Start a project

We'd love to hear about your project. Please fill out this form to provide us with the necessary details.

Thank you! Your submission has been received! Our team will get back to you within 24 hours.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Lean Startup

I want to start a business, but have no ideas

Read in light mode
Read in dark mode
“I want to start a business but have no ideas” is a common dilemma, but this blog provides a solid roadmap for aspiring entrepreneurs to develop and execute on a great business idea.

Are you ready to leap into entrepreneurship but need to figure out what business to start? You’re not alone. Many would-be entrepreneurs are prepared to do business for themselves but need an idea.

Businesses and their products are really about solving problems for people. Ideally, the problem you solve is one you’ve experienced yourself, and nothing in the market solves that pain point yet. A comprehensive business plan is essential for securing financing, determining the viability of your business idea, and serving as a roadmap for success.

This article will provide an actionable plan for people who have thought, “I want to start a business but have no ideas.”

Focus on personal pain points for your business idea

As mentioned above, products and the businesses that create them exist to solve a problem. Movie studios help you solve boredom. Restaurants help you solve hunger. Design studios help you solve needing excellent design when you lack the skills.

When ideating a new business venture, it’s best to start with problems you’ve identified in your own life. Whether it’s something related to your home or work life, think of the frustrations you feel daily and make note of them. These will be the seeds for the product and business idea you want to pursue. Understanding your potential customers is crucial when identifying business ideas, as their feedback and insights can help validate and refine your concepts.

One mistake I see many entrepreneurs make is trying to solve someone else’s problem. When you’re trying to solve a problem that you don’t have, it makes it more difficult to empathize with the situation and think of viable solutions that will work to solve that problem. One example of this that is quite common is people building products for restaurants, even though they’ve never worked in a restaurant before. The industry works on the tightest of margins, and selling software or anything else that doesn’t directly contribute to revenue for the restaurant will be a near-impossible sell to restaurant owners.

Focus on your problems - there are

Vitamins versus Painkillers

When considering the problem you want to solve, focus on its severity. Are you solving a problem people need to solve or something they want to solve?

The analogy often used is vitamins versus painkillers. Vitamins are nice products, but people don’t need them. Painkillers, on the other hand, are a product people need. You want to be in the business of selling painkillers, not vitamins. Successful businesses often solve significant problems, making them indispensable to their customers.

I’ve made this mistake before. My startup, Taskable, ultimately was a vitamin product. People wanted a better productivity tool that helped them plan their day, but no one needed it. We could create an excellent business out of it, but it would never be a vast startup success.

Validate the problem you're going to solve for potential customers

Sure, you might have the problem. But does anyone else? Before building a product or business, go out and validate the problem with your target market. Talk to potential customers about issues they might have, and see if they talk about the situation the same way you might.

At all costs, you should avoid sharing your ideas and asking what people think. People, especially friends and family, will lie to you. They won’t say to your face, “That’s a dumb idea,” which will lead you down the wrong path. The Mom Test is a great guide to avoid getting bad results while validating your idea - the gist is to ask people questions about your idea and let them tell you that they have the problem and are in the market for a solution.

Checklist for starting a business

For example, at Peak Digital Studio, we wanted to solve the problem of getting affordable design and website development without substantial upfront costs, which is a problem that I experienced in my daily life. Before starting Peak, I talked to people about their issues accessing affordable design to validate our idea. I avoided asking, “Is a subscription design service a good idea?” Instead, I would ask how their business or non-profit gets their design work done, what it costs, and how they feel about existing solutions. I found many people who experienced the problem like I did were actively looking for a better solution. Hearing people express the same issue made me believe we were on the right track.

Keep focusing on the problem, not the solution

Another massive mistake entrepreneurs make is focusing on the solution more than the problem. Thinking of the product you want to build is more fun, but this can often lead to the wrong product to solve that problem.

Focusing on the problem rather than the solution allows you to understand it at a fundamental level. A single problem might have several different solutions. Before you build the first solution you think of, make sure you’ve considered all of them and go with the best one based on your research. This deep understanding can help you develop a viable business model that aligns with your goals.

Build a minimum viable product for your business

Another mistake entrepreneurs make is spending too much time, money, and energy building out an entire product or business before validating their idea, which is the most costly mistake you can make.

When you have an idea for a solution, it’s best to start small. What’s the most straightforward product you can build to ensure the solution solves the problem and is something people are willing to pay for?

One example would be if you’re considering starting a restaurant. Instead of going brick and mortar and paying a bunch to retrofit a space, why not start smaller? Host a dinner party with dishes you want to serve in your restaurant. Then, see if a local bar or restaurant will let you do a popup and see if you can market it and drive customers to it. If that’s a success, you could have a booth at a local festival or in the farmers market. Then graduate to a food truck. And if you keep finding success, it’s time to graduate to an entire brick-and-mortar restaurant space.

In essence, start with the easiest, cheapest thing you can to ensure your solution solves the problem, and then scale it up if you keep finding success. Having a solid marketing strategy is crucial during this phase to effectively reach and attract your target market through various channels.


Creating a solid business idea is the first step toward starting your own business. Focus on the problems you experience on a daily basis, and make sure other people share those problems with you. Talk to as many people as you can, and see how they describe the problem and whether the existing solutions are lacking. Then, start with the quickest, easiest solution you can and keep scaling up.

Look to successful entrepreneurs for inspiration and guidance as you establish and grow your business.

Matthew Johnson

Published on

March 8, 2024