How to build an online business: Ideation

This blogpost is used as an example of how I develop ideas on building a online business. It can be used as a design-thinking work for people who would like to start their own business on the internet but don’t know how.

About 3 years ago, I built my first online business. It was a dive-in experience that survived despite numerous failures, trial and errors and eventually hitting a sweet spot of target market.

That was my first foray into the world of online business. The biggest advantage that made all the effort worthwhile? The fact that it was automated and online. I was able to use a online selling platform – Etsy, besides my own website, and with established resources such as dropshippers and trusty freight delivery services, sustain an online business that went on to gather a loyal following of customers.

Since the slow, gradual die-down of my then online business, I’ve been eager to build another passionate online project. Throughout the years I have also had friends who would love to do the same but did not know how. In this post I will do a self Question and Answer series to come out with a new business idea. This time, I’ll be doing it and documenting my journal through a series of blogposts. I will also be using advise from Tim Ferris, as written in his book ‘The Four Hour Workweek’. Let’s begin.

I start by figuring out what exactly, will my online business be about. And to find out, these are the questions I will be answering while sipping on a cup of supercharged matcha green tea.

What are you good at?
I’m good at earning my keep and making sure it goes a long way by scrimping and saving on the non-essentials. I pride myself as being a minimalist, thought-developer, and experience collector – I strive to develop myself to become someone who have lived.

What could you be the best at?
I suppose I can someday be one of the bests at advising and helping people to step out of their comfort zone and do whatever makes them feel alive. Success to me has been redefined as being able to constantly do things that gives you energy, feel-good hormones, makes you feel like you’re living. I want to be best at making people do things they thought they would never be able to do, because of reasons such as financial, attachment and safety but realistically, they are only limited by their own mind.

What makes you happy?
Throughout my short but well-lived life I realised that it only matters in the end that my family feels happy and well-taken care of. Ultimately, unconditional love and the connection between family and true friends (if you’re lucky), are what matters most to me in life. I also enjoy simple things like cooking, finding discounted items in the supermarket, watching people have cheat days on Youtube and taking walks in the nature.

What excites you?
The thought of travelling to new places and meeting new people. Of discovering something that would be breathtaking. Of exciting yet challenging new projects like this one. I’m also excited at the anticipation of meeting someone special. The last time I felt excited was when I got my driver’s license and could tell my family about it. I’m excited about hitting new goals I never thought I would.

What makes you feel accomplished and good about yourself?
In the past few years, there’s been many little accomplishments I deemed un-impactful and never really had the chance to feel good about myself then. Looking back, I’m proud of 8 year-old me for entering into that Drawing contest and winning 2nd place, I’m proud of 14 year-old me for going to every single Basketball practice even though it was so tough and I never made it into the team. I am proud of 17 year-old me diving head-first to her first business project and starting more soon after. I am proud of 19 year-old me travelling across the world by herself, naively and coming out of it with many life experiences. I feel good about myself that despite many setbacks, I’m still here, alive and kicking.

What are you most proud of having accomplished in your life? Can you repeat this or further develop it?
It’s hard to say, I’m proud of not only myself but every human being who have come thus far through struggles and hardship. Life isn’t the easiest thing, you know. I suppose I would be proudest of the 1-year backpacking trip because it took not only the most energy out of me but also put me into some of the darkest phrases in life. It also consumed the energy of my parents who didn’t know what I was doing when I would go contact-less for days. The truth was I didn’t know what I was doing either and was just waiting for dark clouds to pass. I would definitely be able to repeat this in the future when I’m ready, and by then I would have made it an even greater experience.

What do you enjoy sharing or experiencing with other people?
Same as above.

Now that I’ve answered the above questions, I feel that something I’d love to do has to concern with my experience in travelling. While I was travelling then I’ve had many unsures and made many mistakes, so that could be a problem my new business will try to solve.

Let’s split this into a persona: We have young Jess, a fresh out of high-school solo Backpacker with little to no experience, who wants to save and stretch her dollar and experience new things. When I was first travelling, I’ve experienced the following issues:

1. I’ve packed too much
2. I was wearing the wrong shoes and socks (both Summer and Winter)
3. I had to learn to overcome loneliness and get used to being alone
4. I didn’t know about programs where you can volunteer work in exchange for food and accommodation, that would’ve saved me money and earned experience
5. I wanted to do things like cycling across cities/states, camping, but didn’t know how
6. I wanted to meet new people but didn’t know how initially
7. Eat cheaply yet try all local cuisines
8. Staying safe as a young female traveller
9. How do I maintain a relationship with my family and let them know I am doing well
10. How to maintain relationships with friends back home

Next, let’s proceed to pick up the points that’s easiest to profit as an online business given my current experience and bandwidth.

1. I’ve packed too much
2. I was wearing the wrong shoes and even socks (both Summer and Winter)
8. Staying safe as a young female traveller

I’ve picked these 3 points as my experience lies with working on a drop-shipping business model (buy-and-sell with a middle man that’s both your supplier and your deliveryman), and also with the other points I would have imagined creating an infrastructure of back-end operations that I wouldn’t be able to manage as a single person right now.

So, we have a business idea! An online store that sells essential items for young, inexperienced solo backpackers to maximize their travelling experience.

And now that I’ve done this small exercise, I hope it helps you with your journey on coming up with a business idea.

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