As a nation of innovative thinkers, we Kiwis come up with some great solutions and ideas, but how do you know when an idea could become something more?
Not every good idea is a good business idea, but I believe at the core of every successful business there is a simple idea that solved a problem or fulfilled a need for its customers.
It doesn't have to be something completely new; your idea could adapt or improve upon something that already exists. It is all about filling a gap in the market.
So where do you start? Ask yourself, what problem does my idea solve for the end-user or customer. Before you invest time, money and your efforts, it is best to thoroughly research the problem you are trying to solve with your business and what is currently being done by others to solve this problem.
Who is my customer? Who is most likely to buy from you first? Who are these people that your business is solving a problem for and how many of them are around that you can reach? You want to make sure that you can reach enough people willing to pay for your product or service so you can at least make a profit.
Do some research. Don't just base everything off assumptions and conversations with friends and family, really look at what's out there and how your idea solves that problem better.
Look at some hard statistics and talk to some people you have identified as customers. Don't try to sell them anything, just listen; they may provide you with some insights that challenge your thinking.
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Get it all written down. Putting your idea and research down in a business plan helps you see everything all together and really work it through. It will undoubtedly help you think about how you could turn it into a reality. There are any number of templates out there, but a favourite of mine is a Lean Canvas.
It takes you through a process to get your business plan down on a page in 20 minutes or less. It enables you to edit, update, redo, collaborate and store canvases. If you don't know how to fill in a section, the Lean Canvas gives you a clear next step on how to figure it out.
If in doubt seek help with your business plan. There are plenty of resources and programmes out there specifically designed to help you get up and running, from tools at business.govt.nz and northlandnz.com, to incubator and accelerator programmes across the country.
Indeed, Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency, has its own business accelerator competition – The Pick – running again next year as one example of a free programme that can help give you the tools and resources needed to springboard your idea into action.
Last year's competition attracted more than 80 budding entrepreneurs and succeeded in highlighting the diversity and range of skills that exemplify Northland's many innovative thinkers.
In the end, if you think your idea has potential, explore it, do some research, draft some plans, go through as many ideas as you can until you find one that you believe in; after all, you may just be sitting on the idea for New Zealand's next great business.
• Zachary Woods is an Early Stage Growth Advisor at Northland Inc. He works to deliver incubation services to the region's scalable, high-growth potential start-ups, in partnership with Callaghan Innovation and Creative HQ.