So You Want to Make Your Own Stuff
Seeing problems and solving them is key to starting a business
Venture capital advisor Pedro Moore first got bit by the entrepreneurial bug as a business student at the University of Delaware. Today, he counts Shark Tank’s Daymond John and Wilmington-based True Access Capital among his clients. When we spoke, Moore was busy getting ready to run an “Entrepreneur Boot Camp” at the YWCA in Newark. So, the question was fresh in his mind: How do you start your own business, anyway?
Step 1: Examine Your Idea
Assuming you have an idea to start with, Moore says the first step is to carefully examine that idea. “Sometimes what happens is, we think solution-first, versus problem-first,” he says. “So I would say the first thing is to make sure you identify a problem that’s worthy of being solved.”
Moore’s example: An idea to open a brick-and-mortal retail store selling typewriters has two obvious things wrong with it: the world is moving away from brick-and-mortar stores, and no one buys typewriters anymore. But, maybe there’s a niche out there not being filled — for example, an online-based repair service for old typewriters, for collectors, just might work.
Step 2: Make a Prototype
If your business is going to be based on a consumer product, Moore notes, you’ll have to come up with a prototype. Barriers for this are lower than ever, with maker labs like NextFab in Wilmington offering the tools and technology to turn ideas into physical objects. Even public libraries now offer access to 3D printers. Your prototype doesn’t necessarily have to be pretty, Moore says — it just has to work.
Step 3: Research the Competition
You’ll want to find out if there is already a similar product or solution in the marketplace. If you stumble upon a competitor, use their product, subscribe to their service, and study it, Moore recommends. “Just because they’re already solving the problem doesn’t mean they’re doing it well,” he says. And, if no one else seems to be solving the problem you’ve identified, try to figure out why.
Step 4: Research the Target Market
The core of Moore’s advice, though, is this: Ask around.
“Does the problem go beyond your immediate circle?” he says. As a fledgling entrepreneur, you have to be prepared to expand your market research. “Start talking to people you don’t even know. That way, you get real, third-party validation,” Moore explains. “Talk to as many people as possible. Those are your potential customers. And ask if you can add them to your mailing list, so one day you can reach out to them and say, ‘I’m ready to solve your problem, I’m ready to launch, here we go.’”
Get market validation up front, Moore emphasizes, and you’ll save money while building a customer base. “All those things, you can start today,” he says. “You don’t need to go out and raise money, you don’t need anything but yourself and your time — you can begin your process to do your research and launch.”
By Matt Ward