"Business is more exciting than any game."
-- Lord Beaverbrook
When people find out about the work I do helping small businesses, they often say there are just no more opportunities out there. When I hear this, I try very hard not to laugh, but this statement could not be further from the truth.
There are a ton of opportunities out there. It is just a matter of finding a business that has potential.
About two weeks ago, I was in St. Petersburg for a Rays game. As we walked through the parking lot at the stadium, I saw a car advertising a business that -- hold your breath on this one -- picks up dog poop. Yep. For about $10 a week, they come to your house and clean the dog poop out of your yard.
I am sure many of you are saying, "He has got to be making this up!" But I swear it is true. There are actually quite a few of these firms out there. To name just a few examples: Doo Care, Pet Waste Removals, Scoop Masters and Pet Butler. There is even a company called Poo Prints that comes to apartment complexes and matches the DNA of the "sample" to the errant dog so the owner can be reminded to pick up his or her dog's poop or be disciplined.
We can chuckle under our breath at these busi
nesses, but the point is that these are viable ventures started by an entrepreneur who recognized an opportunity. In this case, that was that people are willing to pay someone to come to their homes and pick up poop.
If you are looking to start a business, I strongly recommend focusing on a service. The start-up costs for a service business are so much lower than for a business that provides a product.
I teach entrepreneurship courses to women inmates at the Gadsden Correctional Facility and my students rarely have trouble identifying the businesses they want to start. I think the reason is that they know they need to find something to support themselves and their families and their minds are completely uncluttered by what they are doing now. The only time I decline to help an inmate with a business plan is when it is a good cause (starting a teen center, for example) but they just do not have the funds or expertise to make it happen.
My point is that these women are all behind bars for various reasons, but they can come up with all kinds of neat service businesses without much effort. They simply answer the following questions:
What have you been successful at in the past? What type of business can you run on the weekends or in your home until you get it ramped up? What type of service can you sell to the public? What type of business can you start and keep going on less than $5,000?
The purpose of these questions is to help guide them to viable business ideas that can be successful.
If you are considering starting a business, you should not feel intimidated by the unknown. Rather start with a simple concept, do it well and go from there. Starting and running a service business is not that difficult, and most people are more than capable of doing it.
Jerry Osteryoung, a consultant to businesses, is the Jim Moran professor of entrepreneurship (emeritus) and professor of finance (emeritus) at Florida State University. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.