Can your idea really become a business?

Starting a business is very motivating yet an emotional roller-coaster ride. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Starting a business is very motivating yet an emotional roller-coaster ride. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

With the start-up scenario growing and becoming pervasive in India, entrepreneurs are bubbling with new ideas, believing their idea to be the next billion-dollar one. Today, it feels as though everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. This is very heartening for a young country like India where, by 2020, 64% of our population will be of working age, highlighting the urgency for future employment creation.

The biggest challenge facing global start-ups is the high rate of failure. According to Harvard Business Review, over 80% of global start-ups fail in the first 18 months, and in India this figure is close to an alarming 90%. The ministry of corporate affairs in fiscal 2014 published that close to 100,000 new companies were registered in India, but how many of them will survive? It appears that when signs of trouble arise, many founders struggle to “save” the business, largely due to poor decision-making by the leader, and a lack of guidance from a skilled expert.

Hence, the big question now is—how do we ensure more than 5% of start-ups succeed? While the government and private sectors are working overtime to improve the ecosystem for start-ups, there is a larger, more fundamental question that needs to be asked: Are start-ups working on “an idea” that can become a business? How can they assess whether their idea is scalable, can generate sales and will attract funding? Or whether it is a lifestyle business, which has limited growth potential but still has capacity to be revenue positive?

GrowthEnabler was recently approached by the founder of an adventure sport business, who sold exclusive, high-value, luxury equipment to sporting adventurers, but was struggling with monthly cash flow, and losing money every month. With poor sales, a high monthly rental outgoing for their prominently placed high-street store and a very niche target market, this business showed limited potential to survive.

Enthralled by their exciting idea, this founder had neglected the key challenges to his business, firstly the adventure market is very niche, and within this niche market, there is limited demand for high end, and high-priced sporting gear, particularly on the high street. This is a lifestyle business—its high street location (unsurprisingly) could not achieve enough footfall to generate sales to cover rental payment, let alone growth the business and make a profit.

Starting a business is very motivating yet an emotional roller-coaster ride. Many have sacrificed the comfort of salaried jobs, risked career changes, and parted with existing businesses to start new ventures, aspiring to become a successful entrepreneur.

GrowthEnabler client Sahil Kukreja gave up his day job as a cricketer and has built a start-up in the health and fitness sector called Fiticket—a gym and studio aggregation business with its own currency. Today, only 0.1% of Indians use a gym, and sector growth is projected at 20%, which means even if only 1% of Indians begin using gyms and studios, this business has huge growth potential.

Equipped with a “can do” mindset and a “unique” idea, many entrepreneurs leap to search funds for their business, often prematurely. However, how many founders are confident they have thoroughly done all their homework and are equipped with expertise and experience to make informed decisions for their business? The 90% failure rate surely indicates the answer.

Hence, let us begin focusing on step 1 of the entrepreneurial journey—the question you need to ask yourselves before you take the plunge: Is your idea a business or a hobby?

Step 1

Business or Hobby: Many entrepreneurs who are obsessed with finding the next big “unique” idea are, however, not quite as obsessed with understanding the compelling need for their idea and identifying why people “need” or would “want” to buy it.

Potential clients need to know your product exists, why it is unique and why they should buy it.

Assess four areas to validate whether your idea is a business:

1) What is your special value proposition? Are you solving a compelling need? Is some else already solving it? If yes, what is so special about your product, why will customers come and buy from you?

2) Is your idea better than existing products in the market? Have you completed a comparative analysis of the product? Ask yourself, is your product cheaper, better or faster than what exists in the market today?

3) Is this a scalable business or lifestyle business? Look at the size of market and ask yourself, “Can I grow the business into one that will turn over millions of dollars?” Note, if the market is niche than it becomes more of a lifestyle business, i.e., it has growth potential, however, this growth is limited.

4) Have you got feedback on your idea from experienced experts? Speak to those who have taken this journey. Ask for their feedback. Get some guidance.

Your first idea does not have to be the best idea. Don’t worry if it’s not workable. If the idea is going to fail, let it fail fast. This experience would be the gained knowledge to better the next idea.


10 Essential Building Blocks for Successful Businesses


There are so many things that go into building a successful business. Each business can arrange those building blocks differently. But there are some essential elements that should go into every business plan. Here, members of the small business community share some essential building blocks for successful businesses.

Understand the Importance of Logos for Business Success

Your company’s logo is one of the first things potential customers will notice about your brand. It’s something that should represent your offerings and tie all of your different platforms together. In this article from Solopreneurs, Sam Davtyan discusses the importance of a good business logo.

Grab Social Media Attention Without Looking Foolish

Getting people’s attention is essential to any successful social campaign. But you want to make sure that it’s the right kind of attention, so that it can actually benefit your business. April Heavens-Woodcock shares some tips for grabbing attention on social media without looking foolish in this article from Agora Pulse.

Create an Experience for Your Brand

Some businesses get so caught up in trying to create a brand that they forget to create an experience for customers. But in this video and accompanying article, Brian Solis discusses how the two are really connected. And BizSugar members discuss the post further here.

Get a Blog for Your Ecommerce Website

Blogging has been around for years. But some business owners still may not realize the benefits. Even ecommerce businesses can benefit from having a blog. This Exit Bee article by Vanhishikha Bhargava includes some of the reasons why your ecommerce website needs a blog.

Write Epic Content

Once you have a blog, or any other content sharing platform, you need to fill it with really epic content so that potential customers will keep reading and even get it to go viral. In this article, Neil Patel shares the ultimate guide to writing epic content that will do just that.

Get Your Business Off the Road to Nowhere

At some point while running a business, you’re likely to experience that burned out or uninspired feeling. But if your business starts to experience some of the signs outlined in this 3Bug Media article by Gary Souldis, you might be on the road to nowhere. You can also see more discussion about the post over on BizSugar.

Don’t Forget About Offline Marketing

Online marketing gets a lot of attention. But there are still some offline marketing efforts that can be worthwhile for businesses. In this SMB CEO article, Ivan Widjaya discusses some of the offline marketing methods that can still be beneficial for businesses.

Master the Art of Engagement

Being engaging is important in every part of your business, whether it’s communicating through email marketing, social media, blogs, videos or other formats. Here in Target Marketing, Jessica Noonan discusses the importance of being engaging when it comes to email campaigns.

Don’t Compare Your Business to Others

With so many small businesses out there, it can be easy to fall into the comparison trap. But your business is different. So you shouldn’t waste all of your time worrying about measuring up to others, as Kimberly Crossland points out in this article in the Savvy Copywriter. The BizSugar community also shares input on the article here.

Keep Using Google Plus

Using the right social platforms can be a big part of your online marketing success. Although some people think that Google Plus is heading toward its last days, there are still plenty of benefits of using it. In this article from Bigshot, Karen Eisenbraun discusses some of the benefits of using Google Plus for business.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to:  [email protected]


Checklist for Finding a Small Business Mentor

checklist for finding a small business mentor 3

Having a business mentor can really help you advance your goals and avoid some common business mistakes. But not just any mentor will do. Finding a small business mentor that meets all of the requirements listed below can ensure that you find someone who is going to be helpful and relevant to your business.

Tips for Finding a Small Business Mentor

Must Be a Good Listener

A big part of your mentor’s job is going to involve listening. They need to be able to listen to your challenges so that they can help you navigate through them. They need to listen to your strengths so that they can help you make the most of them. And they need to listen to your ideas so they can help you turn them into real plans. You can get an idea of your mentor’s listening skills by simply meeting with them and seeing how the conversation goes.

Has Track Record of Proven Success

The main goal of choosing a business mentor should be to help further your business goals. So a successful business owner who has experience reaching their own goals is more likely to be able to help you do the same. Take a look into your potential mentor’s background and accomplishments to make sure they fit this standard. If their career accomplishments look like what you’d like to emulate, they might just be a good fit for you.

Understands My Industry

It can also be helpful to choose a business mentor who works within your industry, or who at least has knowledge of it. So if you’re a tech entrepreneur, you might not get the most out of your mentor if you choose someone who is successful in the restaurant business. Sure, they might be able to give you some general business insights. But someone who has worked in the tech industry can likely give you more specific and actionable tips for how you can make your particular business succeed.

Has Skills I Don’t Have

However, you shouldn’t choose a business mentor who’s like you in every way. If you do that, you’re not likely to learn any new skills, since you already know what they know. Instead, choose someone who is similar in some ways, but who has some additional expertise or insights they can share with you. In addition, your mentor’s extra skills and expertise should mean that they can give you a different viewpoint when it comes to certain issues. Sometimes a new set of eyes can be a huge benefit – but you need someone who looks at things differently than you do.

Ken Yancey, CEO of SCORE said in an interview with Small Business Trends, “A mentor may view your business from a completely different perspective than you. Be fully open to their ideas and try to understand their view. This doesn’t always mean taking their advice verbatim but it’s important to be able to see your business from multiple viewpoints.”

Has a Long Rolodex

Another potential benefit of a business mentor is access to an extended network of relevant business contacts. If your business mentor is successful in your industry, they’ve probably met lots of people who could potentially help your business, collaborate with you, or do business with you in some other way. If you find a business mentor through mutual contacts, this might be a sign that they also have access to more relevant contacts in your industry. Alternatively, you could look into their working history to see some of the companies or industry professionals they’ve worked with in the past.

Capable of Delivering Tough Love

You don’t want a mentor who is just constantly going to tell you what you want to hear. You won’t grow if you don’t ever correct your mistakes. So a good business mentor should be able to notice when you’re doing something wrong and be able to communicate with you clearly so that you can correct it and find a better method for getting things done.

Has Enough Time to Spend

Often times, successful industry leaders are also incredibly busy. So choosing one as a business mentor could mean that they don’t have much time to spend meeting or communicating with you. Since you probably don’t want a mentor who’s just going to cancel on you constantly, make sure that you find someone with enough time to spare. Ask them to be honest with you about their schedule, and be honest with them about what sort of communication you’re looking for in a business mentor. You might also find it beneficial to find a mentor who has retired from your industry, since they’re likely to have a more flexible schedule.

Shares Similar Values

Values are an important part of running a business. If you’re a business owner who thinks it’s very important to be home for dinner with your family every night, then you probably don’t want to work with a business mentor who’s constantly going to tell you that you need to put in longer hours. Or if you’re dedicated to bootstrapping your startup with no outside investment, you shouldn’t choose a business mentor who is all about finding investors. You don’t necessarily need someone with the exact same style or philosophy. But a good mentor should at least understand where you draw the line when it comes to your business values, and be able to help you navigate tough situations without crossing those lines.

Not a Free Worker

Although having a business mentor can be a huge benefit to your business, you need to realize that it’s not a magical solution to all of your business issues. A mentor can help you polish your ideas and plans. But they cannot do everything for you. The actual work is up to you.

Yancey says, “Think of a mentor as your own personal business guru – someone to inspire and push you in the right direction, but the work is up to you.”


Check Out These Business Gifts Under $100

best business gifts under $100

For most on your gift list this year you probably want to keep the budget reasonable. However, there are always cases where it is appropriate to spend a little more. How much you should spend on business gifts will depend on a number of factors. But once you decide on your budget, you then have to decide on a gift.

Business Gifts Under $100

Chocolate and Wine Treasure Box

Business Gifts Under $100

Delivered in a solid wood chest this is one gift basket that takes things to a fancier level. Inside the keepsake box is an assortment of decadent chocolate all created in a candy kitchen located in Southern Oregon. To pair with the sweet treats is a bottle of Rose Lane Red, great for a wine lover.

Agate Bookends

Business Gifts Under $100

A set of these agate bookends could make a great office gift. Natural products tend to feel more high end and these bookends are made from solid agate and dyed in a jewel tone to bring out the natural pattern in the stone. Each one is a little different and can add a unique touch to a bookcase or desk.

Agrarian Tool Basket

Business Gifts Under $100

Perfect for that person on your gift list that likes yard work or growing their own food. This tool basket is hand crafted and includes a removable canvas liner that offers tool storage while out in the garden. You can even throw in some gardening tools to round out the gift and still stay under the $100 mark.

Wool Throw

Business Gifts Under $100

This plaid wool throw from L.L. Bean makes a cozy and classic gift for just about anyone on your list. Woven in the USA and yarn-dyed for long standing color, it’s designed to stand the test of time. But maybe the best part about it is it’s machine washable.

Peet’s Coffee Sampler

Business Gifts Under $100

There will always be a coffee drinker on your list, or more likely many. A coffee sampler gift box like this one from Peet’s Coffee could be really appreciated. Six half pound samples of Peet’s Major Dickason’s Blend, Uzuri African Blend, French Roast, Guatemala San Sebastian, Sumatra and Ethiopian Fancy are included.

Metallic Rim Nesting Bowls

Business Gifts Under $100

This set of three pretty porcelain nesting bowls would make a lovely gift for the hostess on your list. They may look delicate with their hand painted golden metallic rim. But each bowl is dishwasher, freezer and even oven safe making them great for not just serving food but preparing it as well.

Birchbox Monthly Subscription

Business Gifts Under $100

Birchbox is a monthly subscription service that will send personalized grooming product samples to your door. With options for both men and women it makes a good gift for just about anyone on your list. You can gift a three-month subscription for $60 or less.

Brookline Table Clock

Business Gifts Under $100

This table clock offers a sleek and minimalist touch while still being elegant. A glass crystal body supports the brushed aluminum clock with a polished silver-tone bezel. A perfect gift idea for the modern office.

Starbucks Swarovski Traveler

Business Gifts Under $100

For the Starbucks coffee drinker who likes a bit of bling take a look at this 12 oz traveler mug studded with Swarovski crystals. It’s shiny gold, sparkly and limited edition. All this points to a standout gift.

City Skyline Wood Art

Business Gifts Under $100

Here’s a good option for someone on your list that appreciates minimalist art and natural materials. Created by an artist based in San Francisco, there are multiple city skylines you can choose from. Each piece is crafted from solid walnut, milled with your skyline of choice, then hand sanded and polished.

Airondak Wreath

Business Gifts Under $100

If you know someone on your gift list likes to get into the holiday spirit thisAirondak Wreath could be a good gift option. Made from actual noble fir greenery so it gives off a festive smell. It’s also simply adorned with a velvet bow for a festive touch.

Tiffany and Co Pen

Business Gifts Under $100

If you have someone on your list that enjoys luxury items they may appreciate this ballpoint pen from Tiffany & Co. The body is constructed from chrome and then topped off with a gold-plated clip. It’s a touch of high-end without completely draining your wallet.

Deluxe Briefcase

Business Gifts Under $100

It doesn’t get much more business than a briefcase and this deluxe option from Land’s End could really fit the bill. It’s made from a ballistic weave to stand up to long wear and has a water repellent finish for protection no matter the weather. The deluxe briefcase would make a welcome gift for the busy business person.

Gold Tie Bar

Business Gifts Under $100

For the businessman who likes to look sharp this tie bar from J.Crew makes an excellent gift. The classic accessory is fashioned out of sterling silver and then plated with gold for a high end finish. It has a sleek bobby pin design specifically made to not add any bulk.

Gourmet Fruit Basket

Business Gifts Under $100

Gift baskets are one gift idea that is sure to please just about anyone. There are plenty of options out there, but we like this gourmet fruit basket. Fresh fruit is paired with cheese, crackers, almonds and other delectable goodies all bound up in a wicker basket.

You can spend a little more on business gifts and still stick to a budget. Navigating the gift giving season can be tricky, especially if you are wondering just how much to spend. But hopefully our guide helps alleviate some of the pressure.