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When a business idea pops fully-formed into your mind, it feels incredible — like you’ve seen a magical glimpse of a glorious future. But unfortunately enough, getting from inspiration to execution requires a complicated and challenging journey. And even the most brilliant idea can amount to nothing if it isn’t implemented very carefully.
So while you do need to act decisively, you must avoid rushing to action and making mistakes that you can’t easily take back. Proceed carefully through sensible steps and you’ll give your fledgling business the best possible chance of reaching great success.
To make things a little easier, here’s a broad series of steps to follow when you’re trying to turn your creative business idea into a reality.
Carry out industry research
Having a creative idea is great, but creativity doesn’t guarantee operational viability, and you need to know that your potential business would actually be workable in reality. This calls for a lot of targeted research in the industry you intend to compete in. Go online and look for all of the following:
The top businesses in the field.
- If your idea is to sell a particular kind of toy, for instance, you’ll need to learn more about all the leading toy sellers. By watching what they do, how they conduct business, where their customers spend time online, and how they address their audiences, you’ll learn a lot about how you might present your business.
Any businesses that do something similar to your idea.
- 100% original ideas don’t exist, so there’s a strong chance that there’s some overlap between what you intend to do and what you other businesses already do. That isn’t inherently a problem — in fact, it shows that there’s probably some value in the idea, and gives you an opportunity to critically assess what others are doing.
Any general mentions of comparable ideas.
- Often, people will discuss business ideas online, whether through social media or forums. Spend some time searching for relevant phrases to see if anyone else has floated your exact idea. If they have, did they follow through with it? Did they determine a compelling reason to give up on it? The more information you can find, the better prepared you’ll become.
Once you’re done with this research phase, you should be equipped with a much broader awareness of what’s going on in the industry you’re looking to enter that could realistically affect your business. You can then draw from the successful tactics employed by the top companies and identify potential threats, allowing you to nullify them before they get in your way.
Crunch the numbers
Particularly if you’re creatively inclined, you can let your mind run away with the boundless possibilities of your idea — but you mustn’t. You need to be looking at the situation with clear eyes and steely logic. To that end, you should start writing out some speculative financial numbers, considering the worst and best plausible scenarios.
What would your revenue source (or sources) be? And your overheads? Would you need an office? Everything must be budgeted for very carefully, leaving plenty of margin to account for emergency scenarios. You should be able to rationally envision your idea becoming a business with a profitable day-to-day model within a reasonable amount of time.
Read next: 6 Ways to Revamp your Small Business Budget
If you can’t find a way to make the numbers add up, that doesn’t mean that your idea isn’t worth pursuing — it may simply mean that you need to give it more thought and rework it to some extent. But if you can reach a point at which it all seems workable on paper, then you can continue.
Develop your elevator pitch
As the name hints, an elevator pitch is a business pitch sufficiently brief that it could be delivered on a standard-length elevator ride (meaning maybe 20 or 30 seconds). And the reason that I put this step here is that having a compact account of your conceptualized business model isn’t just about selling the business to a potential client or customer — it’s also about explaining the value of the concept.
After all, everyone thinks and phrases things slightly differently. Something that makes total sense in your inner monologue might come across as complete nonsense to an impartial judge. You also need to flesh out your idea with all the basics, including a business name, a logo, and a slogan (if possible).
If you get stuck, try returning to the research phase to look at other companies — in fact, taking a look at established companies for sale can be a good starting point for your business because you can critique each one based solely on initial impressions. Is there a strong business message? Do you understand the theme?
By practicing an elevator pitch for your idea, you can then share it with friends and strangers alike to see how they react. Do they immediately understand what you’re talking about? Do they see the long-term value in it? Do they wonder if you’ve entirely lost your mind? You could get any kind of reaction, but all feedback at this stage is worth gathering.
What you certainly don’t want to do is spent ten minutes giving a rambling explanation to a friend only for them to reluctantly agree that it’s a good idea because they don’t want to upset you. That won’t help anyone.
Find appropriate funding
By this point, you’ll understand the industry landscape, have the basic framework of a profitable business model, and be ready with a rapid-fire pitch — that means it’s time to think about funding options. Every business needs startup funds to cover early initial expenses and keep everything going until the first profits are yielded. Consider the following options:
- If you’ve been very careful with savings, you may have enough money in the bank to turn your idea into a functional startup — just be very cautious with this approach, because there’s always risk.
- There’s financial support to be found for aspiring small business owners, and it’s the best place to start because you’ll be dealing with people who understand the challenges you’re facing and want to be on your side.
Venture capital investment.
- This form of investment usually involves negotiating with a VC firm to fund you in exchange for equity in your business. It can be easy enough to secure, but does require you to give up part of your enterprise.
- Angel investment sees your business funded by no more than a small handful of private investors who’ll likely want to be more closely involved in the operation. This can work well, but puts you at the behest of your “angels”.
- Crowdfunding can be silly and gimmicky, but it can also be a very interesting way of building a business without being beholden to particular individuals. The main issue with crowdfunding is that it’s difficult to attract enough attention.
If you can’t afford to build the business using your savings, definitely investigate the kind of business support you can arrange. Whether through getting a reasonable loan or securing investment against future earnings, you can get the funds you need without ceding any control over your business.
If your idea is creative enough (and you think your elevator pitch is sufficiently powerful), then you might want to try crowdfunding through an online platform. You can test the waters by raising the idea on relevant social media platforms and polling people on how interested they’d be in funding your idea — it will look better if you wait until you’re fully prepared and manage to secure funding on your first try.
Investigate as many options as you can, though, because creative ideas are very sensitive and need to be executed correctly, which is something that can prove difficult to achieve when you’re backed by investors with no real understanding of the intricacies of the concept. Money isn’t everything, and if you’re better served accepting funding from someone who gets what you’re trying to achieve than someone simply looking to make a quick profit.
Launch your business
After all that preparatory work, you can finally launch your business — which is when the real work begins, of course! Everything you’ve done up to this point has been about getting ready and laying the foundations to support you in moving ahead, so if you’ve followed all the steps, you should proceed with confidence.
If you get stuck along the way, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s no shame in needing some assistance, particularly with the complicated world of financing (you can read more about this here). Ultimately, you just need to keep working at your idea and believing in yourself — one day you’ll look back and be incredibly proud of your efforts.
Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups, a site all about supporting startups and small businesses everywhere. Check out the Micro Startups blog for the latest micro biz news and inspiring entrepreneurial stories, and follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.
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This communication is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be an advertisement, a solicitation, or constitute professional advice, including legal, financial, or tax advice, nor is StreetShares providing advice on any particular situation.