Spotting entrepreneurial opportunities

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Entrepreneurs are known to spot and exploit opportunities but the challenge, mostly for aspiring business owners, is where to find such a moment or situation in which something entrepreneurial can be done.

The good news is that opportunities are everywhere. What sometimes needs to change is how and where you look for one. Some words, used or spoken around us daily, are good opportunity pointers if probed further. To spot real entrepreneurial opportunities, pay attention to the following words:

Pain: If it causes you or other people around you pain, and relief or solution doesn’t seem close or available, that is an opportunity to find creative ways to relief or take away the pain. Check out this post by Nathan Furr on Forbes, which describes monetizable pain as a secret to entrepreneurial success.

Difficult: What do you find difficult or what do people complain about as difficult to do or use? What are you putting off because of its difficulty? Making things simple to do or use might be the break you have been looking for. Check out this article by the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation for more on simplification.

Untouched: Is there something you know has never been done before but can be a money maker or touch lives? There might be a significant amount of risks to this but it is in big problems that you find big opportunities. You have to be willing to try new things as explained by this author.

Abandoned: Sometimes not thinking about why it was abandoned but what can be done with what has been abandoned can lead you to an entrepreneurial opportunity. Abandoned community buildings can inspire a social enterprise that meets the need of a community such as what “Lola” does.


Norms: Have you heard someone say to you –“This is the only way to do it because this is how we have been doing it”? If you have, congratulations! There is your big opportunity to break the rule by doing it differently. Conventional wisdom isn’t always right and can be defied just as these entrepreneurs did.

Embarrassing: How does it sound to describe what you do as” I clean bins” or “I recycle elephant poop for a living”? Disgusting right? Now, those are real money-making businesses for people who did not think so. The internet is filled with stories of people who took on embarrassing stuff and made a successful business out of it, such as what Tim Stone did with a pooper scooper.

Old: If it is an old concept, there is an opportunity to bring it back and make it new. Recycling of old ideas in a better way saves some entrepreneurs the time to search endlessly for what has never been done before, when an old idea is staring at them in the face that can be brought back to market. Find how to do this here.

Bordered: Think of boundaries and how to extend it with a niche product. All products and services have a boundary i.e. people they don’t serve. How can you extend the product or service functionality for those additional ignored people or clients? How can you extend a design to cater for or serve more people? An opportunity can be lurking there.

Fragmented: If it is broken, it is an opportunity to start a business or enterprise to fix it. Some entrepreneurs look for brokerage opportunities and leveraged it to make a living- connecting needs with resources as a business. Anywhere you find two businesses or communities that can work together, but are not, to solve a new problem, that is an area of real entrepreneurial opportunity for you to see how you can mediate between the two in meeting the need.

Complex: I believe nothing should be too complex to use nowadays. Anything too complex put most people off and reduces the switching cost to clearer product or service. Is there anything you strongly feel can be made simpler or is too difficult to access? That might be an area of entrepreneurial opportunity, for you to simplify or make it easily accessible such as what these startups are doing for the disabled.

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In conclusion, while these words can lead to the “Aha” moment you have been searching for, I must add that you can’t just run with every idea that seems to you like a brilliant opportunity. You still have to do the basics, which is to test those light-bulb moments first. Talk to people (friends, family and strangers) about it and gauge their interest levels. If they feel strongly, like you do about the gap, that gives the opportunity more validity for further experimentation, while turning those people into your first product or service users.

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