Happy Easter my friend!
A few moments ago I was in bed counting my blessings, when I remembered I hadn’t yet written to you. Guess what, I jolted out of bed – not dragged myself out – to grab my laptop. Why? Because I am so excited about the current series of blogs I have been posting. If you are new here, welcome! You know how some people want to start their own businesses but don’t know how to go about it? My goal is to help such people start their businesses. If this is you, read my last two blog posts first please. Today, I am explaining how to test if your business idea is viable.
Last week, I shared on how to choose a business idea to start with. Now you have chosen your business idea, what next? Start your business! That simple? Yes. Start by identifying your target market (more on this next week please). Then create your product/service with your target customer in mind. When you are done, create your Minimum Viable Product (MVP, I will explain this shortly), sell and evaluate.
Creating with your target market in mind
The design thinking process is probably the easiest model to explain so I’ll use it. Design thinking is simply solving problems creatively. David M. Kelley of IDEO is often credited with inventing the term “design thinking” and its practice.
Let me first mention that in real life, the process may not (in fact will likely not) follow exactly as below. However, each step mentioned is super important when creating a new product. It goes like this: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test.
Say my business idea is to create a wellness company to help corporate women have a healthier lifestyle. I will empathise by talking to a few people in my target market. My goal is to understand their problems, needs and desires. For instance, assuming I have the opportunity to chat with Emefa who is a lawyer. I will ask questions pertaining to her daily habits/routines in terms of her health. See a summary of her response (hypothetical) below:
Hmm I wish I could exercise but I am always so busy! I have paid a subscription for a gym but never step there! I never get the time to
4.00am woke up to get breakfast and the kids ready for school
6.45am dropped kids at school
7.30am reported to work, hastily drank Hausa Kooko with 4 koose for breakfast
7.45am started work meetings
1.00pm had lunch, kenkey and fried fish
1.20pm resumed work meetings
7.00pm closed and joined the usual traffic
8.30pm picked kids from mum’s and went home
9.00pm ate some small jollof and pasta salad while studying for final exams. I drank slim tea afterwards
11.00pm dozed off behind my books
I really wish I could exercise, but there is clearly no time. My last medical report says I’m overweight and getting close to obesity. I have been trying to lose weight for so long but nothing is working. I don’t know if it is the food I am not eating right or if I am not drinking enough slim tea. Someone at work said I am not eating right but I don’t know what to eat. Besides, I don’t even have time to cook my own meals, I am always busy.
This description by Emefa is gold to my wellness company idea. If I can interview a few more women like her, it will be just amazing.
Now the next step is to Define. Based on the information Emefa has shared with me, what are her problems, needs or desires. Here are a few I listed.
Wants to workout but doesn’t have enough time.
Overweight and doesn’t know what to make her reduce.
Cannot cook own meals.
Does not know what healthy eating entails.
Gets home tired and still has to study.
After defining the problem, I have to come up with as many creative solutions as possible. Again, here are a few:
Teach quick workouts to do throughout the day while still going about normal duties.
Wake up 30 minutes earlier to workout at home with a video.
Teach her techniques on how she can reduce her weight.
Have healthy meals prepared for her weekly/daily.
Teach her what healthy meals mean.
Teach her stress management techniques.
Give her a weight reduction pill.
It is super important at this stage to allow your creative juices to flow. Write down whichever idea pops into your head whether it’s crazy or not. When you are done ideating, you can then choose which solution to start with. Remember, you cannot solve all of her problems at this time.
Build samples QUICKLY to test your ideas. The keyword here is quickly. A prototype is a sample you build early to test your idea. It may not be functional in terms of usage, however it should be enough to explain the concept to someone. You may use a storyboard or a role play for a service. If it is a product, then you can use a picture or something that looks/feels like it.
For my wellness business idea, I am choosing the solution of delivering healthy meals to Emefa. I may get a picture of a salad with distinct items in them. Then I will prepare to ask her questions to ascertain whether such a product will be helpful to her.
In this final stage of the design thinking process, I will show the prototype to Emefa as explained above.
Test the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) on your target market and evaluate
Now, this is the moment of truth. First let me explain what the MVP is in simple terms using my proposed solution to Emefa above. You see how the prototype presented to her was a picture of a bowl of salad? Well, the MVP will be an actual bowl of salad which can be sold to her. It will be the first product I make and sell, yet I will still be testing the idea. Based on the feedback I get from the first batch of sales I make, I can evaluate and improve. The final product will DEFINITELY be a modification of the MVP. Actually changes will keep happening in the lifetime of a product. Just look around you and notice popular products you have grown to love.
So basically, you know your idea is viable when people are willing to buy your products/services. I really hope I have done justice on this subject: how to test if your business idea is viable. God willing next week, I will share on how to identify your target market. For now, tell me please; did you understand my write up?
PS: Do you need help to plan, execute and achieve your business goals? I have created Group Coaching For Startups to help you do just that. Over 40 women have benefited from this program already. Currently, I am recruiting the 5th Cohort which starts in the first week of April. If this is for you, read and sign up here: Group Coaching For Startups.
Photo by: Vera Obeng Photography