How to Start Your Own Business Identify Your “Big Idea”

Work + Money

By Alisa Ahlstone Lewis

This is the first in a four-part series on how to start your own business by Alisa Ahlstone Lewis, founder of Sweet Peas & Stilettos.

Have you ever dreamed of starting your own company?  I think every single one of us has answered “Yes!” to this question at some point in time in our lives.  For many of you, that time may be right now.  I know first-hand that one of the hardest parts is just getting started -- turning the key, shifting into drive and pushing down on the pedal.  

After years of dreaming, thinking and planning, I just launched my own company and website, Sweet Peas & Stilettos – The Modern Mommy Guide.  Now I am juggling a full-time career, motherhood, a household, family responsibilities, and my “other life” as an entrepreneur.  It’s crazy, hectic, scary and stressful, but it is actually really fun too.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  I’ve learned a whole lot along the way and my lessons learned may help you take the leap. 

How did I create my own business? There are four key steps to getting started, and the first is identifying your business idea.

Your Big Idea

You need an idea – and hopefully a great one.  Running your own company will consume much of your life so you have to love what you are doing.  It needs to feel authentic and real, so you can truly feel engaged and passionate about it.  So…tuck everyone into bed, get in some comfy clothes, grab a note pad and a pen, and go curl up on the couch.  It is time to make a few lists.

1.) What makes you happy?  Don’t constrain yourself. You might start off thinking about how blissful it is to bite into a warm frosted chocolate brownie and later about how happy you are when you are volunteering at a local shelter.  Let the ideas flow and write them all down. 

2.) What are you passionate about?  It could be a particular arts organization, a political cause, your child’s education, or a handbag designer – it doesn’t matter.

3.) What are you good at?  Do you have the magic touch with disobedient dogs?  Are you an extraordinary public speaker?  Do your friends rave about your cheesecake?  Are you able to raise thousands of dollars for your local schools?

4.) What problem would you love to solve?  What drives you crazy?  Have you identified a much needed product or service?

Now go to bed.  When you wake up in the morning, you will certainly be thinking about your lists. A few nights later, resume your position on the couch and open your notebook.  Be really true to yourself and think about everything you wrote down.  What is that one idea that you just can’t get out of your head? 

When I did this little exercise I realized how much I loved chocolate, shoes, traveling and my son.  I knew there were likely many other women who loved those same things.  I also noted how much I hated searching on the internet or going through hundreds of old emails trying to find the name of a website or product I was looking for.  It drove me crazy.  I decided to combine the things I was passionate about -- family, shopping and giving back to my community -- while solving a problem, by creating an organized site with links to all of the best resources modern moms could want just a click or two away, Sweet Peas & Stilettos – The Modern Mommy Guide.

Now that I knew exactly what I wanted to create, I embarked on figuring out how.

Stay tuned for the next three parts in this series:

Part 2: Make Your Idea a Reality
Part 3: 10 Business Basics
Part 4: Juggling It All

Alisa Ahlstone Lewis is the AVP of change management for a national insurance company, as well as the president of Sweet Peas & Stilettos – The Modern Mommy Guide.

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  • Great tips, I found that the "what are you good at" question has helped me find the power within to rise above. I also found the soution to how to start your own business, is yours and bootstrap. I found on the blog/website is one of the best ways to start off.

    Posted by NateKerra, 12 August 2009.

  • Thanks for the tips!

    Posted by Caden Riley, 7 August 2009.

  • Thank you, Alisa!
    I am in the process of starting my own business, and everything you say exactly tracks my experience so far. I wake up thinking about my I'll get a notebook so I can discover which ways I can make my idea even better.

    Posted by Daisy MacDonald, 31 July 2009.

  • Everyone is expert in a thing or two. This knowledge can be converted into a business easliy.

    Posted by shubhodeepdas777, 29 July 2009.