GOOD READS

5 Tricks for Conjuring Up a Winning Business Idea

All people have a degree of creativity, and there isn't any specific way to discover that one brilliant idea for your new business. Maybe you're a recent graduate, or an unemployed or underemployed worker who is sick of sending out resumes. Either way, you're determined to take your future into your own hands, and that's the very first step.

If you don't have a clear vision about what to do next, don't despair. Try one or more of the following:

1. Solve a problem. One easy way to start a business is to recognize gaps in your community and fill them. Search for what's missing. Think about what could be improved upon. Let's say there are a lot of good restaurants in your town, but none of them deliver. A local restaurant delivery service to nearby offices and homes would most likely be well received. In other words, think about the goods and services that you use in your area. What business could you open that would solve a problem you're having yourself? Do a quick survey and find out if your friends and neighbors have the same unmet need. Dream up a creative solution to this problem, and you've got an idea for new business.

2. Throw an idea party. Host a soiree, filling the guest list with the most open-minded, optimistic people in your network. Inviting folks who already have their own businesses is a great idea--but now is not the time to entertain the "Debbie Downers" in your circle. Show up with a few different ideas you've been guarding and solicit their feedback, or try the wish/obstacle method: Present a hope for the future, followed by whatever it is that's holding you back from achieving it. The open-ended nature of these strategies can really get your guests' creative wheels spinning as they work to come up with a solution. If you'd rather go digital with your gathering, try Google+ Hangouts.

3. Follow your intuition. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs started with an idea the world thought was crazy. Sometimes, you just know an idea is good, and you simply have to run with it. Don't bet the house, but if you feel strongly about something, you may consider investing some of your time. Whether it turns into a small side business, a new career, or an international corporation, you're getting something out of it and learning a lot along the way. New businesses are set up everyday simply by building a website, a Twitter profile, a Facebook page, and passing out some business cards. Are you a chef-for-hire, mobile eyebrow sculptor or freelance mural painter? Bring your skill to market.

4. Tap into your higher purpose. Are there ways you can capitalize on your hope for a better world? The very best ideas are often born by taking the high road. Perhaps your passion for green living inspires you to create a compost business, or your love for dogs gets you thinking about opening a dog grooming facility that uses all of the gentlest, safest products on the market. When you're doing something you believe in, you're bound to want to give it your all because you are committed on a deeper level. That "give it your all" attitude will take you far as an entrepreneur. Best of all, you can sleep well at night knowing your business and ethics are perfectly aligned.

5. Just do it! There's only so much you can accomplish with research and projections--sometimes, you need to just jump in with both feet and start selling. Find a way to do a test run with minimal financial risk; if you're successful, you'll be much more attractive to investors since you can point to solid proof of concept. Before deciding to open Vegan Mario's, we joined a group of artisans who were selling their gourmet goodies out of a shared space in downtown Santa Barbara, Calif. Since we all pitched in, rent was inexpensive. It was there that we tested recipes and expanded our culinary repertoire. We started receiving requests to cater vegan weddings, create custom meal plans and provide large orders to food delivery companies and local cafes. These experiences gave our investors confidence in our product line and allowed us to move into our own location.

Amanda Congdon is a California based on-camera personality, new media pioneer, and healthy food entrepreneur. She has produced and hosted many web and mobile TV projects: Amanda Across America, Rocketboom, and Sometimesdaily. Her show, AC on ABC, made Amanda the first video blogger for a major network, ABC News. She is currently Co-founder and Director of Operations at Vegan Mario's Organic Kitchen. The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC leads #FixYoungAmerica, a solutions-based movement that aims to end youth unemployment and put young Americans back to work.



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