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We’ve all had crazy ideas. Some turn into business ventures, but many are left as just a thought or a plan scribbled down on a napkin.
Seth Godin said, “When Gutenberg invented the book, many could not read.” From Google’s search engine to the iPod, all of the greatest brands and inventions began with an idea. Many, at the time, thought to be ‘crazy’ ideas.
How do you know if your idea is just the right amount of crazy, but worthwhile enough to still turn into a viable business option?
We wanted to hear some of those crazy business ideas, even the ones that got tossed aside, so we went to our community of Small Business Experts – CEOs, founders, specialists and business owners across North America.
We asked them,
“What is the craziest business idea you’ve ever had? Bonus points if the idea was first written down on a napkin!”
As expected, we received some great answers!
From mining diamonds on Jupiter to Vegan McDonald’s, we’ve compiled our favorite responses below.
Dream big, but think viable.
I have a notebook from when I was twelve years old where I wrote all my business ideas as a kid. One of the ideas was to mine for diamonds on Jupiter where the atmosphere is so dense it naturally creates diamonds constantly.
Matthew Davis, President and Thought Leader of Virtustructure Inc
It’s true. We google’d it.
According to National Geographic, 10 million tons of diamonds may be stored in Saturn and Jupiter. Researchers say, “In the far distant future, robotic probes could possibly mine these diamonds in the deep atmospheres of these gas giants.”
It’s such a great idea, but with some quick analysis, we can determine that mining diamonds on Jupiter isn’t an affordable, or possible, business plan in the near future.
Industry experience only helps.
I once was just thinking of business ideas that would generate some side cash flow, but not require me to run it full time. This was when the “once a month boxes” were big. I landed on trying to mail seeds once a month for flowers, plants, vegetables, etc. I figured you could buy them in bulk, easily ship them, etc. I know zero about agriculture so decided not to pursue it.
Mike Preuss, CEO & Co-Founder of VisibleVC
Sometimes great ideas can come from just looking at how specific industries are run today.
Sure, with the Internet, you can learn anything on the fly, but if you actually have first-hand experience, you’ll have a much better shot at executing on your business idea.
The best ideas could be right in front of you.
It’s often simple tasks such as cleaning, exercising, or showering that can produce the most creative results.
Watermelon Juice: Everyone loves watermelon, but it’s complicated to cut open and consume. Would be a really refreshing summer treat!
Josh Bland, Digital Media Specialist at TechnologyAdvice
The Associate Editor at Mental Floss, Lucus Reilly, says, “Since these routines don’t require much thought, you flip to autopilot. This frees up your unconscious to work on something else. Your mind goes wandering, leaving your brain to quietly play a no-holds-barred game of free association.”
When you’re doing something monotonous, you’re more likely to have that crazy epiphany!
There’s truth to the adage that great ideas are discovered in the shower. ‘Heightened creativity in the shower’ is backed by science.
Don’t leave your crazy idea’s destiny to chance; you can learn how to be more creative.
Not sure if this qualifies as crazy, but definitely a deviation from Xen Accounting. Before starting Xen Accounting, I was close to starting a professional DJ school in Montreal (being a former DJ myself).
Ryan Lazanis, CPA, CA, Xen Master of Xen Accounting Inc.
There are techniques you can practice to increase your chances of coming across a great idea. Creativity, problem-solving and idea generation are all acquired skills that can be developed and strengthened. Get training with these 18 Best Idea Generation Techniques.
Need more help coming up with an idea? Here’s How to Come Up with a Business Idea in 4 Steps.
Determine if your idea is unique
When I was a kid, I convinced myself that I thought of everlasting bubble gum before that other guy, Willy, did.
Max Yoder, CEO and Co-Founder of Lesson.ly
Your first step after that eureka moment is to find out if the idea’s been done before. A quick Google search will narrow down your ideas by learning about what’s already out there.
Sometimes our crazy ideas are so great that someone has already thought of it and implemented it. If it has, do you have something better to offer? How will you compete with an already established company?
All ideas, even crazy ones, need to be validated.
Our first corporate retreat was camping out in one of Nova Scotia’s national parks. Chad saw a bunch of camper vans there and thought it’d be pretty cool if we were to get an RV, turn it into a mobile office and drive across Canada running an accounting firm. The idea is still in the works!
Josh Zweig, Co-Founder of LiveCa
So you’ve scoured the Internet, and there’s no sign of your big, crazy idea. You’re going to be rich! … But only if people are willing to pay you.
10 Ways to Know If You’ve Got a Great Business Idea from Business News Daily explains that just a fraction of new businesses last more than two years.
Will people pay for it? Ask around. Begin with your family and closest friends. Is this a product or service you would pay for? Is this a product or service you could see other people paying for?
If your idea can make it past your friends and family, it’s time to do some market research. Use this Practical Market Research Resource for Entrepreneurs to get started.
The story of the Post-it note is a perfect example of a crazy little idea that turned into a product that now generates over $1B in revenue each year for 3M.
Vegan McDonalds – it’s crazy because of the sheer size of the idea. Of course, one day I will probably make it happen 😉
Shrad Rao, CEO of Wagepoint
We realize there are many stages involved in successfully launching a business, but coming up with a promising idea is the very first step and validating it for viability and profitability is equally important.
The original idea, crazy or not, is what every other business decision you make will need to lean on.
So, what’s your craziest, napkin-worthy business idea? Let us know in a comment below or tweet us @Wagepoint.