By Judy Castleberry
Everyone has heard about the great business idea that started on the back of a napkin. But for every written on napkin that created a business, there are probably thousands that were either thrown away when the table was cleared or were stuck in a pocket never to be seen again.
Does this sound familiar? Have you ever sketched out an idea on the proverbial napkin only to not know what to do next? How do ideas get from the back of the napkin to a real business concept? What are the steps to take your business idea or invention from idea to market?
The first few steps are all about refining the idea. Why is your idea a good idea? What need is it fulfilling?
For example, when personal computers first came on the market people tried to figure out ways to use them. One of the first suggestions for home use was organizing recipes. This did not work very well as a marketing tool. It turns out that there were not enough home cooks desperately looking for a way to improve on recipe cards
But when the home computer started to be used for home finances, games, school work, and the thousands of other applications we have added over the years the sale of personal computers for home use took off and the rest is history.
This is another major step: checking out the market. Has your idea been done? If so, how? What makes your idea better, faster, cleaner, than the competition?
Yes, there is competition. For whatever you are planning, there is another way of doing it. Why buy that computer to organize recipes if you already have them written down? Why bother with recipes at all if you never cook? Sometimes your competition is not what you expect, but it is still out there. Knowing your place in the market is imperative.
Another huge step to getting into the market is being able to sell your idea. You need to know how to get other people excited about what you are selling. Before you ever sell a single widget to a customer you will probably need to sell the idea to an investor, a business partner, or maybe even your spouse so that you can have their support.
This is all about communication, but unfortunately it is often the most overlooked component of getting started. This is very obvious on the TV show "Shark Tank" where inventors and entrepreneurs present their ideas to potential investors called sharks.
To help you get ready for your own sharks, "Shark Tank Ready" is a new class being offered by the Community Learning Center at San Juan College. This class is to help you get your idea off the back of the napkin and into a presentation package that can be used for investors or customers. We will be working on refining your concept, helping you discover where you fit in the market and understanding your customers and their motivation to buy from you.
The class costs $15 and will be from 6-8 p.m. Thursdays from Feb. 21-March 7. For further information or to register, call 505-566-3214.
Judy Castleberry is interim director of the San Juan College Enterprise Center in Farmington.