Monthly Archives: March 2017

Great Places to Find New Business Ideas

All successful entrepreneurial ventures have one thing in common: They solve a specific problem. Whether they fill a gap in the market or improve upon what’s already out there, good business ideas demonstrate what the issue is and why they have the unique ability to address it.

If you’ve been racking your brain for a way to start your own business but keep coming up short, you might just need a change of scenery. You never know where inspiration will strike, so get up and explore these 10 places to find solvable problems — and, therefore, great business ideas.

Think you’ve found your perfect startup? Do some research to make sure the idea is legal and feasible, and then visit our step-by-step guide to starting a business.

In the “there’s an app for that” era, it may seem like every mobile application under the sun has already been thought up and built. But that’s not necessarily the case, as many people discover when they scour their smartphone’s app store searching for something that doesn’t exist. Perhaps an app you recently downloaded doesn’t function the way you’d hoped it would, or doesn’t offer a certain feature you wanted. To find out if there’s interest in the newer, better app you want to create, ask friends, family and others in your network. Once you’ve done your due diligence, you can use a DIY app maker or, if you have very little tech experience, hire freelancers to build it for you.

If you’ve ever done an exhaustive Internet search for a specific item that returned no results, you have three options: settle for something close enough, give up entirely or do it yourself. If you’re the kind of person who chooses the DIY method (and can do it well), you have the opportunity to turn a frustration into a lucrative business. Check forums to see if others are searching for the same product(s), and then open up an online shop to sell them. This can also work well for specialized service-based businesses.

If there’s one thing people like to do on social media, it’s air their grievances about everyday life. Most of the time, these types of updates are mundane (and probably a little annoying), but if you pay close enough attention to those hashtags and status updates, you might start to see some patterns emerging. Look for phrases like, “Why isn’t there a … ” or, “I wish there was a …” — you may be able to offer a solution.

As with social media, people love to talk about the products they’ve purchased and places they’ve visited on sites like Amazon, Google and Yelp. Most consumers will read and use negative reviews to determine if they should avoid the product or establishment, and that company’s loss could be your gain. See what people are complaining about, and try to come up with a business idea that would fix the problem.

Look around your house or apartment. What are some of the frustrations you encounter there? Dusty air vents? A messy bathroom? Unraked leaves on your lawn? If you’re noticing these things in your own home, there’s a good chance other people are experiencing the same problems. By launching an in-home service business, you can help others take care of these time-consuming household tasks.

The people who live near you can be a great inspiration for business ideas. Think about the demographics of your neighborhood or local community. If your town has a lot of working parents, a service that offers to run errands or provides child care might be in high demand. A neighborhood with a lot of senior citizens could use independent home health aides. Are there a lot of dog owners nearby? Try a pet-care business like pet sitting or dog walking.

If you want to start a part-time business outside your current job, ask your co-workers what kinds of products or services they’re missing in their lives. Maybe someone else with a side business is looking for a bookkeeper or financial adviser. Others might be looking to enroll their children in affordable art or music classes. Small talk in the break room is bound to lead to at least a few viable ideas.

Are you a food lover? Seeing what’s missing from the shelves at the grocery store or farmers market could help you come up with a made-to-order culinary business idea. Jams, baked goods and specialty diet items (gluten free, vegan, etc.) are especially good choices for an artisanal food startup. Alternatively, you could test your gastronomic skills with ingredients from the supermarket and open up a restaurant or food truck.

While you might not actually open up a brick-and-mortar retail location, perusing your local mall might give you some ideas for a business of your own. You could launch a line of homemade natural cosmetics to rival the pushy salespeople from that kiosk, a clothing line to produce something different from the same old items in every apparel store window or an online craft shop to offer personalized alternatives to generic card-store knickknacks.

If you’re a parent, you know that any product or service that will help your child is worth the money. Think about the gaps you see in the market, and next time you pick up the kids from school, ask other parents if they feel the same way. Not a parent? Ask family members or friends with children what kinds of things they want (or want improved) but can’t currently find for their kids.

Business Plan Competitions for Entrepreneurs

The entrepreneurial spirit is rooted in innovation and competition. Given this drive to succeed, it’s no wonder that competitions rewarding entrepreneurs for their business plans and pitches are popping up all over the country.

Throughout the year, schools and organizations allow early stage startups and aspiring entrepreneurs to present their new business ideas and plans to panels of industry-renowned judges, for a chance to win some much-needed funding. Even if these entrepreneurs don’t win the grand prize, the competitors still get the opportunity to network with leaders and innovators in their industries, and share ideas with fellow entrepreneurs and mentors.

If you’re thinking of applying to a business plan competition, here are six great options open to entrepreneurs in any state.

Location: Waco, Texas

The Baylor New Business Venture Competition features current students and recent alumni of any accredited university across the nation competing in one of two tracks: consumer and internet technology companies, and nontechnology companies. Companies in the technology track must fall into categories such as internet security, social media and mobile commerce. There is a preliminary round, followed by three presentation rounds. The top teams from both tracks will compete against each other for the cash grand prize of $60,000.

Location: Savannah, Georgia

The Creative Coast’s FastPitch competition offers student entrepreneurs, service-based entrepreneurs and product-based entrepreneurs the chance to show off their innovative ideas via a 3-minute pitch. Local community leaders, academics and investors will assess the viability of each venture and provide coaching and feedback throughout the process.

Location: Austin, Texas

Since 2012, HATCH Pitch has been an official SXSW event. In 2016, it branched out to become an independent program and event. This competition is for startups using information technology to make life better. Finalists are chosen and receive coaching and mentoring leading up to their demo day, when finalists present their business plans to a prestigious judging panel of corporate, angel and venture investors. Panel members provide feedback and select winners in which they would invest a virtual $1 million.

Location: Multiple international locations

The Innovation World Cup Series is a collection of international competitions in a variety of technology categories like wearable technology (WT), the internet of things (IoT), cloud technology and digital marketing. Entrepreneurs in each category get the chance to present their tech solutions to a panel of industry experts. With prizes worth over $300,000, the competition is designed to stimulate and inspire next-generation solutions with the potential for real marketable products. The next event is the WT Innovation World Cup, being held in Munich, Germany, in February 2017.

Location: Santa Clara, California

This Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit is geared toward business ideas that show potential for the baby boomer generation. Early stage entrepreneurs in all industries are welcome to submit 10-slide-deck business plans to the first round of judges at Santa Clara University. Finalists then present their slide shows in person at the summit to be considered for the top prize.

Location: Brooklyn, New York

This business plan competition brings together some of the best and brightest student leaders and future entrepreneurs at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus. Teams representing 28 virtual enterprise companies — simulated businesses set up and run by students for educational purposes — submit written business plans and give oral presentations that are judged by industry professionals and educators. After receiving top honors in local and regional business plan competitions during the school year, these teams earn the chance to compete.

A Summer Business Idea that You Can Start Now

Tired of sitting inside an office building on those beautiful summer days? If you’re itching to break free from the 9-to-5 routine and stretch your legs this summer, there’s plenty of businesses you can launch quickly that empower you to be your own boss. Don’t let another season of gorgeous weather pass by your office window.

Here are 10 ideas for businesses — inspired by summer — that you can have up and running in no time.

People on summer vacation love face-painting and art, especially if you’re able to set up in a beach town. Summer concert and family events are a great place to find children and parents alike who are in need of face-painting services, and tourists are often eager to buy local art depicting the beaches and streets they visited during their time off.

If you’re especially talented, you can transition your festival face-painting and street-side art sales into a career. Once your name gets out there as a local artist with an eye for capturing the summer character of your vacation hotspots, you’ll be surprised how many visitors gravitate towards your art. Even locals might become familiar with your work, earning you the notoriety that comes along with being one of the “local talent.”

Summers mean ice cream, especially if you live near the shore. But even if you don’t, hungry children and adults alike will be clamoring for a sweet, frozen treat on sweltering summer days.

If you’re looking for a short-term seasonal gig, consider renting an ice cream truck and hitting the road for three months of ice cream cash. A rental truck usually costs a few hundred dollars a day plus the cost of ice cream, which is easily recouped in high-traffic, tourist areas; and the beauty of renting a truck is that you can go to wherever customers gather.

If the ice cream truck business is taking off and you think it’s something you could make more permanent, there are some used trucks available to buy within the $7,000 to $15,000, though many are even as expensive as $35,000.

In summer tourist hotspots, many people own investment properties that see a high level of rapid turnover as tourists shuffle in and out during the season. Naturally, with all of those short-term tenants, the homeowners are going to need a reliable cleaning service to make sure everything is ready for the next visitors.

That’s where you come in. A cleaning service is easy to start with little overhead. It takes transportation, cleaning supplies, and manpower. Once you have those three things, you’re ready to start gathering clients. You can set a schedule of several clients a day and, hopefully, fill up the week with a few different stops. Certain days might be more busy than others depending on popular turnover days, but start out small and you’ll quickly learn the ebbs and flows of your area. Set your schedule accordingly and travel from house to house, tidying them up and making sure they’re each ready to give the next visitors a warm reception.

Summer barbecues are an American tradition, but no party host wants to spend hours slaving over a hot grill. A barbecue catering service is just the thing to solve that problem.

Starting your own barbecue catering service will require, first and foremost, a dedication to the art of grilling. Whether you’re a Cajun-chicken aficionado or an authority on ribs, having a few tried-and-true recipes up your sleeve will help you cement yourself as a fixture on the summer barbecue circuit. But apart from being handy with a set of tongs, you’ll also have to drum up a bit of startup capital to get your business off the ground. Grills large enough to feed the hungry hordes at a company picnic or family reunion can go for more than $3,000.

If you want to be just another guy or gal with a pole and a skimmer, go ahead and start a “pool-cleaning” business. But if you really want to stand out in the competitive world of pool maintenance, brand yourself as a “pool technician.”

Take a page from the customer service manual of Willan Johnson, the CEO of pool management company Vivo Pools, and position yourself as a customer-focused, trend-savvy and technically knowledgeable authority in your field.

As Johnson told CNBC, “Most pool guys are like housecleaners. They should be part house cleaner, part mechanic.”

In recent years, beaches everywhere — from the coast of Connecticut to the shores of the Great Lakes — have been inundated by a new breed of summertime tourist: the water-sport day tripper. For beach-town locals, these rookie athletes are typically viewed as a summertime nuisance, but for aspiring entrepreneurs, these paddle-brandishing out-of-towners represent a business opportunity.

If you’re a surfer, kayaker, paddle-boarder, parasailer or other water-sport enthusiast, you have all the expertise you need to start making money as an aquatic athletic instructor. Of course, if you also happen to have a lifeguard certification, this summer side gig might have even more potential.

Before hitting the beach in search of clueless-looking clients, consider what people are looking for in a water-sport instructor. You’ll need to be personable as well as knowledgeable about the sport at hand, systematic in your teaching methods and, perhaps most importantly, extremely patient. Most importantly, look into any necessary certifications you may need to become an instructor.

Summertime is high season for family vacations, and as such, many houses need to be looked after during the summer months. While many vacationers think leaving friends and family members in charge of their home when they head out on holiday is good enough, there’s something to be said for having a professional do the job instead.

When approaching prospective clients about your vacation-liaison service, make it clear that you’re more than just a housesitter. In addition to keeping burglars at bay, your services should include all the things homeowners want done in their absence but feel bad asking others to do for them.

These tasks include taking care of pets (even the gross stuff, like cleaning out the litter box); tending the lawn and flowerbeds; cleaning out the fridge when it starts to stink; checking the mailbox; and everything in between.

Sometimes, parents on summer vacation just need a break. Beachside babysitting, adventure-time child care, foreign language immersion nanny — these are all viable options for making your services stand out from the rest. Whether you plan to market your caregiving business to working parents whose kids are out of school for the summer or to stay-at-home parents looking for a little downtime in the heat of the day, you’ll need to prove two things before you score any clients.

First, parents will want to know that you have what it takes to care for kids. CPR certification, lifeguard certification or teaching and tutoring experience will all look good on your resume. Second, parents want to know that their little ones aren’t just sitting around the house all day, so use a creative marketing strategy to set their minds at ease.

Much like summertime babysitting, the summer months are a competitive time for tutors. Parents worried that their children’s brains will turn to mush without routine instruction are eager to sign kids up to do the one thing they don’t want to do over the summer — learn something.

To execute this summer gig successfully, you’ll need to master two skills. First, you’ll have to actually know something about a particular subject area. Good at math? Use that. Closet poet? Now is the time to share your way with words with today’s youth. Once you’ve established what subjects you’ll be promoting, it’s time to focus on what’s arguably the more important aspect of this job: being cool.

Plan fun activities for your prospective clients. Don’t just meet them at the public library. Are you a Spanish tutor? Why not take your students to the local taco joint and spend some time translating the menu? If you’re a science tutor, you’ve got it made: Hold your lessons in the great outdoors. Just remember: Summer school is cooler when it doesn’t look or feel like regular school.

Selling old clothes and records at your local flea market might earn you a few bucks this summer, but actually organizing your own flea market is the better bet for those looking to make real cash. Flea-market organizing is an oft-overlooked profession, but it really exists, and with a little research, you could make it your own in no time.

Flea-market organizers are the people who rent the space needed to hold a flea market. They obtain the necessary permits for selling goods and food products, solicit vendors, and plan the details for these events.

While opening a flea-market business requires a bit of startup capital — some sites estimate that total costs can be as high as $10,000 — it’s the kind of summer business that has a good chance of surviving past Labor Day, if you play your cards right.

Some Business Ideas for Couples

Starting a business with your significant other might seem like a bad idea on the surface; your relationship can distract business, and your business can strain your relationship. It’s not an easy endeavor, but if you and your partner handle conflict well and motivate each other, you should consider turning your passions into a business.

There are many startups that are well suited for a two-person team. As with any partnership, these 10 business ideas work best when you each take on roles that best fit your skills and strengths. An entrepreneurial relationship, like all business ventures, is truly a labor of love.

Some couples fight over who should cook dinner; but for others, preparing a meal together is a bonding activity. If you and your partner fall into the latter category – and are good cooks – you may want to consider starting your own catering business. Let the resident gourmand cover most of the food prep, while the other serves as a customer service rep and sous chef.

For those foodies who love to travel, consider opening up shop as a food truck vendor. Whether it’s music festivals, block parties or private events, food trucks are a great way to make extra money while traveling and meeting interesting people. For many food truck vendors, the freedom of the open road and the appeal of their favorite activities has led them to strike out on their own; doing exactly that with the person you love might be your chance to see the world together.

Crafty couples with a passion for DIY projects can launch a successful ecommerce business on platforms like Etsy or Zibbet. One of you can handle marketing; the other can handle customer service, and both of you can fill orders. Not only does ecommerce represent a money-making opportunity, it also offers you and your partner a chance to be creative together; what’s better than having fun while turning a profit?

If you’re a couple that runs and hits the gym together, launching a fitness business could be right for you. Whether you’re interested in personal training or class instruction, you can become certified through organizations like the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, and begin taking on clients. If you both specialize in the same area, you can double the number of sessions or classes you book. Alternatively, if one of you is a personal trainer and the other teaches a class, you can expand your client base through your service variety.

For working parents with long hours, cleaning the house can fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Offer your weekends and evenings to these families, for everything from light housework like vacuuming and dusting to heavy-duty chores like scrubbing the kitchen and bathroom. With you and your partner working as a team, you’ll be able to get these tasks done twice as quickly.

Do you and your partner love animals? Spread the word to friends and neighbors that you’re available to watch their pets while the owners go on a vacation or weekend trip. Pet owners often feel more comfortable leaving their furry friends in the care of a trusted homeowner rather than placing pets in a boarding facility, so getting referrals shouldn’t be too difficult. Offering two caretakers means more individualized attention for your clients’ pets, which can be a great selling point.

SAT prep and subject-help tutoring are in high demand for students across the country. With strong teaching skills, a wealth of knowledge and great personalities, you and your partner can make extra money educating local students in your home. While self-employed tutors are usually solopreneurs, this business can be even more lucrative for a couple if both of you can tutor. Otherwise, one of you can do the actual tutoring, while the other focuses on marketing and spreading the word.

Are you and your partner master gardeners? Take your talents on the road and help others do the same. There are plenty of homeowners willing to pay for advice on turning a hum-drum backyard garden into a real Eden. Beyond gardening, you can help homeowners create a more environmentally friendly backyard, by helping them install rain gardens, rain barrels, and compost piles. These types of services are becoming more popular as people increasingly become conscientious about their environmental footprint.

Documenting your life might sound cheesy, but it can benefit you financially. If you’re a creative couple with stories and ideas, share them through a blog or vlog. You can turn your blog into a business by maintaining an interesting theme and posting content regularly. Whether it’s a collection of travels or entries of date ideas, your blog can boost your income and strengthen your bond.

You can start a house-flipping business with your partner by buying existing homes or run-down properties for an affordable price and fixing them up to resell for a higher profit. If you have a knack for decorating, construction, architecture and the like, you can apply your skills to earn income through these projects. You and your loved one can inspire each other, bouncing ideas and fostering ingenuity.