Kikkerland, a Dutch design company, hosts an annual Design Challenge, in which students compete to create a product to be sold. Although Kikkerland has a reputation for whimsy, with past products including maraca-shaped cocktail shakers and a barbecue grill that collapses into a suitcase, this year’s winner is surprisingly utilitarian. The Cable Loft is a charger cable organizer that can attach to the edge of a desk. It’s not the kind of design that turns heads, but it is a simple solution to a consumer need.
The lesson of the Cable Loft: good ideas can be boring. Too many entrepreneurs today, while looking for a need to fill, forget that many problems are best solved by simple solutions. Additionally, the Cable Loft is only one product in a long line of cable organizing products. But business ideas don’t need to fit into a new, never-before-conceived niche. Clever entrepreneurs can get the same payoff (if not the same attention) by presenting an improved solution to an already-explored problem. If you see an already-established company doing well despite consumer complaints, there might be a market for you with those peeved customers.
Some people shy away from boring business ideas, worried that they themselves will be bored. After all, why take the risk of entrepreneurship if you’re not going to be passionate about what you’re doing? But the truth is, just because an idea doesn’t make good conversation at cocktail parties doesn’t mean that it won’t be exciting to pursue it. Every start-up presents its founder with hundreds of new challenges and learning opportunities. Entrepreneurship is very rarely boring.
So how do you find (and bring to fruition) the perfect boring business idea? First, naturally, look for a problem to solve. This problem does not have to be huge, and neither does it have to be one that no one has ever tried to solve before. Rather, find one that falls within your personal interest and past experience. Are you passionate about music? Your family? Cooking? Healthcare? Think about the needs in your life that are not adequately satisfied by current products.
Then, develop a plan. Build your knowledge of the field. Make sure you have a strong understanding of finance. Failure to understand basic financial concepts has been the downfall of many entrepreneurial ventures. Think ahead. Be prepared.
Solid, successful businesses don’t need to start with bright ideas. They need to start with smart ones.