I come up with new business ideas all the time. I haven't vetted them out at all, but some may have merit in further research to see if a business case can be justified. And if you like a bunch of business ideas, look at my tips, below, for what separates a good business idea from a GREAT business idea!
April 10, 2023: Goodbye Graffiti in Former Soviet Cities: I was on a vacation that took me through Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia and one thing that struck me almost instantly was the amount of graffiti on buildings -- particularly former Soviet-built apartment buildings -- in the cities. Goodbye Graffiti is a franchise organisation in Canada and it could be effectively expanded into the former Soviet republics. It's a problem, and it needs solving.
April 10, 2023: Buy up former Soviet-built Apartment Buildings and Fix Them Up: On this same trip, I happened upon a real estate office where some of these (crappy) apartments close to the downtown of major cities were up for sale. The prices?: 18,000 to 23,000 Euros = roughly $27,000 to $40,000 CDN. Now, these apartments were crap. No central air, basically a shell of an apartment. Maybe concrete and plumbing. So, go in, buy up an entire building of apartments, fix them up to make them liveable by North American standards, and sell them along with financing options. Other than the price-research above, I've done no research. But what I do know is that if you could tell a person they could live in a Toronto-style apartment in an otherwise-modern city for $100,000, they'd move in a heartbeat.
April 10, 2023: Buy up and develop land along the Danube: As my river boat was meandering up the Danube, I was struck by the lack of development along the river. Once we got closer to Serbia, the development became more common, but it was downright sparse for the first several hundred kilometres from south of Bucharest to Serbia. Any person who has tried to find affordable land near Muskoka in Ontario, north of Toronto, would know how much lakefront or riverfront property can be worth.
January 2, 2023: Mini-fridge for your car or truck: Similar to the microwave oven idea below, how about a small fridge to hold water bottles, soft drinks, etc. Yes, it could hold beer although that wouldn't be advised considering whatever the laws are in your jurisdiction. Again, with power to spare in electric vehicles, you could have all the comforts of home in your electric car or truck.
January 1, 2023: Mini-microwave oven for your car or truck: Okay, first world problems, here, but have you ever wanted to just re-heat your Timmy's coffee while on the road? I suspect the challenge with having a microwave oven in your car currently is that the power draw would blow fuses left, right and centre. But with the popularity of electric cars and trucks, there is now power to spare. So why not set up a microwave in the area where your glove box was or in your centre console so that you can put in a coffee or burger, reheat it for 45 seconds, and you're good to go? Lots of technical challenges making this happen, but nothing that a good electrical engineer couldn't handle, I'm sure.
August 15, 2022: Old Jeep Refurbish for Farm Use: If you've ever priced-out a John Deere Gator, they are pricey! And in my view, they aren't really that practical for farm use. I think you'd actually be better off getting a used small 2-person Jeep CJ -- maybe something that isn't good for long miles, but would be fine for around-the-farm use. Get one that is small enough to go through a barn aisle. A bonus would be if you could retro-fit a dump-bed on it -- great for cleaning stalls. Go into the barn-use retro-fit business and I think you could do pretty well!
March 30, 2022: Stealth Torpedo: The war in Ukraine has brought to light some interesting developments in warfare. The anti-tank weaponry that countries have supplied to the Ukrainian fighters in many ways turned the tide of the Russian invasion within days. But there are still rockets coming in from Russian warships. Ukraine needs a battery-powered torpedo that can swim for miles and miles at about the speed of a large shark. It needs to be "stealth" (undetectable from radar/sonar) and with the ability for the remote operator to identify the ship and then blast it to smithereens. (This project may be beyond the scope of an HBA small business venture, but I thought I'd throw it out there!). Also, there needs to be cheap stealth air drones, if they don't already exist (they probably do).
March 8, 2022: Lift gate for pickup trucks: Have you priced a pickup truck recently? You may as well consider them to be luxury vehicles! Chevy (along with Walter the cat) has been making a big deal of their truck tailgate that doubles as a work bench. But why stop there? How about a built-in or aftermarket tailgate that has a lift gate installed with enough power that it could pick up a refrigerator or small lawn tractor. I envision a couple or three aluminium panels that flip and flip again to pull out to the ramp on which you put the item to be lifted. And, as a bonus, you could just keep the ramps extended up in line with the tailgate so that you can transport long pieces of lumber. This would be a really good mechanical engineering project. I've seen big contraptions that replace the entire tailgate. I'm talking about something that looks good and that you don't even notice until you're ready to use it.
January 27, 2022: Restaurant Robotics distributorship and repair depot: My cousin posted a photo on Facebook of a robot delivering her food at a restaurant. Why didn't I think of that?!! No sick days. No shifts to manage. It wouldn't be for all restaurants, but when people want an inexpensive meal and to not have to tip, it would be awesome. Become a distributor and tech support company for these and other robots, not to mention a repair depot. Lots of opportunities here! Greenco Robots.
March 2, 2021: EV Distribution/Dealership: There are lots of interesting electric vehicle (EV) start-ups happening in niche markets that are unlikely to get attacked by the big brands any time soon. For example here is an EV pick-up truck that I'm interested in: AtlisMotorVehicles.com. Why not become a dealer for this brand in Canada, or maybe even get the distribution rights for all of Canada. You could probably raise money for this in a heartbeat.
February 27, 2021: Heater for the bathtub. Eric Martin HBA '85 gets credit for this one. For those who like to take baths, a heater to heat the bath water so you don't have to drain the tub a bit and add more hot water. Ideally something that doesn't electrocute the bather.
February 1, 2021: Kick-plate Step Stool for Kitchens: I'm about 6 ft. tall, but my wife is just 5'-2" tall and she hates it when I put stuff on the top shelf of the kitchen because she can't reach it. It would be cool if there was an easy-to-install under-counter (behind the kick plate) hydraulic step stool that you could simply pull out and step on quickly in order to have an easily accessible step stool in the kitchen. This would be a great engineering exercise. They key would be getting this device patented, if that hasn't already been done by someone else. Another option (which would be easier to install) is something that resides inside a cupboard door. So you open cupboard door and unfold the step as needed.
Lots of options!
August 10, 2020: Seniors/Dementia Holodeck: As I get older, I'm dealing with parents (mine, my wife's, my buddy's) suffering from dementia. They don't know who we are and can't remember even the most basic things. Terrible. And it is very frustrating for them. So, my buddy Eric and I felt that if we could eventually have a room set up for folks with dementia that simply shows pleasant scenes all around them -- like a holodeck -- that would be awesome. If (when?) I get dementia, I'd like to be in a room with horses grazing in a field on all four walls -- as if I were in the centre of the field and the horses are just grazing around me. It could be on a loop, since I won't remember that I just saw the same scene 10 minutes ago. It would be very interesting to try this sort of thing in a clinical setting to see if you could come up with environments that were soothing and relaxing for folks with dementia, which would save on staff time, which is quite expensive. Or, it could allow folks to stay in their own homes longer if they can be put into a relaxing and soothing environment for a few hours.
August 10, 2020: Live Sports Holodeck: If you could rent a centre-ice front row seat at the Scotiabank Centre and stick an multi-directional video camera at that seat, you could conceptually watch a Leafs game as if you were in that seat. Some folks might pay big bucks to watch lives sports like this, particularly if their physical disability or other circumstances prevent them from being there in person. Unlike the 'holodeck' idea above, you wouldn't necessarily need a room for this. The viewer could watch with Oculus virtual reality goggles. But having it broadcast in a room would be cool as well, as that way you could have multiple people join you for the game. Set up your seats, and have the bar fridge right in front of you.
August 10, 2020: Classic Concerts Holodeck: Similar to the above 3D environment, it would be very cool (and people would pay big bucks for it) if you could, say, go to the "Woodstock" concert and watch the bands play as if you were there. Depending on the person, an immersed room would work (great for groups) or single-person Oculus goggles may work for the individual experience.
July 2, 2020: Real Time Translator Earpiece: Eric Martin (HBA '85) came up with this one. As with most of these ideas, I've done zero research on this so maybe this has already been created and patented. But with Google, now, you can very easily translate written text from one language to another. And Google, Alexa, etc. all have the ability to interpret sentences and come back with an answer. So how about an earpiece that allows you to say a sentence in English and then the speaker within the earpiece says the same thing in the language of choice. Something like this:
You: "Hey Translator, translate to French"
Translator (into the earpiece): "Go ahead..."
You: "Where is the library?"
Translator (directed at the person you're speaking with): "Ou est la bibliotheque?"
Listener: "La bas."
Translator (into the earpiece): "Over there."
You: "Thank you."
Translator (directed at the person you're speaking with): "Merci."
You: "Hey Translator, stop translating."
Translator (into the earpiece): "Done. I'm sending a transcript to your phone."
June 4, 2020: Tannin Neutralizer This idea came from doing some quick research into what people are searching for related to tannins. Here I was thinking that folks would flock to a wine that has extra tannins (as I would), but there are lots of people searching for wines without tannins. How about coming out with a drop that you can add to a glass of wine that will neutralize the tannins / tannic acid. Could be a winner!
May 29, 2020: Tannin Sticks This idea is a bit 'out there', but who knows. If you can make it work, it could be a gazillion dollar idea. I like my red wine, but I don't like paying $30 for a half-decent bottle of wine at the LCBO. I actually got pretty good at making my own wine (paying Wine Kitz to do it) with my own recipe that included triple-oak and triple-tannin added to the grape juice. Tannins give a wine a distinctive taste that tends to set apart the more nicely oak-aged wines from one's daily plonk. Lately, I've been buying wine from Magnotta at the Loblaws store in the Masonville area of London. It's okay, and definitely cheap (an 8 litre box works out to about $7/bottle), but I miss my oak and tannins! Someone needs to come up with something you can add to your wine to give it that oakyness and tannininess (?) -- either in the form of a droplet or a powder or a "tannin stick". That could actually be part of the marketing. "What's that stick doing in your wine?" "Oh, that's my Tannin Stick (TM) because I like my wine to have a bit more bark to it!" (pardon the pun). Anyhow, that's the idea. If you actually develop it, all I ask for as thanks for the idea is a lifetime supply for me and my family. :-)
April 5, 2020: On-line Ordering Platform for Independent Restaurants With the COVID-19 trouble, people are ordering for pick-up or Uber Eats/ Skip the Dishes delivery like never before. Become the expert developer for independent restaurants or small chains to get their menus on-line and the e-commerce platform and delivery-or-pick-up mechanism integrated. Target a roll out of this platform in smaller municipalities where meal delivery services don't exist -- and maybe have an interface that would allow a local driver to set up their own business to offer local restaurants a meal delivery option using this interface. UPDATE JANUARY 22, 2021: I was a judge in the Ivey Business Plan Competition and the hands-down WINNER was an HBA start-up called Mentum which basically had this same idea and expanded on it to include the self-ordering kiosks that you see in McDonalds. They already had $200K in funding from Ghost Kitchens and are about to get it into 60 Wal-Mart locations in the U.S. So, you SEE?! Even though I'm pretty sure that they didn't get their idea from this page, some of the ideas on this page have merit! Congratulations MENTUM!
April 4, 2020: Manufacture and market a brand of pre-cooked ground beef. My wife, Jenny (HBA '85), and I bought a 2 kg (4.4 lb.) package of ground beef a couple of weeks ago. We knew we would use it fairly quickly, so we didn't want to freeze it. But we also knew that it could end up going bad if it wasn't cooked fairly quickly. So Jenny cooked up the entire package and put it in a Tupperware container in the fridge. She made a meatloaf, a large batch of chili, and I made some spaghetti sauce that used this pre-cooked ground beef, and it was super-easy. It took a fraction of the time to cook it up as compared to if we had to fry up a pound of ground beef each and every time. So why doesn't someone market tubes of pre-cooked ground beef, 1 lb. before cooking -- likely 3/4 of a pound after cooking. Defrost it and add it to whatever it is you're cooking. Maybe someone is already doing this but, if so, they aren't marketing it very well because I've never seen it. You could probably even market it on-line and ship it cheaply right to someone's door. Or manufacture it and market it through something like M&M's or possibly independent butcher stores. You could also offer a pre-cooked 'meatless' ground beef if you can come up with a recipe or supplier. Lots of options!
March 3, 2020: Leverage desire to pay carbon offsets by implementing plug-in within WordPress Woocommerce, Shopify and other e-commerce platforms. With some airlines, when you book a flight, you have the ability to also purchase a "carbon-offset", where you pay into funds that find ways to sequester CO2 (planting trees, for example) that will provide an offset of the CO2 used in the flight. It would be interesting to have plug-ins to allow e-commerce sites provide the ability to purchasers to buy carbon offsets equivalent to the estimated CO2 used in the generation of the product being purchased. The enabling fund would charge a management fee for the platform to cover credit card charges and management of the funds coming in and going out. This idea came out when I was chatting my buddy in Saskatchewan, Dave Brick.
February 9, 2020: Develop IT trades business for "smart" homes. Governments are promoting the trades in a big way. On of the trades that is overlooked -- but which is becoming increasingly important -- is information technology (IT) in the home. IT in the home includes things like "smart" TVs, wifi zone expanders, smart doorbells, smart wireless speakers, security systems, phone charging systems, etc., etc. The list goes on-and-on and is getting longer every day. Build a business that keeps on top of all the technology, recommends to builders and homeowners what they should have, and does the installation or retrofit services in the home. Get it working in a small centre, like London, and then franchise it -- eventually getting bought out by a retailer like Best Buy.
January 29, 2020: Improvement on the iRobot vacuums. I've been interested in the iRobot vacuum (which I don't yet own) for quite a while. Seems great, not having to worry about vacuuming. But one thing that has always bugged me is that they are round -- and 'round' has a hard time getting into the corners which, at least in my house, is where most of the dust tends to collect. So, how about (a) a retrofit to the iRobot to get it into corners or (b) a new competitor to the iRobot that solves this deficiency. Think of it as 'battle of the bots' for vacuums. This would be a perfect problem for an engineering person to solve and a biz knob to market/sell, either the patent or a finished product. Or a combined degree candidate to solve and sell. UPDATE:It could be that iRobot has solved the getting-into-the-corners challenge, so you better check it out before putting too much work into this one.
January 24, 2020: Independent Pizza Joint Ordering Platform and App. The big boys have it -- Dominos, Pizza Hut, Pizza Pizza -- but what about the small mom-and-pop independents?: A way for folks to order their pizza from a small independent pizzeria on-line, fully configured with what they want on it for the price they want. Offer it as a 'self-serve' configuration where the store owner configures everything, or a 'turn-key' configuration where the store owner literally emails you the menu and your staff configures the system to price things out properly. Charge the pizzerias per pizza -- say, $0.25 each -- and put in place up-sell opportunities for soft drinks, garlic bread, etc.
January 20, 2020: Day Care for Seniors. I was in Florida last week and noticed a sign on a retail store advertising "Adult Daycare". Now, I don't know if I'd call it that -- perhaps something like "Day Programs for Seniors" might be better -- but I'm sure there is a need for folks to have their elderly mother and/or father taken care-of while at work. Some have dementia and physical ailments. They may not have the budget for full-time hospital or nursing care, but could drop them off at an 'adult day care for 9 or 10 hours per day. To put it in perspective, a senior living situation could easily be $5,000 to $6,000 per month. With many baby boomers now well into their retirement years, this could be a huge and growing market.
December 28, 2019: Create a valve attachment to popular gas can nozzles so that you can 'turn off' the fuel coming out of the nozzle. I did a very small amount of research on this one and there are, in fact, lots of gas cans with a valve system for letting the fuel flow, such as this one. But these solutions are fairly expensive. The challenge, of course, is that when you're trying to put fuel into the gas can, a bunch gets spilled as you're putting the nozzle in. So if you can have an ON/OFF valve at the base of the nozzle, you can prevent this spillage. Price it at around $10 and have it so that it goes in-between the stock nozzle and the gas can, such as the popular Scepter brand available at Canadian Tire, and I think you have a winner! UPDATE: So this shows how observant I am.
I go out to our garage to fill up our lawn tractor, and my wife actually has an after-market nozzle with an on/off valve, and she bought it at Canadian Tire. It's not exactly as I'd do it, because the nozzle is quite small, so it takes a lot longer to fill up the lawn tractor, but it exists. Do lots of research before investing much time into this one.
December 27, 2019: Write an app that tracks the location of app-enabled phones such that if a person is at a traffic stop light, the app can tell that they are waiting and the light will change quickly. Okay, I really hate app business plans. But this one could possibly be financed by a municipal government, and then rolled-out worldwide. Most of the traffic light change systems are based on the weight of the car over an area in the lane that is waiting for the light to change. VERY expensive -- like tens- (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars. But if people in the town had the app, the app could (anonymously) track their locations and when it sees an app-enabled phone in a 'traffic light waiting zone', it remotely triggers the light to switch. Sort of like Waze for traffic lights. Maybe it is already under development, but I've never seen it. Certainly worthwhile some investigation! (Make it even better: Charge the municipality a fee per traffic light per year: recurring revenue stream!)
December 19, 2019: Build a YouTube channel and gain subscribers based on thorough analysis of what folks are looking for and what is engaging people to become subscribers. I'll admit that I'm not big on get rich schemes based on YouTube. But times they are a-changin'. When an 8 year old can be the top money earner (I'm sure heavily supported by his family) with $26 million U.S. in revenue, you've got my attention (see CNN article here). So, take a half a day or a day and figure out the formula. Look at what people are searching for that leads them to become a subscriber to a YouTube channel. I'm not saying that you need to build a $26 million/year business -- but a $1 million/year business with low costs could be pretty interesting. Lots of themes -- maybe weekly football/soccer/hockey pool analyses or impartial political analyses. Stuff that folks would tune into every week.
December 16, 2019: Look for car brands that are not yet in Canada and see what it would take to bring them here. I was in Portugal and Italy last summer and was struck by the fact that you see very few Fords, GMs and Chrysler products over there -- or, for that matter, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Subaru. Lots of Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, Fiats, Mercedes and Toyota. The point is that car buyers are often looking for a unique option (if the quality, price and service are still there) -- and it may be worthwhile looking to set up a dealership for some of these more-unique brands, or even getting the rights to import the brand if they aren't already in Canada. Here is a list of the top brands in Europe in 2018. Although I didn't see any electric or hybrid European cars when I was over there, I suspect most are looking down that road. Getting distribution rights for a new EV or Hybrid brand may be pretty interesting!
December 8, 2019: A sit-down restaurant that uses a cell-phone app or tablet for food ordering and payment, with an Uber Eats option. I've seen restaurants in airports where they have minimal staff, and you order through a tablet computer at each table (plus they have games etc. while you're waiting for your meal). I think a restaurant model where you have no wait staff, everything is ordered by app, and things like drinks/coffee are self-serve -- but is half the price of a typical restaurant -- could be very popular (and profitable, if done right). No tipping. Sort of like an upscale McDonalds, only higher quality, proper dishes, and the emphasis on sit-down rather than take-out. Maybe a better example would be a Denny's with no wait staff. The sort of thing that is so cheap, you'd question why you'd ever make a meal at home. Get the model working well in one restaurant, and the roll it out nationwide until you get bought out for a gazillion dollars.
December 8, 2019: A software service that implements on-line ordering software via app or tablet, as described above.
December 8, 2019: "Neer Beer" Develop a low alcohol (and low cal) beer that actually tastes like beer, and for a reasonable price (less than $1 per can) I really like my beer. And I'll drink just about any beer, other than I'm not a big fan of the citris-infused stuff some breweries try to pass off as beer. But I have yet to find a 'near beer' that is half-decent. Surely it can't be that hard to come up with a low- or no-alcohol beer! Well, apparently it is. And some of those that try just taste like crap. Budweiser Probibition Brew is awful. Heiniken and Coors as well. And they are all expensive -- pretty close to the price of a case of real beer. The best I've found is Molson Excel, but even that doesn't taste great (although it is reasonably priced at about $7 for a 12-pack). So the first thing I'd do is look for the best tasting "near beer" that is reasonably priced, and then see if you can get distribution rights in Canada. Good luck. Even this article a couple of years ago couldn't find something. But I think companies are going about it wrong. Don't try to "brew" a beer. Just start with carbonated water and then use various flavourings to come up with something that taste right. Go after a taste that is exactly like Budweiser, and you've got a winner. Call it "Neer" -- a beer alternative (since you wouldn't be able to call it beer, I think).Addendum: Eureka! I found a half-decent neer beer brewed right here in Ontario. $8 bucks gets you 12 cans of Complements Blonde Lager de-alcoholized beer, brewed by Lakeport Brewing in Hamilton. So get them to brew the same beer under a different label and then market it into grocery stores in Ontario. If you can get the rights to a well-known brand's de-alcolholized version, you may have a shot at getting it into local grocery stores in Ontario. Or, better yet, now that we know that it can be done, get the breweries in the U.S. (who are masters at brewing cheap beer) to come up with an equivalent de-alcoholized beer and then bring it up here to compete with all other brands. Lots of options, so figure out the best plan!
December 7, 2019: Hands-free open the damn garbage drawer Have you ever had that situation where your hands are full of potato or carrot peels and you need a third hand to open the damned garbage can or garbage drawer. Just like Ford has the hands-free option to open the tailgate on their Escape SUV, there needs to be a way that you can open the garbage drawer simply by tapping something underneath the drawer, or even 'Hey Google, open the garbage drawer.' Courtesy of Gail Martin after we had all consumed several glasses of fine wine.
December 6, 2019: Build a business to replace battery systems in hybrid and full EV vehicles. It appears that hybrids and EVs are here to stay. But they have one major problem: the battery systems on which they depend don't last forever. The car itself may be perfectly good after 7 to 10 years, but the ability for the battery to hold a charge may be kaput. Dealerships will likely charge a fortune for replacement battery systems. So build a company that can be much more competitive than dealerships to allow hybrid and EV purchasers to get a longer useful life out of their purchase. Here is an article on battery replacements in Prius.
December 6, 2019: Build a business to recycle batteries from EV vehicles. As the above article indicates, it may be possible to simply recondition a Prius battery system. Or it may be done as a car battery system, but perfect for a house battery backup system. It may also be possible to grind up all of the battery components into their core elements, and recycle those elements, such as the lithium in lithium batteries. Find out how, and build a business around it. Here is an article the CBC did on this topic. ADDENDUM: March 8, 2022: My personal mechanic said that his understanding is that Corey Auto Wreckers in London won't take any more hybrid battery systems because they can't do anything with them. In fact, they are a liability because of their combustibility, he said. I'm not sure if this information is correct, but if it is true then there is for sure a market to develop an effective recycling protocol for these battery systems. UPDATE: This article in The Economist indicates that large EV battery manufacturing plants will be getting a good chunk of their raw materials from recycled batteries.
December 5, 2019: Bring to Canada a liquified air system as a means of storing energy for later use. The big issue with solar and wind power is the ability to store the energy so that we have power when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining. An article in The Economist last month talked about some research into using liquified air as a means of storing energy which is, to date, 50% efficient. That is, for every unit of energy used to 'charge' the system, you get 50% back. Not bad! And the developer thinks he can get it up to 60%+.
December 5, 2019: Develop a household-sized liquified air system as a means of storing energy for later use. Now, building on the idea above, can you build a tiny house-hold sized system. Store energy (when it is plentiful and cheap) in the middle of the night off the grid, and dispatch it during peak hours instead of using the grid.
You don't need to come up with a new idea for a business. In fact, if you can't find anybody doing the business you thought up, there is probably a good reason: It can't be justified. Finding a successful company that is doing the business you've thought up is actually great news because it proves to you (and potential investors) that it can work. Now your job is to just fine-tune a working solution, and bring it to markets that are not yet served or which are under-served.
A recurring revenue stream is wonderful! I would far sooner invest in a business where a customer comes back to you month after month to buy your product or service than a business where you have to fight for new sale time after time. Rogers, Bell, Enbridge Gas, Shaw Direct, Direct Energy, GoDaddy -- The reason they are so big and profitable is that people pay them month after month to do what they do.
It is easier to grow a company in a new and rapidly expanding industry than a mature industry. Those examples above are great for recurring revenue, but just try to take on Rogers or Bell or Enbridge Gas. Good luck with that. That said, if you're in on the 'ground floor' of a new and rapidly expanding business, you can do pretty well. Think things like virtual reality gaming shops, dedicated WordPress hosting platforms, TikTok marketing to teens, electric vehicle sales, EV battery recycling, etc.