A close friend recently confided that he wanted to pursue an entrepreneurial venture. But he had serious doubts about its viability because a nationally recognized competitor was doing the same thing his venture was intending to tackle. This made me think about how excited I was when my business partner and I first came up with the idea for NuKitchen. Wild visions of what it could be danced through my head for weeks, creating quite an intoxicating effect. I loved it!
This feeling stayed with me as I started feverishly planning the business. But the more I investigated this “opportunity,” the more I realized how competitive the landscape was. My enthusiasm started to wane. Soon it had dwindled to the point where I nearly gave up. “I’m not sure this is going to happen,” I thought. “There are at least a dozen players doing exactly what I want to do.” I was in the position that my friend is now in. Many would-be entrepreneurs, I suspect, find themselves at this crossroad.
Now, my answer isn’t just to plow through these obstacles and go full-steam ahead. Conversely, I’m not suggesting that my friend—or you—give up. The reality of the situation is quite common. Literally hundreds of thousands of new businesses are started each year in this country. The Facebooks and Googles that receive all the attention because they are the biggest in their game are rare. Facebook wasn’t the first social networking site (think Friendster) and Google wasn’t the first search engine (think Excite or Webcrawler). Often, businesses start and succeed because they fill a void in the already existing marketplace. Whether it’s the opportunity for a neighborhood wine bar (Cru NYC) or a comfortable, personalized thong (Hanky Panky), these ideas were not only well executed but they also found their perfect niche. Excelling at the customer service experience, providing a fresh update on a product, or offering a piece of technology that didn’t exist in the predecessor are all viable options.
My friend—and you—need to really study the competitive landscape and determine where the voids are. These are your market opportunities. Capitalize on these potential niches by tweaking your product to serve a specific need. That’s exactly what I did. I found a void in the customer service experience. I decided my healthful eating solution could be managed completely online, culminating with the delivery of delicious, customized meals directly to a customer’s door. At the time, no one offered that service.
Ultimately you’ll need to determine if the market opportunity can justify your version of the product or service. Take it a step further by identifying likely target customers and surveying them. This quick study can help you determine if and how you can turn your idea into a viable business opportunity.
If you’re still asking yourself “Is my idea viable?” take a short quiz to find out.