In my last post, I talked about the common perception that businesses are only worth pursuing if it involves something innovative or if it can be a multi-million dollar business. I actually think that with first-time entrepreneurs, especially younger ones, there is some wisdom in encouraging them to pursue less-complex opportunities. Because there are so many aspects of starting and running a business that can’t be anticipated, it is rare to see an entrepreneur “truly succeed” with his or her first venture. The ones that do succeed have products or services that evolve from the original concept.
I am guest lecturing at the University of Ljubljana this semester and am helping with an introduction to entrepreneurship course. Yesterday after class, a student approached me and asked, “Why do good businesses have to involve innovation and new products?” I get this type of question often, and it appears to be fairly universal.
While innovation and new products are part of it, entrepreneurship is really about meeting market needs. The fact is that the market needs car washes and coffee shops just as much as it needs iPods. That’s not to underplay the importance of innovation, but students (and others) should be identifying opportunities based on trends and underserved markets, along with what is of personal interest to them, rather than tossing out business ideas that are not “unique” enough. It may take innovation or a new product to meet a market need, but it may not. And one way isn’t better than the other.