lady startup

5 no-BS tips for testing to see if your side hustle idea will work.

“Is my business idea any good?”     

That’s the number one question we get asked at Lady Startup HQ.

Lady what now

The Lady Startup movement and community all started with Mamamia co-founder Mia Freedman. 

Mamamia began as a Lady Startup in Mia’s lounge room in 2007. As a female business owner herself, now 14 years on, Mia wanted to continue helping women to put a rocket up their business dreams.

So Lady Startup grew into a hashtag, then an Instagram, then a podcast, and even into a whole series of online courses for women who want to start or grow their own businesses, micro-businesses, hobby businesses or side-hustles.

Listen to Lady Startup Stories, to hear how some of the most inspiring and successful female entrepreneurs built their businesses from the ground up. Post continues below.

No matter the industry or business type, one of the most common barriers to starting a business or side-hustle is the niggling fear that your idea sucks.

Because, like editing your own writing, or smelling your own perfume, it’s really hard to take a step back and rationally evaluate that business or side-hustle idea you know you might have already fallen in love with.

So here are our 5 top tips to help you validate your business or side hustle idea.

1. Look for other businesses that offer something similar.

That may sound counterintuitive, especially if you buy into the myth that your business idea has to be completely original and unique. But in reality, it’s the best way to tell whether people are going to be willing to pay for your product or service (and even a ballpark of how much). 

As a first step, hop on Google and see if you can find at least three other businesses that offer the same product or service.

Also remind yourself: it’s a lie that your idea needs to be original or unique to be successful. In reality, if no one else is offering that as a product or service, it might be a sign that no customer is willing to pay for it (just yet). 

What you should be thinking: how can I put my own unique spin on this product or service? For example, Lady Startup course graduate Eco Confetti makes confetti... like so many other businesses. Except hers is venue-friendly, biodegradable confetti, mixed with flower petals, that allow you to celebrate your picture-perfect moments, without the guilt (or the tricky clean up).

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2. Does your business solve a problem that actually exists?

Your idea might sound new and exciting – even to other people – but if it doesn’t solve a need that real people have, you won't see many sales. 

The Jobs To Be Done theory says that people don’t actually buy your product or service; they hire you to complete a “job” they need to accomplish in a given circumstance. Some very smart people came up with this theory and explained it in this very long article.

But basically, here’s the gist. 

We all have lots of jobs to be done in our lives every day. Some of these tasks are small (passing the time while waiting in line for a coffee); some are big (find my soulmate). Some come up infrequently and at short notice (find a trustworthy childcare option when my babysitter cancels at the last minute, or dress for a fancy wedding); some regularly (pack a healthy lunch for your children to take to school). 

So when a customer buys a product or service, they are “hiring” it to help them do a job. If it does the job well, they’ll hire it again and if it doesn’t they’ll “fire” it and look for an alternative. 

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To understand what kind of “jobs” people are really trying to accomplish, try using free resources like Answer The Public to discover what people are really asking. Even play around with Google Trends, to see what people are searching online for. 

Enter keywords related to your business idea into either of these free platforms, and here's where the volume and types of responses will give you a topline idea of the related problems your potential customers might actually have.

3. Is your ideal customer clearly in mind?

No product or service is 100% for everyone. The saying goes: 'If you try to serve everyone, you serve no one.' 

Here's where you risk creating a bland offering that no group of potential customers really want or need. 

So ask yourself: can I describe my ideal customer? Some starting questions to get you going are:

  • What life stage are they at? 

  • What type of things do they like to do? 

  • What motivates them? 

  • What worries do they have? 

  • How do they see themselves, and how do they want to be perceived by friends/family/coworkers? 

  • What media do they consume? 

  • What social media platforms are they on? 

4. Run a low stakes test to see if anyone is into it

One of our favourite Lady Startups is cult online tile retailer TileCloud, run by Flossie Kelly. 

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Flossie's tip for people who come to her with business ideas is always the same. 

“Start an Instagram account. Right now. Before investing in building a website, manufacturing your product or setting up your service, start an Instagram account and just see if people are interested in what you are doing. 

"The best thing about this is it is free, you just need to put in the time to creating content and engaging with your audience.” 

And, if you can’t create original content, Flossie says that’s fine: when TileCloud started, they didn’t have any tiles to make content out of, so she made her business Instagram account a curation of images that reflected the brand (crediting the original creators) and what TileCloud would ultimately go on to sell. 

5. Is there some alignment with your skills?

Basing your business idea around things you can mostly do yourself is smart, and means you’re playing to your strengths. 

Of course, you can (and should) outsource some tasks eventually, but having some core skill alignment means there will be fewer barriers and costs that you’ll face in your startup phase.

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Sometimes it’s difficult to see the things that you’re inherently good at, so it can be helpful to ask people close to you what they think your skills are. 

For Flossie from TileCloud, it was clear: “I studied design and worked at a Mud Australia for five years, so interior design, building a brand and managing a social media presence were all in my wheelhouse. My business partners’ skills were in sourcing tiles, how tiling actually works, and running the financial side of a business. We had to learn a lot but we had the core skills to get started."

So now you've put your side hustle idea under the pressure test using these 5 no-BS tips, it's time to get to work.

But, if you still need a little more help to refine and nail your business idea, the Idea Kickstarter course is for you.

Lady Startup is a movement and a community that helps women to put a rocket up their business dreams. There are a range of courses to choose from, depending on your business stage and specific need. Check out the Lady Startup website for more information.

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