​A crazy idea or an innovative business?

​Ali i​s a Cardiff Met MSc Sports Psychology graduate and founder of ithinksport.com

You've got an idea, you're not sure if it will work, but it's something you're really passionate about and there's a chance that people might buy into it if you start a business. Do you:

  1. Do nothing, it's not that good an idea anyway
  2. Tell some friends but they don't get it, so you decide not to take it any further
  3. Speak to potential customers to run the idea past them and get some feedback
  4. Start your business and hope for the best that people will like it, and buy into the idea

Hopefully you picked option 3 – get talking with potential customers about your idea early on. This costs nothing to do and gives you some really useful feedback before you invest any more time and money to get things off the ground. If you picked option 4 then you're definitely demonstrating a bit of entrepreneurial spirit necessary to get something off the ground from scratch!

Starting a business can be a bit like flying a kite with no string, at least that's what it feels like to me at times. After you launch it, you're not quite sure where it's going to go. There are lots of questions that you won't have the answers to yet, but it's a pretty exciting journey nevertheless. So what is it that sets you apart from your competition with your fledgling idea?

Read any traditional 'start a business' guide and it will ask what your USP is - what's your Unique Selling Point? What will you do differently that no other small business owner in your field is currently doing. What will make future customers want to buy products or services from you, as opposed to your competition? Is it price point, quality, impeccable service, or are you delivering something that no-one else is doing just yet? Is your idea a potential game-changer in your field?

If you've been caught up in the Pokémon Go craze lately, you can't fail to appreciate what a game-changer that has been. If you've not come across it before, it's a unique game in which you create your own avatar and move around the real world environment via the game's map to catch Pokémon characters. What started out as a collaboration with Google for April Fool's day in 2014 has now turned into a global phenomenon. The idea that first started out as a joke was so popular that it added billions to Nintendo's market value. As a spin off, it also got millions of people exercising – I lost count of the amount of people I saw in my local park searching for Pikachu and racking up miles of walking. Not a bad return on investment for a bit of a prank that gamers can use for free.

For big companies like Nintendo and Google, it's pretty easy to invest time and money in new concepts and test the market. However, experimentation with early business ideas doesn't need to cost the earth, and it's a great way to get a feel for what really works. Putting yourself out there can be a bit daunting sometimes, but identifying who your potential customers are and just having an informal chat with them about your idea can give you some really rich information. It can also create early customer relationships which you can fall back on when you're ready to take your product or service to market.

So, if you chose option 1 or 2 at the beginning have a think about moving to option C. Even the craziest little ideas have the potential to turn into innovative little businesses. Give your business idea a chance to grow and make use of the many business start-up resources out there, including the staff team at Cardiff Met Centre for Entrepreneurship at Llandaff Campus!

Blog post by Ali Mahoney, founder of ithinksport.com. 
October 2016