Entrepreneurial dreams come in all shapes and sizes. However, what remains constant is the grueling process of turning an idea into an actual product/service that people like and use. Successful entrepreneurs understand and respect both the difficulty and significance of the startup process.
There are 7 core steps involved in launching a successful startup and transforming your idea into the next big thing in business:
1. Conceiving a Business Idea
Every entrepreneur is essentially a dreamer, dreaming of a new or improved product/service. There are a few litmus tests that will accurately gauge the utility and viability of your idea:
- Does it provide a solution to an existing problem?
- Is it an even better alternative to an existing solution?
If you answered yes to either of those questions, your idea is definitely worth pursuing.
2. Undertake Market Research
Design interviews and focus groups to understand how people perceive your idea. Research whether someone else has worked with this idea before and what they have learned. Identify your competitors and look into their products and services. Figure out what will make your product or service different and/or superior.
3. Create a Prototype
Once you have settled on an idea you want to explore further, do not keep it to yourself. Share it with people immediately. Create a rough prototype and let them experience your product/service for themselves – even if it is just in its nascent stage. Reviews of actual potential customers will reveal a lot of your blind spots and give you plenty of insights on improving the product/service, or – in the worst case – abandoning it all together.
A lot of people make the mistake of taking their prototype out to the people at a very late stage when a lot of time and money have already been poured into it. Later if it turns out that people do not like or simply feel no use for it, you will have wasted all those resources. Bring your prototype to the market early, so you can respond to feedback and pivot if needed or continue on the same path.
4. Create a Business Plan
If your prototype shows promise, start developing a business plan. Your plan is a 20 to 30 page written document describing the journey from your business idea to the finished product/service. Use a business plan template that includes sections for your marketing strategies, competitor analysis, financials, management team and operation plan. A potential investor will make a decision to invest in your business depending on the soundness of this business plan.
5. Secure Financing
There are several ways to finance your business – using your own savings, taking a business loan, borrowing from friends and family, crowdfunding, securing angel investors or venture capitalists, or participating in a startup incubator. Your unique needs and circumstances will dictate the choice you make.
6. Refine the Prototype
Once the financials are secured, you should focus on honing the prototype. Again, you must periodically test it in the market and make changes depending on the feedback you get. Pivot if you have to. Do not be stuck in your ways when the market is telling you something else.
7. Growing and Expanding
Once customers start interacting positively with your product/service you can think about growth. Growth can come in many forms – more teammates, deeper market penetration, targeting new markets or acquisitions.
Launching a startup can be very exciting, but perilous at the same time. If you follow the above steps, you can avoid some of the more common entrepreneurial pitfalls. But more importantly, keep dreaming and keep creating.