Playing now

Playing now

7 ways to generate ideas to start a small business

Back to search results

More people are trying their hand at entrepreneurship than ever before.

In 2020, there were six million businesses in the UK – almost double the number in the year 2000.

If you see yourself joining their ranks, you’ll first need to come up with ideas to start a small business.

The simplest rule for any business is that it needs to meet (or create) a demand. If people aren’t interested in buying a product or service, the organisation will be short-lived.

So, here are our seven tips for figuring out what to start a business in. Here’s what we cover:

1. Start with your motivations

2. Solve a problem

3. Build on your existing skills and expertise

4. Look at your hobbies and interests

5. Research demand

6. Do something better or cheaper

7. Look at what’s happening abroad

Dreaming of bossing your own business? Take our quiz to see how ready you are to take the plunge

Launching a business involves a lot of time, effort and determination. You’ll also need to invest your own money in the venture.

So, before even thinking of good ideas to start a business, you should first look at your own reasons for wanting to start a business in the first place.

These could be financial, personal, educational – the list goes on.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Is the goal to make more money?
  • Would you like to solve a specific problem people face?
  • Are you looking for a way of supplementing your income?
  • Do you want to launch the next global corporation?

By figuring out your motivations behind starting a business, you’ll be able to narrow down your ideas.

For instance, if you mainly hope to make money, you might opt for certain industries, such as finance or property, that are likely to generate most wealth.

But if you want to act on your passions, you might choose something that links to your personal interests – be that baking, book binding or blogging.

Many of the world’s most successful business ideas solve a problem that people are facing. Look around you at challenges that people are dealing with.

If you find that there’s an issue you keep on running into, this is a good sign.

With a little ingenuity, you should be able to find a solution to a problem that people will be willing to pay for.

For example, have you noticed that there isn’t a gym in your neighbourhood? If you’re a fitness expert, you could start offering people outdoor exercise classes.

One of the most common ways of starting a business idea in the UK is to build on your existing skills and experience.

Whatever your background, you almost certainly have skills that you could bring to market.

For example, if you’ve worked as a food delivery person, you probably know a lot about how logistics works. You could then offer a specialist courier service to a market that is not yet being served.

Or perhaps your background is in call centres for a big company. You could use your telephone skills to set up a new business offering outsourced customer service for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

One of the best ideas to start a business from home is to look at your own hobbies and interests. This can be a great approach since you are the target market and will know what your audience is after.

If you love video games, for instance, you could set up an esports team.

Or, if you’re green fingered, perhaps you could launch a gardening company.

Finding out what is a good business to start often comes from intensive market research. Once you spot a theme that has potential, you can then build a business around that idea.

There are several ways that you can learn about new trends, including these:

  • Sign up to newsletters from market research companies
  • Get on the mailing list for organisations who try to predict consumer trends
  • Attend trade shows to get a feel for common theme
  • Visit department stores, outdoor markets and online auctions for inspiration

By taking some time to explore markets that have potential to grow in future, you might be able to get in just at the right time.

You don’t always need to come up with a completely new concept when looking for the best markets to start a business in.

Indeed, the most common small businesses in the UK are construction, professional services and wholesale/retail – none of which are hugely ground-breaking.

However, what many of these companies do is to offer something that is simply better or cheaper than what’s available elsewhere.

For instance, there are plenty of companies selling peanut butter. But perhaps you know a way to source peanuts at a lower price than other companies. You would then be able to sell it to your market for less, too.

Looking abroad is a great way of finding good ideas to start a business. By finding out about trends in foreign countries, you might be able to bring those ideas to the UK.

Perhaps you’ve heard about a new fitness dance class that is hugely popular in Brazil – you could try importing this craze to the UK.

Or maybe you fell in love with a little-known pastry you tried on holiday in Morocco. You could try introducing this product to British customers.

Final thoughts

Coming up with a idea is a key part of the business planning process. Working out what type of business you’d like to run might be a lot of fun – and empowering too.

But remember, this is only the beginning.

Up next is the need to execute on your idea – set up your processes, start selling, delight your customers or clients, and make money.

You’ve got this.

Are you ready to be your own boss?

Dreaming of bossing your own business? Take our quiz to see how ready you are to take the plunge.

Take the quiz

Never miss an episode

Subscribe by email and get Sound Advice delivered to your inbox every two weeks with the Sage Advice newsletter with a ton of related articles, templates and problem solving guides for small businesses so you can put our sound advice into practice.

Ask the author a question or share your advice

If you are a customer with a question about a product please visit our Help Centre where we answer customer queries about our products. When you leave a comment on this article, please note that if approved, it will be publicly available and visible at the bottom of the article on this blog. While your email address will not be publicly available, we will collect, store and use it, along with any other personal data you provide as part of your comment, to respond to your queries offline, provide you with customer support and send you information about our products and services as requested. For more information on how Sage uses and looks after your personal data and the data protection rights you have, please read our Privacy Policy.

Sage Advice Logo