If you’re reading this, CONGRATULATIONS! You have a business idea you’re probably pretty excited about, and you’re officially taking your first steps to figuring out, what next?

Your idea may have struck like a bolt of lightning while you were fishing your facemask out of your bag at the supermarket, or it may be something that’s been simmering away for months – or even years – in the background, waiting to be given the energy it deserves.

However The Muse appeared to you, you’re not alone.

Around 60,000 businesses are launched in New Zealand every year – and many experts agree that number will increase in the wake of the pandemic’s start-up boom. There are also reports of the global Great Resignation trend making its way here to New Zealand, with a 2021 AUT study suggesting half as many people are committed to sticking with their job in October last year, compared with 2020. With technology continuing to evolve and make starting up even easier, more and more Kiwis are ready to take the plunge.

If you feel like 2022 is your year and you’re wondering where to START when it comes to your start-up, avoid the urge to register a bunch of possible domain names just in case one of them sticks. Naming your business and getting your website set up comes later; and for very good reason. The first steps are all about developing your idea – and they’re crucial if you want to launch with confidence.

Here are the top 7 things you should do NOW, to solidify and validate your big, beautiful business idea.

1. Share: Your Big Idea!

If you find yourself with a business idea you think has real potential, don’t keep it to yourself! Talk it out with people you trust (especially helpful if they’re in or close to your target market) and ask for their help in refining and perfecting your vision. Ask if they think the idea has potential, if they’d buy the product or pay for this service and – if so – what they’d be prepared to pay as a customer. It might be a scary first step, but if you can’t share your idea with a partner, friend or college, how will you feel when it comes to sharing it with the world?

Side note – friends and family members may not ‘get’ your idea. It might not be for them, and that’s cool. Others might be eager to tell you what they THINK you want to hear, without really giving their honest opinion. Consider every piece of feedback carefully (but also with a grain of salt) and continue on to…

2. Research: The Market

This step can seem daunting to the uninitiated, but it’s vital – and really, it simply boils down to understanding what’s already out there, and how you can differentiate YOUR business from the rest!

Jump on Google and find out what other players occupy the space you want to pursue. Consider how your offering will be similar or different. Get a sense of who your customers will be, and where they’ll come from. Think about what you’d do differently, and what you can improve upon where competitors are lacking. Is there a niche market you can target? If the market is crowded with players with little differentiation, what competitive advantage can you develop?

3. Accept: You Are Not a Unique Snowflake

Mark Twain said it best, and it’s just as true today as it was back in 1907:

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of coloured glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

Once you begin fleshing out your business idea, don’t be discouraged when you realise it’s not 100% unique. The fact is – it doesn’t HAVE to be! Don’t sweat it if there are companies already doing what you intend to do. This just proves there’s a market for what you want to offer.

What you do have to think about is who your competition will be, what exactly they are providing and what you will do differently or better than they do. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel – instead, focus on the opportunities within the details. What can YOUR idea offer customers that existing businesses can’t, or don’t? What improvements can you make to what’s already out there? How will you be DIFFERENT?

Your business is unlikely to be a completely revolutionary. And that’s okay.

4. Figure Out: Why and Who?

The very first step to take when fleshing out your business idea is to concentrate on the “why” and “who”. No matter how awesome your idea is, your business won’t be a raging success if you don’t know why it’s a good solution, and who it would be a good solution for.

Ask yourself: What problem does my idea solve? The most successful businesses focus on clearly solving a problem for their customers, as opposed to presenting a long list of product features.

After you’ve taken a deep dive into why your business is NEEDED, consider who your target audience will be. Think about their demographics, what’s important to them and how you’ll reach them.

5. Develop: The Details

Creative ideas and details rarely emerge in a straight line. They’re usually delightfully unstructured and rambling and messy – and while that can be exciting, it can also be overwhelming and confusing when you’re trying to figure out your THING.

To get really clear on what your business will be, organise that flood of ideas by writing them all down. Use scraps of paper, post-its or a spreadsheet, and let them tumble onto the page, completely unedited. Once that’s done, start to sort through those ideas – organising them into ‘like’ groups to see what patterns and categories emerge.

You’ll use these to…

6. Build: A Summary Doc

Forget a 20-page business plan that’s never going to see the light of day. Instead, pull your ideas together to develop a simple and concise ONE-PAGE summary of your business concept. This is an internal document you’ll be able to refer back to anytime you need to touch base with your original thoughts.

7. Embrace: Lean!

Once you’ve organised your ideas and pulled them together into your one-page summary, it’s time to “kill your darlings” (temporarily, at least!) and trim down your business concept.

This might seem like a step backwards, but it’s a method most successful startups use to actually GET STARTED. The goal is to reduce your business idea to its most important core feature, while hitting ‘pause’ on all features that can be added further down the track. The result is a slimmed-down or ‘lite’ version of the full idea you’ve developed – commonly known as your Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

By launching with the most basic version of your idea, you’ll be able to validate it as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, without blowing time and money on the kinds of bells and whistles that can come later.

While there’s no guaranteed formula to starting a successful business, taking a few key steps in the planning phase will not only help you determine if your business idea has legs, but will also help you build momentum and get the ball rolling towards a launch.

Stay tuned! We’ll be sharing insights into Naming Your Business, Choosing a Domain, Getting Started with Shopify and MORE in further blog posts, coming soon.