Brainstorming Business Ideas: How To Find Business Ideas (2024) – Shopify

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Every profitable business started the same way: with an idea.

It sounds simple, but coming up with new ideas can be challenging in a saturated marketplace where lots of other people also are trying to do the same. Luckily, there are some strategies that can accelerate the brainstorming process.

Learn how to develop your own ideas for a business with tips from successful entrepreneurs and business leaders.

What is brainstorming?

Brainstorming is the creative process of generating ideas. It often happens within a group, with different participants sharing and building off one another’s thoughts. Brainstorming can also be a solo activity that you aid with tools like mind mapping, a popular, visual brainstorming technique.

When it comes to brainstorming ideas for a business, the best ideas are those that solve problems.

“A lot of the most exciting problems are ones you have yourself,” says Noah Kagan, CEO of AppSumo, a platform where entrepreneurs can buy and sell software, in an interview with Shopify Masters. He’s also the author of Million Dollar Weekend, which teaches readers how to come up with a business idea within a single weekend.

How to brainstorm business ideas

Many founders draw inspiration from daily life.

“When I started Polysleep, it was mainly because I was bedridden with a herniated disc,” Polysleep cofounder and CEO Jeremiah Curvers told Shopify Masters. “There was this need. I really wanted to come up with the best mattress.”

You don’t need a herniated disc to hit upon a great business idea. Here are some ways to use your own life as a jumping-off point for brainstorming business ideas:

Assess where you spend money as a consumer

One of Noah favorite ways to come up with new businessideas is to look at your bank or credit card statement. “What do you spend a lot of money on?” Noah asks. Start brainstorming ways to make that product or service better, more affordable, or more convenient.

Spend time on message boards

Noah regularly checks the social forum Reddit to pick up new business ideas. If a lot of Reddit users comment, “I wish I could buy this,” when referring to another user’s creation, there may be an audience for it.

For example, a user shares a custom chest they made to store board game pieces and a lot of other users express interest. You might consider manufacturing your own board game storage chests. (Of course, you shouldn’t copy another person’s design; but this may point to a potential business opportunity.)

If you’re interested in a specific industry, look at what potential customers in that industry are talking about. Is there an unmet need you can fill?

Ask your social media followers what they need

If you have a social media following, consider surveying your own community to get ideas. Polysleep uses this technique to solicit feedback on new products.

“When we launched our new product, the Aura, we were hesitant between three names,” Jeremiah says. So the Polysleep team decided to survey its followers on social media.

The tactic proved successful, helping the company settle on a name, leading Jeremiah to make the practice standard.

“We started using that data to make business decisions driven by … real people, consumers in the market,” Jeremiah says.

Investigate the tasks you avoid

“Look at things you’re avoiding,” Noah advises entrepreneurs.

“I’ve been avoiding hanging up this painting at my house. It’s literally on the floor, it’s been about a month. And there’s a lot of other things that I’ve been avoiding in the house.”

How could a business solve this problem? “It would be really nice to have a house manager,” Noah says, working part time or as needed. 

Tips for brainstorming business ideas

Here are a few tips to get you started in the brainstorming process:

Be your own customer

For Hatch founder Ariane Goldman, her first pregnancy—and the lack of stylish maternity clothes available—was the inspiration for her business.

“It just dawned on me that if I was looking for a solution or even a brand that could be my friend through this unknown next step, that other women must have been looking for the same solutions,” Ariane told Shopify Masters.

“My journey has been about, ‘What do I need? And if it’s not out there, how do I fulfill that need?” Ariane says. “In speaking to my needs, I was able to create a brand that was speaking to other women like me.”

Being able to tap into the customer’s point of view will serve you beyond the brainstorming stage and into the brand-building phase of starting a business.

Keep an open mind

Brainstorming allows you to be open-minded and allow yourself to explore ideas.

“You have to open yourself up,” Ariane says. “Allow the creativity and the evolution of areas and categories and relationships to impact the brand and be open-minded, because there’s no business plan that you’re going to start on day one that’s going to be followed through exactly.”

In the brainstorming phase, write everything down, and keep your ideas organized so you can find them later. Let your business idea evolve throughout the process of building your company, but also know that you may end up returning to an earlier idea.

Just get started

“You don’t need to spend more money, you don’t need to spend more time, to actually build a million-dollar business,” Noah says.

Rather than spend months (or years) researching your business idea and soliciting feedback, Noah suggests calling a friend to get feedback on an idea.

“Get them to preorder your [product], and find out very quickly if it’s a business you actually want to pursue,” says Noah.

That approach worked for Gourmet Délice, cofounder of the a la carte artist management service BonSound. “We didn’t think much about the future when we started,” Gourmet says. “It was just like, ‘We need something now.’”

Many entrepreneurs acquire skills and knowledge on the job. “Start where you are and just advance,” he says.

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Brainstorming business ideas FAQ

How do I start brainstorming businesses?

If you’re unsure how to come up with possible business ideas, look at some of the problems you face in your daily life. Chances are somebody else out there has the same problem and would pay for an innovative solution.

What should be avoided in brainstorming?

Don’t dismiss what seem like silly ideas during brainstorming. The goal is to come up with as many ideas as possible; you can be critical later. Remember, there are no bad ideas.

How long should a brainstorming session last?

Keep your brainstorming sessions brief—about 10 minutes long to start. If you can’t get your creative juices flowing within that time, take a break and come back later.

How do you evaluate potential business ideas?

Once you have one idea you like (or several), run a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis identifies the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a business model.

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