Millions of people walk around with ideas for businesses.
Thousands of people start their own.
But very few of these businesses make it past the first year.
What’s the deal? We turned to some of the biggest names in the business community. We asked them where would place their bets on if they had to start a business today, and how they’d go about making sure their new businesses succeed. Read on to discover what type of business they’d set up, as well as their tried-and-tested advice on turning dreams into reality.
Anita Campbell is the founder and CEO of smallbiztrends.com, one of the leading lights in the business publishing world. She’s been quoted in just about every major newspaper, from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and Forbes listed her as one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She’d go into web publishing again, and make sure to “go narrow and drill deep.”
“If I were to set up a new business today, I'd go into Internet publishing all over again. I'd just do it slightly differently. I'd focus on finding a niche that is not well served today -- and I'd be very very narrow in my approach. "Go narrow and drill deep" is a winning publishing formula today. And despite what people repeat online about advertising being dead, it's anything but. It's still a model that can earn well. You just have to know what you're doing and follow a model for 2018, not the 2008 model.”
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Janet Attard has been helping small businesses to grow for 29 years. She is the founder of Business Knowhow and author of two books, The Home Office and Small Business Answer Book, and Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets, as well as numerous online resources like this guide to setting up a small business. She says that people looking to set up a business should be sure to match their skillset to consumers’ needs.
“The key to starting a business successfully is to match your skills, interests to the needs of the business or consumer market. If I were going to start a business today, I’d want it to be some kind of business that has a service aspect to it that can’t easily be duplicated by big box stores or big online sellers. Given my own background in publishing and the Internet, I’d be most likely to start some type of content production business or a consulting business to help small companies make better use of the Internet to grow their business. If I wanted to go in a different direction, I might research products and services that would be of use (and affordable) for the growing numbers of people over the age of 65.”
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Ivana Taylor has been running DIY Marketers for a decade now. Her website is aimed at helping small business owners and helps them to get more out of small marketing budget and to build their brand on a bootstrap. She also hosts Bizapalooza, a small business chat session that meets every Monday on Twitter. She says that the type of business you set up is less important than making sure that your skills are aligned with what consumers want, and starting to market your business from the start.
“I don't think it's about what TYPE of business you should start. I think it's about finding the intersection of what you are good at that people want and are willing to pay for and the unique spin that you put on that product or service. Start small and then take what you've learned about the unique wants of your ideal customers and keep customizing and designing your product or service around them. This will create organic differentiation and keep your profits high. But no matter what you do, don't forget the online marketing component; get your business up on Google, start collecting testimonials and reviews right away, build that website (even if it's just one page) and use social media marketing as much as possible.”
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Having worked as an executive coach and consultant for years, Eileen McDargh runs empowering leadership and training courses for women around the world, as seen on her website. Lately, she’s turned her attention to what are known as Act III women – women who want to return to work after their kids have flown the nest and they’re no longer full-time mothers.
“I believe you should only start a business based on two criteria: what do you know and what are you willing to learn that your potential client needs. From my vantage point, I believe the next business for me would be ACT III Women — Re-fire. Don’t Retire.
Specifically, we have so much research that says people of all ages seek work with purpose and meaning. And women live longer than men so it is important we have a plan for our Act III. This business would help those considering retirement to move into their next adventure in life. From matching clients with NGOs and non-profits to offering retirement planning workshops that focus on ACT III work, my business would bridge the gap between financial planning and lifestyle management.”
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Karen Reyburn’s business, The Profitable Firm, combines accounting and artistry – they’re a marketing agency that works solely with accountancy firms. It’s a niche, sure, but Karen says that deciding to only work with accountants was the best decision she ever made.
"I can't imagine setting up another business right now since I'm enjoying my current one so much... but if I were to set up something new, it would absolutely have an exclusive niche focus. I run a creative agency working exclusively and only with accountants, and it was the best decision I ever made to be that specific. The more targeted you can be with your audience and their needs, the more profitable you will be. I advise all my accountants to at least consider serving a niche for that same reason."
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Barry Moltz has decades of experience working as a tech consultant and business speaker, with clients as glitzy as PayPal, Canon, and GE. He's a pro at getting small businesses unstuck. Whatever you do, he says, make sure that you’re passionate about it – you’ll need that to stick about.
“There are a few requirements for setting up a business today:
Gemma Went is a business mentor and digital strategist with years of experience behind her. She’s set up two six-figure businesses of her own, and helped hundreds more businesses to grow. She thinks you shouldn’t just ask what you’re setting up, but why you’re doing it.
“If I wanted to set up a new business today, there are three things that would dictate the type of business I'd create:
Rieva Lesonsky is a veteran of small business journalism. While editing Entrepreneur magazine 25 years ago, she met the two women she would go on to co-found Small Biz Daily with. She served on the US’s Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, and founded GrowBiz Media, a content creation agency. She says that she’d set up an ecommerce business, but points out that it isn’t enough to simply say you’re going to sell things – you need to put money into marketing in order to grow your business.
“My dream business was always to open a kid’s bookstore, but I don’t think that would work in today’s world—sadly.
If I were to open a business today, given my background and experience, I would do exactly what I’m doing—running a content creation company.
But if I were years younger, my dream business would be to create on online global “flea market” where I would sell unique, but affordable items from all over the world. E-commerce is the way to be a retailer these days—it gives you access to millions (billions?) of customers all over the world. The new generations of consumers, both Gen Y (millennials) and Gen Z don’t have to be “convinced” to shop online. That’s their preference.
Of course, it’s not even to just say I want to sell stuff. You need a marketing plan that encompasses social, search (including voice) and SEO.”
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Jane Sheeba runs Best Design and Hosting, a digital agency which does what it says on the tin – they design websites for small businesses and host them on their servers. She also runs JaneSheeba.com, which provides courses aimed at helping bloggers and business owners use great content to grow their businesses. She says she would stay in the same niche, providing services that help other business owners to grow their businesses.
“If I set up a new business today I would start something to help on online business owners - in any form. In fact I already run such a business where I offer website hosting, design and other technical help!
That particular business of mine gives me so much satisfaction because I know I am helping business owners who struggle with the new "online" thing. They don't have to spend time on learning these technical stuff rather than focusing on their business.
I remember myself a decade ago starting my own online business, and I spent most of the time figuring out things on setting up my online portal. Things even seemed pointless sometimes because I was not spending time on my business!
So I thought how life-changing it will be to take care of those tough technical tasks of business owners and let them focus on their business.”
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Erica Douglass sold her first business for a cool $1.1m at the age of 26 and hasn’t rested since. She wants to help people make money, but also to make their lives more meaningful. She says software is the way forward. Find out more about Erica at erica.biz.
“If I were setting up a new business today, I'd set up a software company. For one, the recurring revenue is great – something that grows revenue over time, without having to get new customers every month, is hugely appealing to me. Second, a software company would allow me the freedom to work from anywhere. I currently run a chain of iPhone repair stores, and while they are profitable, it's a difficult business because you have to be in the store physically 8+ hours a day to serve customers.”
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The founder of two companies, 6Q and Bam Creative, the author of The Principles of Successful Freelancing, and the founder of milesburke.com, Miles Burke is a serial entrepreneur with decades of experience working in different industries. He says that people looking to start a business should do things that don’t involve selling time, because you can’t scale them.
“I would create a business that doesn’t involve selling time for money. The problem with service based businesses, is that we have a finite resource – time. We can literally only work the hours we have available. Product or software license businesses are far more scalable, because they don’t require one hour in for one hour of billing. For example, selling an ebook or digital assets of some sort means that you put the effort and hours in at the start, developing the product, yet your time isn’t affected if you sell 100 copies, or 10,000.”
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Judith Morgan’s aim is to uplift, to inspire, and to empower. After selling her first business, which she set up and built on her own, she wrote Your Biz Your Way as a way of sharing some of what she’s learnt in a forty-year career, and she shares even more more on her website. If she were to set up a business, it would be a marketing company that works with solopreneurs.
“Recently a client told me that she would like to become a Promo Angel and help other businesses to build their brands. And since anything I start in 2018 would have to involve my twin loves of the written and spoken word, I would consider becoming that Promo Angel for clients who cannot or will not embrace marketing. It is a terrible waste so many solopreneurs do not achieve the success their ideas deserve because they are unknown. I would do this for people I love who love their product/service in return for a profit share of their business which I would have to love too.”
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Laurie McCabe has over 25 years of experience in IT and data analytics, and is the co-founder of SMB Group. She blogs on tech and business at lauriemccabe.com. But her business idea is completely different – she’d create a business that saves the world.
“I think I might start one that uses bamboo instead of plastic for disposable personal hygiene devices – razors, toothbrushes, floss sticks, etc. Bamboo is natural, plentiful and biodegradable. An eco-friendly line that you could sell online and in retail stores.”
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Tom Dewhurst is the founder and CEO of Ordoo, a London-based startup that enables customers to order ahead at their favourite bars, restaurants, and cafes. Before that, he worked for Accenture and Vodafone, as well as founding the Child Identification Programme, which helps parents whose children have gone missing.
As an entrepreneur, you're always looking to solve problems. Next time, I would like to think even bigger and tackle one of the world’s big problems. If I could make a dent in preventing climate change or reducing poverty then I would be delighted! This would obviously be a challenge but that's what business is about.
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Donald Burns is The Restaurant Coach. He’s got 38 years experience at the coal-face, working in restaurants, running his own, and and consulting for other restaurateurs. He says that people looking to start food businesses should start small and perfect their offer, then go big – we think that his advice is sound no matter what your business is.
“If I was a new restaurant, I would look at getting into a food hall. Start there and use that to test my concept and fine tune it. From there I would add a food truck to give my brand a mobile (catering) capacity. Once I got up to three food trucks and the location at the food hall, I would look at opening a larger brick and mortar location with a commissary. After that I would open three smaller locations around town to solidify my brand in the market.”
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Limini Coffee is the brainchild of Youri and Samantha Vlag. They’ve run the company which sells coffee beans and commercial espresso machines, as well as training baristas, for a decade. Ten years is a long time to do anything, but they’d start another coffee wholesale business in a flash.
“If I were to set up another business then it would be the same! After ten years of running our wholesale coffee business I still genuinely love every day and I will try to explain why.
I decided that dealing with people and being creative is something that I very much enjoy doing. Working on a project and trying to improve on it all the time is very rewarding. Owning a small business means being involved and even though it is hard work it is so rewarding because you can see the result of your hard work. The coffee industry is wonderful and you deal with passionate friendly people all the time. Sometimes things go wrong but because we have such a close relationship with our customers (and suppliers) we are able to resolve most challenges with a positive outcome.
Coffee is the most fascinating product and so diverse that you learn something everyday. Plus drinking it all day long is just amazing.
There is nothing better than doing what you love. This means managing your workload to suit your personality. For me that means a good mixture between practical (speaking to people, meetings, teaching, production etc etc) and what I call office work (running of the business in terms of paperwork). I think that this is the reason why I still enjoy it so much. It is so important to use technology to make work more efficient so that you can spend the time on what is important and that is looking after your customers and your team. A lot is about working smart and not just hard. / So, for me I love running a small business because it gives me lots of hands-on satisfaction and I don't have to answer to anyone on the outside - except of course the tax office and our customers.”
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Andrew Bowen is one half of the husband-and-wife team behind Coffee Shop Bootcamp and The Daily Grind, as well as Cafe Success Hub, an online resource and community for coffee shop owners. He says that the coffee world has immense potential.
“A Coffee Shop… The potential to build a new coffee business that will change the face of the industry is still immense. If I were new to the industry and were not flush with cash, I would follow this plan:
Jevan Nagarajah is a serial entrepreneur. After a stint as head of business development at SumUp he co-founded ShareDining, a platform that helps cooks find commercial kitchens. He’s now working on a top-secret startup project while serving as director at Rascal & Jeeves Collective.
“The world is changing quite rapidly and there is always the urge to jump onboard with new trends. All opportunities aren’t created equally however and some like blockchain/cryptocurrencies I would steer clear of. Two trends I would look to capitalise on are the surge in food delivery as well as rapid growth within the vegetarian/vegan food categories. I would look to set up a delivery-only restaurant concept serving predominantly vegetarian food. The challenge would be in creating a good enough product that appeals to the mass market. Once this aspect is nailed I think would be flying as the demand is there, the margins are healthy as well as large enough to sustain the difficult economics of food delivery.”
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The author of the best-selling book Business in Blue Jeans: How to Have a Successful Business on Your Own Terms, In Your Own Style, and the blog of the same name, Susan Baroncini-Moe is an executive coach and business leader with over sixteen years of experience. She says that passion is overrated — instead you need to think about how you can be of value.
“If I were starting a business today, I'd take a careful look at industries that are stable and in growth and think about how I could be of immense value to those industries. I'd focus on ways I could provide an indispensable product or service to those industries, so that, even if an economic downturn happened, they'd still need me, but I'd still be prepared to pivot if necessary. Staying nimble is absolutely critical to business survival these days.
It's important that you enjoy your work, however I don't actually believe that "passion" is super important. There are those few great geniuses who are so passionate about their work that they'd do just that and nothing else, all day and all night, if they could. But for most people, finding something you're really good at and like enough to do a lot is more important. That way you can hunker down and focus all of your attention and energy on doing the one thing you do best, and sticking to that one thing for the long haul. Be passionate about your family, your life, your charitable pursuits, and like what you do for work enough that it makes the rest of your life possible.”
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Shweta Jharjharia is one of London’s top business coaches, and the founder of the London Coaching Group. A serial entrepreneur with years of experience, Shweta is the author of Sparks. Instead of starting a business from the ground-up, she would buy a business that’s already up and running and improve it.
“Imagine that the business is like a plane. You walk into an airport and get to the runway to find that the parts of the plane all around and you have to put it together. That's what starting a new business is like. Wouldn't it be easier to arrive at the airport to find a plane that's ready to take off and fly in cruise control? That's what buying a business is like. Basically, I wouldn't set up a new business today, I would instead seek to buy a business. Then I can work on it and improve it, to get it to reach an even higher altitude than it's already running at.”
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David Mercer is a best-selling author of programming, web and business books. He founded SME Pals, a blog dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and small business owners thrive online by turning creative business ideas into profitable startups. He says that research is vital to any startup’s survival.
“Find a gap in the market that has a passive income component and work out a way to make money from it as quickly as possible.
A vanishingly small number of startups actually make a profit. More often than not founders spend far too much time focusing on their product/service and far too little time networking, marketing and promoting in order to get their first few paying customers. Securing a trickle of funds as early as possible is vital because it gets the business in front of customers and reduces the financial burden of starting up. This allows your startup to operate for longer (many side hustles are bootstrapped and fold because they run out of funds before they can become established).
To get this right, you have to understand how your venture will make money right from the start. That’s easier said than done because it means knowing who your market is, what they want, and how to convince them to trust you and pay for what you offer. In order to do that you really need to put together a comprehensive business plan. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for investors or not; a good business plan will give you the information and data you need to find the shortest path to revenue possible.
By doing research early on you’ll often find ‘hidden’ opportunities to make money that might not have been obvious beforehand. Perhaps there are different audiences you can reach out to, different uses for your product or service, and so on. There may be multiple streams of revenue available, or potentially valuable partnerships with other companies that can all help to drive revenue (possibly even one or more streams of passive income). Explore and understand how your business will make money early on to increase your chances of becoming profitable and sustainable.”
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Shannon Willoby is editor in chief of The DRIVE Blog -- a small-business blog that provides advice for e-commerce entrepreneurs and senior director of content marketing for Scott’s Marketplace -- a website where small-business owners can sell their products. She’d focus on creating a phone app that solves people’s problems.
“If I were starting a business today, I’d focus on the one item people never put down – their phone. Whether my product was a game (like Words With Friends) or something focused on mental health (like Calm), I’d create a mobile application that solves a problem (e.g. boredom or anxiety) and does so in an entertaining way. I’d add some in-app purchases and constantly roll out new features to keep users from burning out.”
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Terri Levine, PhD is a business strategist and Chief Heart-repreneur® at www.heartrepreneur.com. She is a best selling author of dozens of titles including Turbo Charge How To Transform Your Business As A Heart-repreneur®. Dr. Levine assists businesses worldwide with business growth, sales and marketing. She has more than 40 years of business experience, encompassing work with more than 5,000 business owners and entrepreneurs in a variety of industries and is a sought after keynote speaker and hosts her own radio show and television show.
“Look around. The job market has shifted. Automation has begun and will continue to grow. Full time jobs are going away and freelance jobs are increasing. At the same time the consulting/coaching industry is huge and is currently estimated at 100 billion dollars per year and is growing fast. It’s also really easy to reach ideal prospective clients for your business with social media. Plus, the business has low-overhead and affords financial freedom as well as life balance. All you need is a laptop and a cell phone to get rolling. There is no other business I would consider starting.
I’ve been in this industry for over two decades and I’ve helped over 5,000 people transition to this business because getting a consulting or coaching business going is very simple. You simply ask your target niche what they want (not need) and you listen to what is really bothering them in their business or life and then you create a real solution for their problem. They will happily work with you, even if you are a start-up.
The consulting/coaching professions don’t demand that you build a website, create a funnel or waste time networking or you blog, or podcast or write a book. You are entering a profession with high profit margins and really going to be making a difference for others and only need to take a few of the right actions on social media and your ideal prospective client family members will engage with you.
Another advantage to selecting this business is that you don’t need a degree, or credentials, an office, or a staff. You also don’t need to do face to face meetings, networking or spend your time creating proposals. If you set up your consulting/coaching business right, you will not be trading time for money which means you will have money rolling in while freedom rolls out. Prospects find you and engage with your services that are optimized and leveraged to give them real results while you spend little time in delivery.
I highly suggest you pick one niche right now to be an expert in and then select one group of people to help with specific advise that will get them the results they say they want. Remember, people buy value, outcomes and results and if you help your client family members get the results or outcomes they haven’t been able to get on their own, they will buy your solution.
All you need is one area that you can help people get results in. You pick that niche and then create amazing value for just that one group of people. You can get started today. Think of who you can help based on your own expertise. What kinds of people? What problems do they have? What industries are then in? Then create what I call a Core Unique Positioning Statement describing what you do. For example, my statement is: I help heart-based service businesses get more qualified prospects fast with my simple 3 step Command, Connect, Convert system — guaranteed.
Model what I am doing because it works for me and my client family members and it will work for you!”
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Adil Zaman is an internet entrepreneur. He is the founder and editor of fincyte.com, a business blog devoted to small business trends. Hundreds of business experts and entrepreneurs have shared their in-depth experiences and thoughtful views to date and the list of contributors is still growing.
“As an entrepreneur, I'd like to find a problem first that people face in routine life, then I'll try to come up with cost effective solution and a viable business model. This is how startup economics work. If I'd be asked to make an investment, I'd like to invest in IOT (Internet of Things) sector. This is a very lucrative niche and you know wantrepreneurs may kickstart such businesses with little to high investments. You can also get an idea about the potential economic impact of the aforesaid industry from Mckinsey & Company Report published in 2015. They revealed that IOT has a total potential economic impact of $3.9 Trillion and this economic impact will increase to $11.1 Trillion by 2025. This is the future of business. So, what are you waiting for? Go, find problems and solve them. You could be the next m/billionaire!”
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Roland is a business-life coach who helps small business owners get unstuck and build beautiful business and lives. Roland is the founder and owner of New Perspectives Business Coaching based in Sydney and Launceston in Australia and The Hague in Holland. Roland commenced his coaching practice in 2004 after selling the building company he founded in 1984. You can subscribe to Roland's weekly One-Minute-Business-Tips or download any of his books, special reports and white papers from his website at www.newperspectives.com.au.
“In my years in and around small business I've seen that the best, most fun, most profitable and most sustainable business models address three needs: The needs of the customer, the needs of the business and the needs of the business owner. Only by giving equal weight to all three is it possible to build a unique Beautiful Business (and Life).
The three needs are expressed in three Big Questions:
Answering the Three Big Questions can be challenging, but it's worth digging as deep as you can go, because it's at the exact intersection of what you love doing, what you're are good at, what your customers need and what they are prepared to pay money for, that you'll find your unique Beautiful Business and Life.”
After ditching the desk job, Sean Ogle sold his car and upped sticks to Thailand. He became the Location Rebel, teaching the world how they can travel the world and make money at the same time. He’s been featured on Forbes, the Huffington Post, and Entrepreneur magazine.
“Most mass media publications serve very broad audience, and thus people who have very specific needs or interests often struggle to find communities or information on their niche of choice.
I think one of the most underrated opportunities in 2018 are these super niche communities, or what I often call "niche-within-a-niche" communities.
Even if you're only catering to a fraction of an industry of a whole, if you position things in the right way, you can resonate more with the people you're serving and have them not only pay to be in your community, but be excited to pay you for it.”
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