Growth & Customers

How to find the perfect business idea by studying growing trends

When you’ve decided that you want to be master of your own destiny and start your own business, you need to find the perfect business idea for you.

For one, what sort of small business do you want to create? Is there anything that you feel your business would do, for example, change the way you live? Or improve someone’s lifestyle? Make a medical breakthrough?

These are some of the questions entrepreneurs think about when planning their new business idea.

There are also other obvious questions to address. For instance, will the business be commercially viable? Will it make any money? Where will I get the funding? How many people should I employ? These are all questions to cover before thinking whether your new business will change peoples’ lives and make you rich.

How do you spot a trend?

Most entrepreneurs start by assessing current business trends. They do this by listening to the news, reading industry-specific research, talking to friends, family, other entrepreneurs or drawing on their own personal work experience. They also use their financial data to gain better business insight.

Case study: Ugly Drinks

Hugh Thomas and his friend Joe Benn set up Ugly Drinks in 2015. Thomas’ inspiration for his business stemmed from a shift in public opinion for healthier sugar free drinks, with little or no artificial sweeteners.

At that time, the NHS were highlighting the chronic diabetes and obesity levels in the UK amongst the nation, but particularly amongst children.

Thomas and Benn also worked in the drinks industry for coconut water brand Vita Coco, and they noticed people were looking for the option of a drink without sugar or sweetener in it, but wasn’t water and still had a flavour. Hence Ugly Drinks came about.

Thomas says: “Our mission is to make healthy drinks accessible to as many people as possible, geographically and through the price…There should be a choice for consumers. We are filling the gap between water and traditional fizzy drinks, and it still gives you that ‘cold can’ moment.”

Ugly Drinks can be found at various stockists across England including fashionable UK department store Selfridges, health-food chain Holland & Barrett, Wholefoods Market and Planet Organic to name but a few.

Entrepreneurs Hugh Thomas and Joe Benn capitalised on public sentiment surrounding sugar levels in the UK and the need for a healthier lifestyle. If you were starting a business now what trends would you look to? Perhaps starting a Brexit consultancy; a gluten-free bakery or an SEO/marketing business?

Hayley Ard, head of consumer lifestyle at innovation research and trends company, Stylus says a good place to start, is by looking at “The trends that last are deeply useful, meaningful and accessible. Ask yourself what problem this trend solves, how big the problem is and how well does it solve it?

Another hallmark of a lasting trend is its ability to reduce uncertainty and complexity. Look for signs of tension and the trends that alleviate them.”

Finding a business idea from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Jon Shaw, of trends and innovation studio Future Filter, says another way to spot a trend is “To look at trends through the filter of human needs. Maslow’s hierarchy is a good filter to use when judging an idea or opportunity. If the trends points towards a human need it is more likely to be successful.”

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. Maslow stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others.

Shaw says: “Sustainability is a key macro-trend. So, any business which reduces material or re-uses waste has an advantage. I think OOHo, the biodegradable water container, is an incredible product because it replaces plastic. Connected living is another huge macro-trend. Apps are a big opportunity area too.”

Do you have what it takes to spot a business trend?

Dr Emma Folmer, lecturer in entrepreneurship at Aston Business School believes that one of the reasons why entrepreneurs start up a business, and are successful at what they do is because “They identify a problem and want to solve it. For example, a problem in society is unhealthy eating, so why not create a business focussed on ‘clean’ or ‘healthy’ eating.

“They also want to solve practical problems, for example, an ageing population or making society more sustainable. Entrepreneurs also want to combine their product or business with convenience. For instance, from my experience, subscription services are a very popular trend at the moment, like Hello Fresh – healthy eating boxes of food delivered to you.

“Next year we should look out for more start-ups created around the themes of sustainability, convenience and affordability”, says Dr Folmer.

Aston University in Birmingham runs its own business incubator for start-ups called ‘BSeen’. Dr Folmer says at this incubator, many of the entrepreneurs try to create businesses that address social problems or inequality within society.

Case study: Class Careers

Aston University graduate Christos Orthodoxou, set up Class Careers to end inequality in careers education. The business connects employers to young people in school classrooms across the country through live online workshops.

Focusing on school leaver programmes and apprenticeships, Orthodoxou aims to raise awareness of the different career paths and opportunities available to young people as an alternative to university.

By connecting young people directly with employers, Class Careers are able to facilitate meaningful chats and, in turn, raise awareness and drive applications. Chris is currently working with Lloyds Banking Group and PwC, with previous clients including Sky, Pinsent Masons and M&S.

Class Careers has won a number of awards since it was founded, including Baldwin’s £10,000 Kickstart Youth Entrepreneur Award, BSEEN Social Impact Award and the SE ‘Passion’ category award from Social Enterprise West Midlands.

Ready to get started?

Here are the five key ways to identify a trend and find your perfect business idea.

  1. It meets a basic need.
  2. It’s relevant to your customers’ lives.
  3. It fits your brand.
  4. The trend is repeated across many fields. (Like sustainability for example).
  5. It has got the attention of competitors. (Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!)