SCORE Small Business Blog

4 Steps to Brainstorming a Great New Business Idea

Do you know you want to start a business, but you’re not sure what type of business you want to start? Or maybe you’ve got a vague idea you want to start a business in a certain industry—such as fashion, restaurant or automotive—but you are struggling to come up with a specific concept. That means it’s time to brainstorm a business idea. Here are four steps to success.

1. Start your business brainstorming by getting your creativity flowing. Read as much as you can about small business, business in general and trends that relate to business and the industry you have in mind. For instance, if you think you might want to start a retail business, then read retail publications and websites, visit shopping malls and outdoor shopping venues in your area, and go online to all kinds of e-commerce websites.

2. Then think about businesses you admire, use, and rely on in your daily life. What do they have in common? Jot down everything that comes to mind about why you like these companies, whether it’s their outstanding customer service, their one-of-a-kind products or their cool branding.

3. Next, think about issues you are facing in your own life. Are there problems that commonly frustrate you? Do you wish there were an easier way to do X or a faster way to do Y? You’re probably not the only one who feels that way, and if you come up with a problem that affects a big enough group of people, it could lead to a business idea. Ask your friends and family members about their frustrations, too. Some of the biggest businesses around grew out of frustrations or unmet needs.

4. From your brainstorming, you should be able to write down dozens of possible business ideas. Now it’s time to narrow them down. Grab some friends, family members or businesspeople you know, and see what they think of your ideas. Particularly if they’re in the target market for the business you’re considering (such as moms, and you’re considering a child-related business), they’ll be able to give you some good insights about what they’d look for in a business serving their needs.

Of course, keep in mind that your friends and family are not impartial observers. They’re likely to have their own agendas, and may either discourage you (because they’re worried you’ll lose money) or encourage you too much (praising every idea you have). That’s why getting advice from an impartial business expert is the smartest thing you can do at the pre-startup stage.

The expert mentors at SCORE can help you assess your ideas, think of new ones and decide which is the best idea given your time constraints, finances, experience level and ultimate goals. Don’t have a mentor? Visit to get matched with one and get counseling 24/7.

Rieva LesonskyCEO, GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. | @rieva | More from Rieva

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Discussion (4) Comment

  1. The idea of starting our own business comes by seeing the example of those who got success in their business, but we never dig deeper, how they got success in their business and what was their strategy at that time, well that doesn’t mean that by following their way one can get success in their business. Market study is very important phase, make a good research and list every point, still if you have doubt’s in mind clear it by consulting an expert.

  2. Robyn SmithVisitor

    This article has some great advice – I know because I have followed and advised others in these steps. The detail of suggestions, though, is especially helpful.
    A basic summary of the advice is “become aware”, whether it’s through research, observation, listening, or personal experience.
    One of my best suggestions for inspiration is a children’s movie called “Robots” where the main character’s signature line is “Find a need, meet a need”. Amen!

  3. Thanks Rhonda. You’re right–entrepreneurs need to take more time getting clear on what they want and where they’re headed.

  4. Rhonda PageVisitor

    This is a great process to go through. I often have people contact me who know they want to start a business and know the target audience they serve, have some ideas of what they want to do for this audience but need to get more clarity on what it could be and where to go.


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