How to Find and Test a Great Business Idea

We asked the members of the 2020 Female Founders 100 for their best advice about coming up with, and testing, the idea that will form the foundation of your company. These are the highlights.

Question everyone about everything, and seek out reasons why you might be wrong. Then go with your gut.

If 90 percent of people think your idea is a good one, you’re already too late.

Anna Sheffield
It’s important to just take those bold leaps in the beginning, even if it is a little terrifying, and know that if you don’t make the perfect thing the first time, that’s OK. You’ll continue to improve. Starting on that path will lead you to where you need to go.

CQ Fluency
Think big, but choose wisely.

Remember that even some of the biggest companies didn’t realize, at the beginning, that they could address a global mass market. When I started Everlywell, I was confident there was a big market for women between 25 and 45. What I didn’t understand fully was that there’s an even bigger opportunity for much more common, everyday products–blood-sugar tests versus specialty hormone tests.

Having an obsession with the problem you’re solving is critical. I would never encourage someone to start a company without that. I cannot sleep because I’m living, breathing, obsessing about this problem. You need that drive to push the boulder up the hill.

I was able to iterate really fast because I got customer feedback really fast. There were even customers I would email and ask to hop on a call with me because I wanted to learn about their behavior and their experience. A lot of what I did in the beginning was really scrappy, but it helped me learn and improve our business, improve our products, improve our experience.

Find the thing that you’re so passionate about that you won’t care about the haters.

Ruby Love
You don’t have to stay a mom-and-pop business. But to achieve big things, you have to think bigger. Think like a unicorn.

Queen of Raw
Don’t be afraid to just get your idea up and out there, even if it doesn’t look perfect. If you can get something out there, you can start learning about your community and your customers, and you can start iterating and improving.

Hello Alice
I am very open about everything that pops into my mind, even though a lot of entrepreneurs hold things close to the vest. People will shut down or lift up ideas in different ways. I learn from both. If they shut it down, it makes me see some of the obstacles we have to overcome. If they lift it up, I see the opportunities.

Circadian Optics
Think simple. If you come up with a product that really solves a problem and doesn’t require people to spend a lot of money or change their daily life, go for it.

When I looked at this opportunity, I saw how so many women were suffering in silence. It’s not like I woke up one day and said, “Geez, I want to start a company that would stop me from peeing in my pants after I sneeze.” You’re not going to be comfortable jumping on a trampoline with your child if you know you’re going to wet your pants. I’m not selling you a device. I’m selling you a better life.

Be comfortable not knowing the answer. There’s no one answer. Be creative and find your own answers.

Makhers Studio
Your business must solve a real problem. If it does, then when you have pandemics and major catastrophes, you’re not faced with a pivot so much as you have validation that you’re on the right path.

Daughters of Rosie
If you choose an idea that comes from a place where your fire is, your discomfort with how the world is, and how you want the world to be different, that fuels you when everything else feels impossible.

Globalization Partners
What great adventure doesn’t start with exhilaration–and a little fear? Take the leap!

Robin Wilson Home
There will be days when you’re bootstrapping your business, and you pay everybody but don’t pay yourself, but somehow you still have the energy and excitement to get up and go back to work the next day. That’s when you know you’re an entrepreneur. When you’re a founder, and you believe it and live it, it becomes a part of your fabric or quilt that you’re building for your life. It’s a journey; it’s not a sprint. It’s about believing in yourself and having a mantra. If I didn’t struggle, I wouldn’t have an appreciation for what’s possible. A wise woman told me that when you do what you were meant to do on this earth, you will help millions of people. It will not be a job. It’s what you do.

From the November 2020 issue of Inc. Magazine

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