“What business should I start?” is a common question asked to those of us supporting small-business owners.
Sometimes the question is modified as people want a business that “will make lots of money” or will be a success.
We, by our position, are assumed to have some special understanding of what the market wants.
Okay, there may be some truth in that (or so we would like to believe), but the reality is a successful business comes from an understanding of two things.
The first understanding is of one’s self.
- What do you like to do?
- How passionate are you about the idea?
- What is your definition of success?
- How hard will you work?
The second understanding is what does the market want? And is the market willing to pay what you need in order to make a profit? In addition there are some related questions such as:
- Does the idea have long-term potential?
- What is the competition like now and what might it be in the future?
- What advantages do you have?
Put all of this together and you can perhaps understand why my typical answer is, “It depends.”
In support of my response, I offer four examples of businesses that are succeeding even though many of us may have thought it would not happen or that it would remain more of a hobby than a profitable venture.
My first example was watching my father-in-law selling used parts for John Deere combines from his farm in rural North Dakota. Over the years, his business grew as his market grew to encompass all of the Great Plains states. He also made international sales to Mexico, Canada and South America.
A second example can be found in this story about re-developing a detergent that worked in vintage washing machines. http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/9662-jon-charles-rosalies-zero-suds.html
Another opportunity is for the skills it takes to maintain certain products such as this report of an accordion repairman – http://www.greatbigstory.com/stories/new-york-city-s-last-accordion-repairman. Of course, you might also think about the buggy wheel maker. It’s true that this is not the industry it once was, but for some, it remains an opportunity.
Last, there even are opportunities in areas that would seem to be completely saturated. When I started in Oklahoma, one of the first people who came to my office wanted to market his barbeque sauce. As we talked about this, I remarked how crowded I saw this arena and the control that the big brands had. Yet, this was my lesson into the fact coverage by the big brands leaves holes or niches for others to fill. This person had a passion and tremendous perseverance. Over the next several years, he managed to find and capture a significant niche position that put him into grocery stores in several states/
Thus my response of “it depends.” Opportunities exist all over. Successful businesses require: a vision to see openings where most of us don’t; and, the capacity to move that idea to reality.
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.