Have you ever had an idea for the “next big thing”? Do you daydream about starting your own business? If so, then you may just be what I lovingly refer to as a “future entrepreneur”: someone who has been busy living, learning, and low-key lying in wait for their opportunity to really shine as a new business owner.
The time has come, darling, for you to take that brilliant idea of yours and run with it!
The entrepreneurship water is warm, and entrepreneurial resources are more abundant and more available than ever. Wondering where to start? Well, the future entrepreneur starts with an idea, then creates a business model, and finally launches a new business… Simple, right? Not so much!
The process of taking an early-stage idea all the way to launching a new business requires (at a minimum):
Strategic market research
Product development (& often a willingness to pivot)
Protective measures for yourself, your business, and your assets
Mindful business planning
Often these steps can become overwhelming, and answering one question opens a “can-of-worms” leading to several other questions (or in some cases, even backwards!). This can lead the future entrepreneur to feeling unorganized and overwhelmed by information overload, not to mention the painfully inefficient use of your most valuable & nonrenewable resource: time!
Meeting one on one with a consultant or business lawyer can certainly save you valuable time but will cost you another precious resource: money! In 2018, averages fees were $150-$300/hour for a general business attorney & $300-$500/hour for a patent attorney. But if your idea hasn’t yet been validated, engaging an expert too early can result in a massive and devastating loss of money. As an attorney myself, I do think it is critical for new entrepreneurs to seek personalized legal advice before taking any significant risks in their business. However, there are several basic legal and business questions you can answer yourself & actions you can take well before incurring pricey legal bills.
Enter, the “idea-to-launch” process for entrepreneurs, designed to simplify the ideation process and to help you understand (1) where to start and (2) what questions to ask with respect to market & business strategy, intellectual property, and formalities. By following the idea-to-launch playbook you’ll be empowered to make informed decisions about how, when, & whether to launch or evolve your business. Let’s start with the idea itself.
While generating ideas can be fun, if your goal is to start a business, your ideation process must be deliberate & thoughtful. While big picture ideas do often occur as a “flash of genius”, the overall idea-to-launch process is typically fragmented, unpredictable, & evolutionary. Lean into this concept: under each big picture idea lives many detailed component ideas. You need to embrace the smaller ideas and piece them together to form the puzzle that is your new business as a whole.
Thus, phase 1 of your idea-to-launch journey is to take notes and drawings on every idea (big or small) and to keep track of every little detail. No idea is too small to explore a little further (& you never know where a “dud” can lead you!). Your ideas may be all over the map, but you’ll find that with a little creativity & discipline your best ideas will begin to develop & stand out. Be mindful of “body reactions”. If a particular idea makes your eyes light up and heart race, double underline and triple circle that golden nugget! Your homework: grab a piece of paper, journal, or workbook and start brainstorming ideas, big and small.
Once you have identified a big picture business idea, use the following questions & prompts to guide you through researching & developing the idea with legal & business principles in mind. Answering these questions will provide you with clarity, direction, and strategy to determine how a particular idea could manifest as a product, as well as the market potential of that product.
What is the fundamental problem, shortcoming, or other market need that you set out to solve?
What other solutions already exist that address the same fundamental problem?
Describe your proposed solution & how it differentiates from existing solutions.
Brainstorm the key features & unique attributes of your product idea.
Brainstorm the keywords around your idea and your potential business, industry, & line of products.
Pro Tip: Print these questions & put actual pen to actual paper. (Or order one of our ideation workbooks that includes these questions, plenty of space to answer them, and pages and pages of additional questions, prompts, primers, and other resources for launching a business)! Carry the printed questions with you or keep it nearby so that you can jot down your ideas as soon as they show up.
Good luck, you savvy entrepreneur, you!
♥︎↑Kae Gruner, Founder, Start Up Heart Up
Patent lawyer, deal-maker, & lover of ideas, Kae founded Start Up Heart Up with the goal to empower everyday entrepreneurs. Whether building a new business or starting a side hustle, Kae’s expertise in intellectual property and business law can help you bring any dream business from idea to launch.