So you have a business idea. That's a great first step, but there's lots more to do. You have weeks, months, or even years of research, planning, and hard work ahead of you before your idea becomes a viable business. Before you start, you need to find out if your idea is worth pursuing.
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A great idea isn't enough to start a new business; it's just the first step. You need careful research and detailed planning to be successful. Don't invest your time and money into an idea without doing your research – plan before you act.
Before you go any further, make sure you can answer "yes" to all four of these questions:
Is your idea original?
If someone has already produced a better or cheaper version of your idea, stop right now. Without a major differentiator, there's no point in pursuing it further.
Find out if someone else got there first:
- Search the Canadian Patents Database for free on the Canadian Intellectual Property Office website
- Search the United States Patent and Trademark Office website
- Check stores, catalogues, and the Internet
- Check trade associations and trade publications in the same industry
- Go to trade shows and talk to others in the industry
- Search business and popular media publications
Can your idea be produced and distributed?
Make sure you can bring your idea to life and get it into the hands of your customers. You have three options for producing and distributing your product:
1. Do your own production and distribution
- You take on all the financial risk
- You need to have the right systems and infrastructure in place, which can be expensive
- You maintain control and retain any profits
2. Sell your idea to a large established company
- They already have the systems and know-how
- They are unlikely to buy an idea from an outsider
- They are more risk-averse
- They need to sell larger quantities
3. Sell your idea to a small to medium-sized company
- They don't have as many support systems as a large company
- They are often more willing to accept outside ideas
- They are comfortable with smaller quantities
Will people pay money for your idea?
This is the most important question for potential backers. If you don't have a market, you don't have a product.
It's a hard question to answer – even the most successful companies have flops. Here are just some of the considerations:
- Where is your market located?
- Is the market concentrated or dispersed?
- Could the size of the market change suddenly?
- Will your competition drive you out of the market?
Can you protect your idea?
Once you're sure you can make and sell your new product, think about how you will legally protect it. Can you obtain a patent? To find out, start here:
- Find out everything you can about the patent application process. Get a patent information booklet from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), visit your local library, or use Business Link’s research services.
- Contact a patent attorney or agent to get a "state of the art" patent search. A state of the art search isn't as detailed as a formal patent search, so use it as a starting point for further research.
- Decide if you will pay a patent attorney or agent to create your patent application for you. Contact an agent to discuss the process, benefits, and potential costs of leveraging their professional experience.
And that's just the beginning. Now that you've made it through the first four questions, here are just some of the other factors you'll have to plan for:
- Legal issues
- Environmental impact
- Societal impact
- Potential market
- Product life cycle
- Consumer learning
- Product visibility
- New competition
- Functional feasibility
- Production feasibility
- Stability of demand
- Consumer/user compatibility
- Marketing research
- Development status
- Investment costs
- Trend of demand
- Product line potential
- Payback period
- Product interdependence
- Research and development
- Potential sales
- Existing competition
- Perceived function
Still have questions?
Talk to our team. We'll help you find the answers you need.Contact us