I am often asked, "What kind of business should I start?" by people who want to work at home. It's hard to pull a business idea out of thin air for someone else. Recently, my friend asked me this very question. Since she was available to talk to me and work with me, I decided to record the steps we took. Hopefully, this will provide a case study for others who want to start a business. The specific business ideas we came up with may not work for you - but the steps we took and process we went through may be helpful to get your creative juices flowing.
First, we made a list of all the things she enjoyed doing, things she was good at, and things she wanted to do. Looking at the list we saw there was a clear tendency towards crafty things. She enjoyed making things with her hands, cooking, crafts, and working on her computer. Understanding her actual skills and the activities she enjoyed gave us a ruler to measure possible opportunities.
With this information, we started searching for possible ideas. I did most of this research on the Internet, however it isn't necessary to limit yourself. Inspiration for a business could strike anywhere. In my search I used key words such as "entrepreneur", "work at home", "home-based business", and "small business." I came across several business ideas. Some were easy to rule out based on the list my friend had made. Others took a little more consideration. Finally, the idea we decided looked the most interesting was creating custom candy wrappers.
The custom candy wrapper business seems to be booming. The idea is that you can wrap Hershey Bars, Kit Kats, Trident Gum, Lifesavers, and other candies in custom wrappers that you create. These candies can announce new babies, provide advertising for businesses, replace holiday cards, be used as wedding favors, almost anything that you would put on a card, flyer, or advertisement can be put on a candy wrapper.
There are may web sites currently offering this service. This is both good and bad news. The number of web sites indicates there is a market for custom candy wrappers, but it also means the market is crowded. I realized if we were going to move forward with this idea, we would need something to set us apart. I spent several hours looking at all the sites that I could find. I noticed that there was some discussion of corporate wrappers, but this seemed to be an under-served market. From my time working at big corporations, I knew that these candy wrappers could be used for many things. Corporations are always looking for give-aways when they attend trade shows. Corporations also spend a lot of money on team-building activities and "pep rally" type events that often include give-aways with a positive "team" message. Big corporations also send out presents and premiums to their customers and vendors. These candy bars could be included in the present instead of a card.
With this information we determined we should have a two-pronged marketing strategy. My friend would put up a web site that would include both personal candy wrappers (e.g., baby announcements, weddings, etc.) and corporate candy wrappers. In addition to the web site I suggested she should contact companies looking for the marketing managers and human resources people who might be interested in these candy wrappers. Also, she would call flower shops, gift basket companies, and other similar outlets that might be interested in subcontracting her candy wrappers as a service to their existing customers. It seemed this type of direct marketing would give her an edge over the web only businesses.
Now that we had determined a unique niche for her products she had to identify her suppliers. This included figuring out how to create the labels and getting the candies at the cheapest possible price. She went back to the Internet to do more research. She found a craft message board where a woman posted the dimensions of candy wrappers. She found another craft site with tips on how to actually wrap the candies. She had to experiment with paper types to determine which works best. Finally, She had to put together the basic layouts for some sample candy wrappers. Some of the wrappers (e.g., baby announcements, wedding favors, etc.) could be standardized. This way, the customer would have some set designs to choose from and when the order came in, the specific information could be entered and the wrappers printed quickly. Other wrappers would require more customized work.
The next major hurdle was a web site. This business was starting on a shoestring, so she decided to create her own site using a design tool. Other marketing materials needed to be created. This included things such as letterhead, business cards, and brochures. Again, my friend was able to do most of this herself using her computer and professional paper products available at any office supply store.
The very basics of starting a business can be summarized:
I hope this will help you find or create a business opportunity for yourself.
- Identify your skills. Create a list that includes what you're good at, what you enjoy, and what you would like to do.
- Research the opportunities that are available.
- Determine a target market.
- Secure a source for your supplies.
- Set and implement a marketing plan.