Small Business Ideas and Changing the World

Great small businesses are started by great small business ideas. Look into any business anywhere and you will find somewhere in the development there was an idea by someone, who did something about it, started a business, built the business, and benefitted others by it.

I am an “idea” guy. Why? Because ideas are the genesis of all things, and surely all things pertaining to business. If the idea is good enough, and the individual acting on the idea is good enough, the combination of idea and action will shake the world.

Perhaps one of the most rewarding things for me to do is to read stories about people who achieved business success. Every successful business came from a person, man or woman, with an idea that they would grow into a concept, and that concept was developed into a product or service, and that product or service created a business.

There are countless inspiring stories of how businesses were started and developed. Most of them are fascinating reads because they help to nurture in my mind the power of small business ideas, and how those ideas can effect the world.

One of my favorites is the story of Madam C J Walker. She was born in 1867 in the deep South, a time and place of extreme discrimination and disadvantage for African Americans and women. Both her parents were slaves, and of her five siblings, she was the first born free.

But her difficulties in life did not end there. Both of her parents died, and when she was only twenty years of age her husband also died, leaving her with a two year old daughter. She moved to another state to be with her brothers, and there began to develop an idea that had been spawned in her years before…

Madam C J Walker had married again, this time well into her thirties, when she began experimenting with a product to deal with hair loss and scalp issues common to women of the time. Eventually, fueled by her own passion and ideas, she developed several products of her own design and began travelling with her husband to sell them throughout the United States. Within a few years she had built a college to train hair culturists and even her own manufacturing facility to produce her products.

Madam C J Walker became the first self made woman millionaire, and this with multiple and substantial disadvantages. Her story is a testament not only to overcoming tremendous odds to achievement, but the power of an idea. Her small business ideas, bolstered by her own personal strength and ingenuity, blossomed into a massive benefit for millions of women of her time and beyond.

Most people have great ideas. Perhaps there is nothing more common than great ideas. The problem is not lack of ideas; it’s excuses people offer not to act on them.

The entire soft drink empire came from a single idea, formed into a recipe, and scratched onto a piece of paper and tucked away in someone’s pocket. And that idea would have remained a mere “idea” forever, had not someone took the chance and acted on it to see what would happen. They did, and the world is different for it.

To create a successful business, there must be an idea, but not just any idea. It has to be a unique, never thought-of or acted-on idea, one that fills a need or a desire of many people, and can be developed and produced and sold.

So how to approach small business ideas to bring them to fruition? Here are few questions that should be considered:

1. Is the idea new? If it already has been done, or is commonly known, it probably isn’t a novel idea worth pursuing, unless the idea is a completely new twist on an existing one, that would dramatically improve it.

2. Is the idea reasonable? Here goes the logical standard: an idea is only as good as it is reasonable or possible. Yes, it would be great to have a product that, say, makes the front lawn never grow higher than the desired length, while remaining green and healthy. But is this possible, or even practical? There are zillions of ideas out there and plenty of them get developed to a point but never see the light of day because they are not reasonable: the cost or hassle to produce them is far greater than the benefit.

3. Is the idea in my field of interest or knowledge? Most people are good at something and have a specific area of interest. To develop small business ideas effectively it stands to reason the developer should understand the product or at least have serious interest in it. A small business stemming from a person’s passion is the fastest and surest way to success.

To build the enterprise or business or organization that will change the world always starts with an idea. Then ideas are added to ideas with passion and determination and intelligence. And what results can be life changing, not only for the entrepreneur, but for people everywhere.

Possible Problems in Running a Shaved Ice Business

Do you own a shaved ice business or are you planning to start one? Do you have what it takes to deal with some of the possible problems of having this kind of business? Here are some problems that can arise when running this kind of business.

Seasonal Changes

Shaved ice would be very popular at the same time profitable depending on the season. It would be best to have a cold treat during hot seasons or if you are in a place where there is a tropical climate. Your business would usually be in demand during the month of May until September.

You might need one or two ice making machines in order to run your business especially when it is the peak season. Once the hot season is over, then your business can experience some decreased in customers and even profits. One thing you can do to prevent your business from closing is to have alternative sources of clients like in birthday parties, school festivals and even family gatherings. Even though it is out of season, some people would still want to have some shaved ice topped with their favorite flavorings.

Perfect Location

If your business is located in a far-flung area where there are only a few people or if the rent is too high, then you might consider changing locations. Your business needs to be located in a busy place or some place where people often visit. This can ensure that you will have a lot of potential clients compare to a location where only few people visits. The rental fee of the place should also be affordable so that you can maximize your earnings.

Competition

Some people might have the same idea of starting the same business as yours. Competition would be one of the biggest problems you can have. Your local competition can offer some products that are slightly cheaper than what you are offering and most of the time customers are being swayed by this kind of promotions. The only thing you can do is prove to your customers that your business is better than them. You can do this by providing the quality of products and service that your customers are looking for.

Constant Supply of Ice

When running a shaved ice business, you need to have a lot of ice because it is the main ingredient of your business. There are a lot of ice making equipment that you can use to make some ice in just a couple of minutes. There are some machines that make the ice while at the same time shaving it for you to use. Make sure to find a machine that has a function to shave ice or you might need someone else to shave the ice for you.

Social Media: A Mine of Business Opportunities

SOCIAL MEDIA GOING BUSINESS

Over 25% of the Fortune 500 companies have public blogs, 35% have an active presence on Twitter. – University of Massachusetts study

According to an estimate top 10 Social Media advertisers got more than 20 billion impressions in the year 2012.

One of the companies that were in the above list commented that soon people will stop talking about it as it will become such a common expected communication channel. Some of the early birds who realized the unlimited potentials of the concept in the business world and implemented it have already started reaping the benefits.

Social Media is all about co-creation of the content in an interactive manner by a group of people who are connected to one another though some channel. Web 2.0 facilitated development of its platforms (e.g., Facebook and Twitter etc.) where people can create such contents, have discussions, express ideas and post other media elements (photographs and videos etc.) and build virtual communities where these contents can be shared and evolved. Business organizations can leverage this platform for creating brand identity, fostering collaboration, creating knowledge pool and finding resources etc. more efficiently.

Notes: There are different opinions regarding the definition of Social Media and Social Networking, and their scope overlap. This document considers Social Media as a larger concept and Social Networking as one of its prominent implementation channels. Social Media itself covers the other channels, e.g., blogs, virtual communities etc. as well.

WHAT IS IN IT?

Primarily goal driven organizations are leveraging the Social Media for achieving one or many of the following objectives:

  • Productivity improvement
  • Operational efficiency optimization through collaboration, communication and feedbacks
  • Innovative and creative products, solutions formulations and problem solving
  • Business Relationships improvisation- customers, employees, business partners, suppliers and other stakeholders

Most of the internet users spend a significant amount of their internet time on the Social Media sites. That makes it an excellent medium for advertisements and promotions. Although total advertising expense on it is relatively low when compared to the overall advertisement spending over the internet but it is growing and will soon catch up. A lot many companies are using it for creating brand awareness and promoting their products.

Since people interaction is at the heart of the Social Media, news here runs through the word of mouth. And this provides an avenue for acquiring new customers based on the recommendations of another happy and satisfied customer. Many companies have already started considering surveys as a thing of the dead past and use it for getting customer feedback and satisfaction levels. Interestingly it provides an opportunity listening to the feedbacks given to the competitor’s products as well that can be a good value-add; and it is free. This same set of feedback can be compiled and analyzed for getting the market trends, product comparisons and so on.

Organizations have successfully created consumer communities where the members not only share feedbacks but also share ideas for improvisations, find innovative solutions and solve each other’s problems. Such communities not only foster customer relationship and innovation but also save cost. Taking a step further many companies have started getting engaged with their customers individually as well by listening to their grievances and providing a personalized response.

WHAT IT WILL BRING?

Advent to Web 2.0 made the Social Media happen. As its wave is catching up and its unlimited potentials are being realized it will have a huge impact the way technology advancement happens. In a way so far it has adapted the way technology was going, but now the trend has reversed and the technology has to adapt itself to the needs of this social platform. The boom of hand-held smart devices that are already enabled for the required features and capabilities is no happenstance and more will follow. Windows 8, the latest OS version from Microsoft, by design support integration with Social Media with a click of mouse.

As the wave catches up organizations that are reluctant to open their gates for this change eventually will have to consider the adverse consequences and gradually move away from that stand.

Here content is mostly unstructured data and making sense of them is not a simple task. Getting valuable information from this pile of data necessitates tools that will facilitate capturing, monitoring and analyzing the data. There are already a good number of products, both free and licensed doing so. But their number will grow and capabilities and scope will increase in the future.

WHAT TO DO?

Given the wide range of innovative possibilities it has something to offer to almost any business scenario. But due to the ethereal nature of things over the web it is not always easy to make a successful implementation. Organizations that are taking a strategic approach towards their Social Media implementations clearly get an advantage over those who don’t.

Not all the businesses target it for the same results. First good place to start is putting a plan. The plan should set specific and rational business objectives in relation to it. It is important to find metrics that will measure the progress and success. It should also access all the risks involved and a mitigation plan should be there in place in advance.

Understanding the underlying dynamics and managing it for meeting the stated business goals needs very specific skills. Identify the resources that will be responsible for making it happen and setup a team. If any training is required arrange for the same. If the business intends a large number of its employees to participate in the process they all may need some kind of awareness training.

It thrives on connecting people and getting them engaged for a fruitful interaction. Each business will need to target a certain group of audience. There is every possibility that there will be sub groups within those audiences having different preferences. It is very important to understand the intended audience and setting up both the content and the strategy accordingly.

Once the right content is in place and things start moving monitoring becomes the most crucial aspect. The planning should entail the details of what should be monitored, how the monitoring will happen and how the responses will be adjusted depending upon the flow of the wind. There are many licensed and freely available tools in the market that should be accessed prior to implementation to find a best fit. Here is a list of 25 freely available monitoring tools:

http://smallbiztrends.com/2012/09/20-free-social-media-monitoring-tools.html

CHALLENGES AHEAD

All the goodies that the Social Media brings with it will not be for free. It will bring its own set of challenges and risks and they are serious.

  • Some risks like lack of confidentiality and privacy are inherently part of the concept. Apart from that maintaining the copyright, meeting the industry specific legislations, validation of content and ensuring the identity are some of the challenges that need to be met.
  • As the workplaces are opening and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is getting popular, ensuring the security even within the corporate networks would be a daunting task. Organizations would find it very difficult to control the usages of Social Media for non-business purposes by their employees.
  • From the technical standpoint there is very little or no integration possible across different Social Media channels. If a business is tapping into multiple channels they will need to find out ways to have an integrated view.
  • Resources having necessary skills in Social Media domain are hard to find.
  • For the business managers it is difficult to compute ROI and access the tangible benefits even if there are intangible benefits. More over a Social Media event could be potentially a dangerous thing if it backfires or a disgruntled employee triggers something that becomes defamation.
  • Some critiques observe crowdsourcing as and avenue where workers can be exploited very easily and made to work for free or the wages well below than the permitted lower limit.

As the adaptation of Social Media is snowballing technology and business together will need to face these challenges. Organizations must access the opportunity vs. the risks involved and take the precautionary measures to reap the benefits and mitigate the risks. There is no turning back, but we need to make the right moves at the right time to make it a purposeful journey.