Sydney recently started an Entrepreneurial Club at her high school, an all-girls school in Palo Alto. Ten girls signed up, each eager to use the club as a way to launch her own business. The idea of making something and [making money!] selling it is hugely compelling, but as Sydney told the group, it's really important to build your business around something you love. For one thing, the amount of time and effort it takes to launch and build a successful business is extraordinary so you really have to "want" to spend that time, and also, the key to selling anything is to really believe in your product or service. So, you have to be passionate about what you're doing, especially as a young entrepreneur, since time is tight and homework is insane.
Only two of the ten girls in the new club knew what kind of business they wanted to start: one wants to code an app, the other wants to sell her photography. The others, though, didn't have a strong idea. As students in Silicon Valley, they immediately voted to spend some time "brainstorming" to discover and narrow down their options. To prepare for the brainstorm, we came up with some questions to get the girls thinking about what drives them, and another set of questions to explore any potential business ideas.
Step 1: Find Your Passion
Sydney presented these questions to guide the girls towards things they care about, and to define skills they have to see if they can turn those talents into a business. So, if you want to start a business, but don't really know the best direction, these questions are a goods start:
What skills do you have?
What would your friends ask you for help with?
What are your interests? What are you known for?
What’s your favorite store? What’s the last thing you bought? What do you collect?
How do you like to spend your time? Where are you most comfortable?
Do you have a recurring problem that needs solving?
If you could have any summer job, anywhere, what do you wish you could do?
If you had an empty storefront space, what would you turn it into?
Circle three words or phrases that you wrote above that make you the happiest. Can you turn any of these things into a product or service?
Here are some product or service categories to think about:
PRODUCTS — Food • Bath Products • Toys • Crafts • Jewelry Apparel • Cosmetics • Art • DIY Kits • Vintage Home Decor • Accessories • Games • Apps Personalized • Paper Goods • Books
SERVICES — Tutoring • Babysitting • Dog Walking Pet Care • Computer Skills • Blogging Social Media Expertise • Photography Interior Design • Closet Organization
Step 2: Develop Your Idea
Sydney gave this set of questions to the girls who already had an idea of what business they might start, and also to the girls who had honed into an idea from the first set of questions. If you have an idea of what you might do, use these questions to explore its potential:
Describe your proposed product or service.
What’s the big idea behind it? What is the USP (unique selling point) or what makes it different?
Who would buy your product or service? What age? Demographic?
Where would you sell your product or service? What stores? What sites? In person?
What is involved in manufacturing it? Is it expensive to make? Is it labor intensive?
Why would a customer buy your product? Does it solve a problem?
Who or what is your biggest competition?
What type of packaging is required? Special labeling? Box, bag? Is it shippable?
Write three compelling words that describe why your product idea is great.
Step 3: Get Feedback
When you've discovered a passion or two, and considered its potential in the marketplace, the next step is to take it to the streets. "Pitch" your idea to your friends and family and see what they think. This is great practice to explain your idea effectively so people understand what you're doing and why it's different. If you need help creating an "elevator pitch" for your business idea, watch our video!
Activity: Briefly explain your idea to friends. Ask if they would be interested in the product or service. Would they buy or use it? Do they know someone who would? Have they seen anything like it? What price would they pay? Do they think it is viable for the market? Any changes or suggestions?
This is the toughest step. Negative feedback can be really hard to hear, but please keep this in mind: most people, unfortunately, will find the negative in what you're doing. And because you've asked for their opinion, they will naturally want to "help" by offering ways to fix it, improve it, or just plain critique it. It can really take the wind out of your sails. You'll want to listen, but realize that all advice is not necessarily good advice. Definitely consider their good suggestions, make adjustments when appropriate, but always remember it's your project, your vision, and your passion. If you believe in your business, and have carefully considered the questions above (and more!), there is nothing stopping you.
It's hard to start a business, which is why most people don't do it. If you have the entrepreneurial spirit, what seems "hard" to others, may be a welcome challenge to you. So take it on — and if your initial idea doesn't work, try something else. Every step you take will be a huge learning experience, and the more you go for it, the better and better you'll be at this startup thing!
xoKris, Sydney and Toni
Founders of Poketti