I briefly discussed zero sum game two posts ago in, Feeling Lost When You’re the Driver.”  IF you believe in this theory, I don’t think you can survive business. I don’t think you can survive much in life with this sort of application. It’s not healthy. There is always room in the market for everyone. Your growth, or any other player growing, does not inherently correlate to your loss or vice versa. Someone may do something better than you, but there is not one player that can do everything better than everyone. As long as you are open to new ideas and are invested in quality, there is no competition. Diversity in the marketplace is good! So do not be intimidated or think there is not enough market share…that is unless there is over-saturation.

So how do you know if your business idea is just like the others? Are there already too many businesses like yours? Is it even worth attempting? How do you get started and what steps can you take to begin its development? Let’s mapquest your business idea. It’s not a GPS, but it will get you closer. We’ll go over a series of questions that will help determine if that idea you’ve got is not only fully fleshed out but maybe begin exploring if it’s finally worth starting. I’m full of ideas, let’s play with this one: The Mobile Playground.

Firstly, what’s your idea? Flesh it out as if you are explaining it to an alien with no conception of modern, human life.

American kids are inundated with various new toys, gadgets, and activities that once purchased become recyclable within a week. Attention spans are shorter than your patience. You want to keep them moving, interacting, and engaged but you have no energy to go to the park, they aren’t interested in their toys, and you can’t think of an affordable activity within in a 5 mile radius. What do you do? You feel guilty sitting them in front of the tv or phone and/or they may have already been doing that for the last 2 hours. So why not rent a customizable truck that has playrooms set-up for playing house, restaurant, inflatable bounce house things, etc. These are options for those who may live in apartments, condos, or not have much space in their homes. For those who do, you can rent and pay for the set-up of activities like mini golf, a medium size swimming pool, bowling, etc. Your kids get the experience, and you save space and money! Whether you’ve got the kids for the weekend, or are all out of birthday party ideas; Mobile Playground gives you options without the stress and it all comes to you.

Who is your customer?

Children 2 to 12…and exhausted parents/guardians.

Who are your competitors?

Jump Zone, Chuckie Cheese’s, Discovery Zone, Dave & Buster’s, and bowling alleys.

Why your service? What makes yours different?

Variety and convenience! Just go to any person’s home who has children under the age of 10 and you will see a wasteland of toys, playhouses, etc that haven’t been used in weeks. It would be so much cheaper and efficient to be able to “rent” a themed truck for a few hours where kids can play with new toys, or have an interactive experience like an inflatable house for the weekend without having to deal with storage or maintenance. Depending on how long you rent, everything is gone and cleaned up and out of your space for you. This idea is so unique and because the amount of homes of working professionals is only growing, guilt-free convenience is the easiest thing to cash in on.

Now, if you have an idea that may have too much market saturation, is there a way to change your demographic? For an example, you want to open a hair salon targeted towards women and men of color. Why not open a hair salon for children? Do you know how exhausting it is to wash a little black girl’s hair and then style it?! I don’t wish it on my worst enemy. Or, maybe you want to open an Ethiopian restaurant in a city like Washington, DC. You know damn well there are a million of them already, but you’re convinced it was what you were meant to do. Why not consider the melting pot of the city and begin exploring a fusion of Ethiopian & Latin American cuisine? Misir papusas, anyone?

How do you market it?

Daycares, Yelp, and Facebook.  

How much will it cost to start and operate?

At first, if there’s no seed or start up money, a moving truck can be rented and the entertainment flavors can be kept to a variety of about 3-5 options. Because everything will be cleaned and reused, and little to no expertise for set-up will be required, a low overhead can be maintained. A storage unit can be rented to keep all the toys and equipment. And before transitioning full-time, operation hours can initially be Saturdays and Sundays. Considering this is when I would assume most business would occur, this works well with maintaining a full time job; thus not having to keep anyone on payroll. The importance of low overhead can not be overstated. It’s incredible how operation costs can easily add up, whether for the convenience or the assumption, the less you have to spend on space, utilities, and professional staff the better.  YOU MUST BE MISERLY. You will not be paying yourself first because you’re not going to be paid at all. So if you have any idea of that, get it out of your head now.

What’s your bottom line?

Honestly, the financial bottom line at the beginning may be your framework for how you move. This is especially so if you are juggling a full-time job and/or have no outside investors. Is this a passion project for you or are you looking to make the kind of money Karl Marx would find you deplorable for? I’m going to be honest, unless you love the idea, you will find it easy to quit. Because, again, at the beginning you will not make any money. You will be working for free, and you will be investing your time, money, and energy into something that may not even cover cost initially. So by bottom line, beyond the finances, beyond what your profit and loss reports look like; can you find the energy to work either for free or at a loss?

My motivating factor, the “it” factor, was and is the love of my father. I believe in his dream and my investment into what could give him a comfortable retirement. For you, it may be that you genuinely love the service or product. Or, maybe, you are fulfilling what you believe to be your purpose. This helps, immensely. Because, entrepreneurship is a love unrequited.

If you fail, will you regret having tried or be happy that you did?

If you think you may regret having put time and money into an idea, then just don’t start. Many businesses fail, or ideas become harder than you thought to execute. And, at the end of it all, you have to walk away with growth. Resentment will not allow you to leverage an experience for something greater. If you maintain that it is easier to recover from financial risk, than regret, then there is hope. Conviction will be your solace. If you do not believe in your product or service, then move on. Not all ideas are worth implementation. It’s okay to work for someone else, particularly if your strengths can be stronger felt in a collective. That may be your lane. For all others, do not lose sight. Remember your destination and hold steadfast that your diligence will get you where you are meant to be. You are where you are meant to be.

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