How do you develop your vaguely formed idea into something that can fly?

(Copyright © 2015 by Chesney Bradshaw, all rights reserved)
(Copyright © 2015 by Chesney Bradshaw, all rights reserved)

I visited a Saturday morning market in Parys, Free State, while spending a weekend just outside the town in the country. This was a Saturday morning market that compares with the best. On display were various food products, arts and crafts, clothing and interior home accessories. The profile of the stall owners ranged from people in their early 20s right up to people in their mature years.

Let’s not kid ourselves, it takes a lot of energy to get to the level where you can put out your product for sale even to a Saturday morning market. These days Saturday morning markets are no longer jumble sales. They have become a place where finely hand-crafted products are for sale and where buyers are more discerning because they want quality as well as value for money. No one wants to buy something and end up with it at home broken or useless.

You may have an idea for a product or service but it is still not fully developed. An idea like an egg that’s not fully cooked is just an oozing mass of liquid. It’s got to get form. It’s got to be taken from a mere idea into a product that provides a benefit for others.

What are the key steps in product development? It begins with evaluation and testing. You would need to develop a prototype or sample product that you can show others and get feedback. This is an immediate form of evaluation that survey feedback or panel discussions will not give you about a concept or an idea. You’ve got to make the real thing and put it out there. A morning market or any other form of selling will give you an indication of whether you’ve hit on to something or whether you have to go back to the drawing board.

Say the sales start coming in, then what you do? This is where distribution channels are important. You could either sell your product through a retail store (not necessarily in a high-cost shopping centre), on the Internet or business-to-business, depending on the nature of your product. For example, a coffee roaster I met at the Saturday morning market sells his coffee to other businesses. He has worked to acquire a number of regular customers that use his product heavily and so he benefits from a steady stream of repeat orders. Yes, he may lose some of these larger customers but then he also gains new ones.

If you have an idea not yet fully developed, you may want to speak to someone on how you can develop it further, study some resources on product development or find it all in one place with a book called “Breakthrough Ideas”. This book offers the information to take your idea from conception through to product testing and eventual enterprise formation. For someone deciding to take the leap into starting something of their own it can save you time and money and help you avoid common business mistakes.