...

Apart from water tumblers a glass-worker can also make various attractive collectibles…

In the movie “The Illusionist” the lead actor, a carpenter’s apprentice, uses his woodworking skills to create a lovely imaginative locket for the girl he loved. Such custom-made keepsakes tend to sell well.

7. Exploiting a market niche where innovations are scarce

There are markets where successive innovations are far in between. A creative entrepreneur can make the most of the situation by providing a product that users are likely to hail as being revolutionary.

For instance, scissors and manual clippers were for a long time barbers’ instruments of choice. The introduction of the electric shaver changed all that and ideally helped to revolutionize the concept of male grooming.

The chainsaw rendered handsaws and axes virtually obsolete...

The chainsaw rendered handsaws and axes virtually obsolete…

8. Launching a cheaper version of an existing product/service

This approach is really effective for startups hoping to compete in industries dominated by big household-name players. Provided that your proposed product/service has proven that it can deliver, customers will definitely want to give it a try. It is for this reason that many industries are characterized by product price differentiation.

Is this the real thing?

Is this the real thing?

For example, a man who cannot afford to buy a diamond necklace for his lady can always purchase one made with cubic zirconia gems.

9. Engaging with a product or service’s users

As a matter of fact, it is the users of a product or service who can provide the best feedback about it and also suggest whatever improvements they would like to become available in the market.

Seek customers advice about how you can improve a product and then launch one that meets these requirements

Seek customers advice about how you can improve a product and then launch one that meets these requirements

You can therefore decide to interact with people who buy a certain product that you are capable of improving upon and from these discussions find out what your new version of the product should feature and/or offer.

Sportswear giant Nike started out by making improvements to running shoes.

10. Scouring mass media for opportunities

The mass media is a treasure trove of information and ideas from which business opportunities can be created. Wherever you look, be it on the Internet, television, newspapers, magazines, and so on, there is always information about the latest trends in this or that facet of our daily lives. Ads of virtually every description are always aplenty.

Mass media is a rich source of potential business ideas and opportunities

Mass media is a rich source of potential business ideas and opportunities

You can directly respond to potential business opportunities. You can also go a step further and visualize a new concept that you can package as a viable business solution.

always aplenty.

You can directly respond to potential business opportunities. You can also go a step further and visualize a new concept that you can package as a viable business solution.

There's a lot to think about before starting a business. Success will require entrepreneurial prudence.

There’s a lot to think about before starting a business. Success will require entrepreneurial prudence.

In the planning and starting-up of a business enterprise a novice entrepreneur will certainly have to contend with multiple tasks and problems.

With respect to these realities it is worth appreciating the usefulness of having a checklist in helping the individual to cover most, if not all, of the variables that are involved in starting a business. With such a checklist you will be able to address two main concerns i.e.

  • Evaluating your preparedness in terms of starting the planned venture and
  • Ensuring that you get off to a great start once you launch the business

The following are some of the most crucial questions that you must find answers to as a prospective entrepreneur:

1. How is your reaction to business opportunities like?

Successful entrepreneurs are known to react quickly to seize business opportunities whenever they arise. These reactions require a good measure of instinct since pursuing such opportunities does entail some form of risk-taking.

Like successful hunters, successful entrepreneurs make the most of opportunity...

Like successful hunters, successful entrepreneurs make the most of opportunity…

Poor business people, on the other hand, are known for their procrastination which results in missed opportunities and general poor business performance.

In this regard, would you describe yourself as proactive or reactive?

2. How good is your management of energy and time?

The old adage “Time is money” holds true for any entrepreneurship activity. Ideally, you should be one who is willing to commit energy and time to activities that will profit your business venture.

Building your business successfully will require lots of time and effort - it's going to be hard work...

Building your business successfully will require lots of time and effort – it’s going to be hard work…

The start-up stage is extremely crucial. Creating a successful business from the ground up will require 101% of your involvement, no compromise.

Are you ready for self-sacrifice?

3. How prepared are you in terms of saving money, making business contacts, and learning / training about your prospective business engagement?

Most of the successful entrepreneurs we know are people who had taken time to get prepared financially, mentally, and emotionally, for the task ahead. Prior to starting a business you must fully understand what the decision implies – it is a process that will require you to be wholly committed to the cause.

Start from the bottom and build upwards with the work-ethic of termites...

Entrepreneurs start from the bottom and build upwards with the work-ethic of termites…

Think about how termites build their nests. Individual grains of earth are gradually pieced together and the result is an imposing structure so rigid and strong. Likewise, you will need to prepare a solid foundation upon which to grow.

4. How well or how badly do you take discouragement or failure?

Successful entrepreneurs are those who have thoroughly understood that both discouragement and failures are realities in the business world. They are however pragmatic and work hard to make their business ventures successful. While being persistent in their efforts they also don’t over commit themselves and their resources to an extent that initial failures will ground them for good.

You might be tempted to quit - but this shouldn't be an option for you...

You might be tempted to quit – but this shouldn’t be an option for you…

Are you ready to be persistent or will you quit as soon as things start going wrong? What will you do if customers don’t show up as anticipated?

5. Do you have a competent adviser or team of advisers?

Prudent entrepreneurs seek the advice of seasoned business people in different lines of enterprise. They do so in order to have their ideas vetted before they embark on them. Doing so has spared many novice entrepreneurs undue financial and psychological hurt.

Having a good advice and support team is definitely vital in the early stages...

Having a good advice and support team is definitely vital in the early stages…

There’s no substitute for experience, and a problem shared is a problem solved.

Do you have a group of persons that you can consult with moving forward?

6. Have you established that the demand for your products and services actually exists?

This holds more so for innovative ideas. Talking to people about the idea may give some form of encouragement but the crucial consideration is ideally whether the intended product or service will actually be bought and become profitable.

Eureka! But is there market demand for your product?

Eureka! But is there market demand for your product?

Have you studied the marketplace and confirmed that there’s indeed a demand for what you plan to start selling? What similar solutions already exist? How does your solution stand out from the rest?

7. Have you established the financial implications required in starting up?

It is important to have a clear picture of what your business’ start-up costs are. Additionally, you’ll need to factor in money estimates that will help the business run well for at least six months after its inception.

Starting, running and sustaining your business will need money...

Starting, running and sustaining your business will need money…

8. Do you have enough to go on for at least a year?

Apart from the start-up and operating costs highlighted in point 7 above you must have a sufficient income or savings to maintain your upkeep for at least a year. This is so whether or not you have a family to support. These monies should be sufficient until a point where the business venture starts earning you a good income.

9. Do you have any external sources of funding in mind?

Sometimes it so happens that individual savings are exhausted before a business takes off. It is therefore prudent that you have reliable sources of potential financing backup in case such a scenario arises. How well prepared are you for such an eventuality?

10. What form of business organization do you have in mind?

There are quite a number of business forms that you can create including a sole proprietorship or a partnership.

Will yours be a sole-proprietorship where everything depends on you?

Will yours be a sole-proprietorship where everything depends on you?

All these forms have different implications and you are well advised to clearly understand these before you settle for any. A lawyer’s advice may come in handy here.

11. How do you plan to maintain your records?

Successful entrepreneurs have an efficient system of knowing what their incomes and expenses are, and how much their businesses owe or are owed. Such a system need not be complicated in design – it just has to serve the purpose.

Proper record-keeping will ensure that information about your business is always readily accessible...

Proper record-keeping will ensure that information about your business is always readily accessible…

Record keeping is an integral part of any successful business. Effective accounting will only become possible if there are accurate records to start with.

Is the record-keeping system you have in mind going to be appropriate for your type of business?

12. Will the venture need personnel?

Entrepreneurs whose businesses have to hire personnel understand the importance of having a skilled team. Prior to establishing your business you must first ascertain that the kind of people you need exist and that you can afford to pay them.

What type and number of employees will your business require?

What type and number of employees will your business require?

Where will you find the sort of personnel you require? Will you need full-time employees or will freelancers be appropriate?

13. How will your pricing be organized?

It needs to be clear from the onset that a correct pricing of your products and services is of the essence. Basically, successful entrepreneurs set prices that will help them cover all their production expenses as well as earn them a viable profit.

Product price has to reflect the production costs incurred and the expected profit margin

Product price has to reflect the production costs incurred and the expected profit margin

What considerations have you weighed in arriving at your proposed price? Will the revenues you’ll earn as a result of selling at this price be adequate to sustain the business?

14. How soon can the initial investment be recouped?

One aspect of successful businesses is such that they are able to recover their costs of investment in a reasonable time-frame. Such costs include items like machines and equipment, any construction and design work, etc., and they are recovered from the profits the business earns.

From your own estimations, how soon do you think this will take?

15. Does your business satisfy the legal requirements?

Successful entrepreneurs make a thorough background research into all legal aspects that are required for their ventures to operate within the law. You should therefore identify all the permits and licenses that you should secure before starting off.

Eventually, running an unlawful or illegal business is not worth the entrepreneurial effort...

Eventually, running an unlawful or illegal business is not worth the entrepreneurial effort…

Will you be operating within the law when you open your doors for business?

This checklist is neither conclusive nor does it suffice for every type of business. It however offers a general idea of what prospective entrepreneurs must bear in mind if they intend to be successful at the nascent stage of their business ventures.

A business that offers diverse products/services is almost always doing business

A business that offers diverse products/services is almost always doing business

After successfully steering your small business from existence and through survival, you are now at the success stage. It is now beyond doubt that your business idea was a winner right from inception –the naysayers are now eating lots of humble pie.

You are now thinking about the next stage of growth for your business enterprise and are considering two options:

  1. Whether you should grow the current business to the next level OR
  2. Whether you should venture out in a new direction while using the current business as your support.

If no.2 is what’s on your mind then you are basically planning to diversify your business.

Business diversification does make a lot of sense. After all, we all concur with the old adage “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”.

Like for many other critical business decisions, you need to approach and implement diversification from an informed point of view. Whatever the proposed implementation will involve, there is a single rule: Your core business should remain as it is.

Why does diversification make so much business sense today?

The need to always expect the unexpected can hardly be overstated.

However much your business may be thriving currently, there is always need to ask “what if”.

Business diversification will in this context help you to:

1. Avoid becoming too dependent on a single customer

There are many small (and large) businesses whose entire operations are based on serving a single very profitable customer. Things are typically very smooth for as long as this symbiotic business relationship exists, so much so that these business hardly see the need to source for other clients.

What will you do if your only client is suddenly no longer available for business?

What will you do if your only client is suddenly no longer available for business?

If your business fits this description you need to start imagining what would happen if for some reason your client is no longer available for business. You would definitely need to find other clients, the failure of which would likely compel you to wind down your operations.

Start making hay while the sun shines. Seek out alternative clients or make sure that substantial sums of your income are being saved for the proverbial rainy day.

2. Avoid becoming too dependent on a single supplier

Similar to having a single customer, there are many positives that come with having a single supplier, more so when the business relationship is mutually beneficial. Likewise, the negatives of such a relationship can have a crippling effect on your business.

What will happen if the only source of your raw material is shut down?

What will happen if the only source of your raw material is shut down?

What happens if your supplier can no longer provide the raw material you need for production? In case you can’t find an alternative supplier you’ll have no choice but to halt operations and think about introducing a new product altogether.

3. Ensure you have multiple revenue streams

Ideally, if ¾ of your current business revenue is generated by a single product/service, you should start thinking about additional revenue streams.

Why, you ask?

Well, if your cash cow takes a hit, your revenues will most likely dip severely, at least in the short-term. In the worst case scenario you may have to start an entirely new business.

Multiple sources of income will add more stability to your business...

Multiple sources of income will add more stability to your business…

Diversification in this case can be done through the introduction of new products/services that are complementary to your cash cow. For example, if you run a bread bakery, you may want to introduce alternatives like cakes, cupcakes, buns, donuts, etc.

Doing this will also help you to have an extra edge on the competition.

4. Avoid depending on a single distribution channel

If your business has just a single way of getting things to the marketplace, or a single way of making sales, you need to start thinking fast. What will happen if your current distributor is suddenly acquired? What if your door-to-door sales technique is blacklisted by the government in the wake of terror threats?

What if the authorities start enforcing this ban strictly?

What if the authorities start enforcing this ban strictly?

In both scenarios it is likely that a completely new approach will have to be thought up and implemented. Knowing just how much time such new approaches may require before becoming effective (if ever) these are scenarios you don’t want for your small business.

What are the motivations for small business diversification?

5. The need to reduce financial risk

Some of these will most likely break or crack...

Some of these will most likely break or crack…

Many business owners resort to diversification in order to secure their financial assets.

Borrowing from “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” you may find it prudent to put your money into different investments. This is done in the hope that should some investments flop, others will thrive.

6. The need to harness new market opportunities 

If your idea feels viable then go ahead and test it...who knows what may come of it?

If your idea feels viable then go ahead and test it…who knows what may come of it?

Every once in a while you may discover a market opportunity that you feel is potentially profitable and therefore worth exploring. Whether or not this proves worthwhile, your focus should always be on your core business. Ensure that the distractions of your new pursuit won’t result in the demise of your primary source of revenue.

7. To create more appeal amongst current and potential customers

Business diversification results in customer base diversification.

Introducing new products/services into your business portfolio will firstly allow you to earn more revenue from additional sales to your current clientele. Secondly, the new products/services will help you to break into a new market segment thus adding to your overall customer base.

Expanding on an original idea will most likely make your business more relevant to your target market...

Expanding on an original idea will most likely make your business more relevant to your target market…

There is immense risk in undertaking such diversification; a sober-minded approach is required considering that a new product/service may either do well or flop. In case it flops you will have to contend with the effects of losing substantial cash flow.

8. To improve your business’ profile and appeal for potential buyers

A diversified business makes for a more valuable proposition for potential buyers

A diversified business makes for a more valuable proposition for potential buyers

Perhaps you are considering selling off your business at some point in the future. Businesses that have diversified portfolios tend to have an edge with regards to potential buyers. Such buyers would love to know that their financial risk will be spread out across multiple market segments. You will therefore have additional bargaining clout when a buyout arrangement materializes.

What should you consider before embarking on business diversification?

9. Ensure that your new product/service has a value proposition for the customer

How about this for a new business idea?

How about this for a new business idea?

Your diversification efforts are guaranteed to achieve success if customers perceive the new product/service you are offering to be relevant and valuable. Creating a new product/service that customers need to use very regularly is a good way to approach diversification.

10. Have expertise in your proposed area of diversification

Success will also be guaranteed if you have the expertise and know-how required for providing the new product/service. Ensure that the relevant systems and personnel required to deliver your new product/service to customers are in place.

Your new business direction should also be a fit with your overall business model thereby ensuring that you won’t be entering into completely uncharted territory. This way it will be easier for you to penetrate and expand within the new market segment.

Diversification tends to be more successful if the entrepreneur is knowledgeable about the proposed idea...

Diversification tends to be more successful if the entrepreneur is knowledgeable about the proposed idea…

11. Leverage on your business’ strengths

If you are thinking about diversification it means that you already have a successful business model in place. Using this as the scaffolding for your next stage of business growth will make it easier to explore and implement the new ideas you have in mind. Of course you must be thoroughly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the proposed business field.

12. Find the right people for the job

You must ensure that you have a competent team in place before you implement the proposed transition. You’ll most likely be required to hire personnel that have the required skills, as well as train the current team to ensure that everyone is on board with the new direction the business will be taking.

Introducing a new offering may require you to engage a skilled team - ensure that everyone is competent

Introducing a new offering may require you to engage a skilled team – ensure that everyone is competent

Creating passion about the new direction amongst your employees is guaranteed to make implementation far much easier and more successful.

What types of diversification can you consider for your current product/service?

13. Adaptation

This will involve tweaking and/or adjusting your product/service so that it can become useful to a new type of clients.

The same product or service can be adapted to suit new and different types of clients

The same product or service can be adapted to suit new and different types of clients

For example, if you create top-notch premium-priced anti-virus software you may think of introducing two new versions of the software, say basic and advanced, that will cost cheaper and attract two new categories of consumers. This is an example of a diversified sales strategy.

14. Introducing complementary products/services

Here you will be introducing a new line of product/service that is related to what you offer, but that your customers currently have to purchase from a different vendor or competitor.

For example, if you manufacture pencils, you may decide to introduce erasers and pencil sharpeners. This is an example of related and/or concentric diversification.

You can diversify your business by offering a portfolio of related products or services...

You can diversify your business by offering a portfolio of related products or services…

Some of these approaches may require you to purchase a company that produces the sort of product/service you wish to introduce. This typically results in a diversified business portfolio and the elimination of a potential competitor from the market.

15. Introducing an integrated product/service lineup

Quite similar to the previous strategy, this is about finding out what more your business can offer the market with regards to its current offerings. The pencil manufacturer can think about adding color pencils, crayons, ballpoint pens and fountain pens to its product portfolio. This is an example of horizontal diversification.

...or by offering an integrated portfolio of products or services

…or by offering an integrated portfolio of products or services

16. Strategic partnerships

It may be the case that there are viable opportunities to be accrued by partnering with another company that is related to but not directly competing with your business. The pencil manufacturer can perhaps partner with a stationery manufacturer resulting in a win-win alliance.

This is an example of unrelated and/or conglomerate diversification.

17. Anticipating future market requirements

The last thing you would want for your business is to be rendered obscure as a result of failing to keep up with industry advancements. As a proactive business owner you always want to be among the ‘early adopters’ as this will allow you to earn significant returns on investment before the rest of the market catches up.

18. Launching new stores

This is the conventional way of reaching more of your target customers. You can invest in opening a new store/s in another town(s) or state(s). This is described as geographical diversification.

It doesn’t have to stop there. Venturing to neighboring countries and other continents is a possibility you can pursue in future.

Establishing new stores and venturing into e-commerce is an effective way to reach more of your target customers

Establishing new stores and venturing into e-commerce is an effective way to reach more of your target customers

19. Embracing e-commerce

The online marketplace is where the big players are doing splendid business. Make a point of taking your product/service online if you aren’t there yet.

Considering that people are increasingly embracing the conveniences of online shopping, your business will definitely expand its reach by targeting a global audience. Again, considering how expansive the online marketplace is, who says you can’t open multiple stores? This is a good example of market diversification.

While you may as a small business owner feel the natural inclination to maintain your business’ current status quo (and enjoy the risk-free and safety advantages of doing so), it is worth appreciating that sudden events can result in the stalling or complete demise of your enterprise.

Business diversification is a proactive way to forestall such eventualities. It is also an effective way of growing your business and adding to your revenue.

In what ways have you diversified your operations? If you haven’t done this yet, what are some of the ideas you may consider implementing?