How to Test Your Business Idea

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

For entrepreneurs, there’s nothing like the excitement that comes with creating a new company, a new service or a new product. Or maybe a new process that’s better than an existing one.

But here’s the problem: People fall in love with their ideas. Eager to get started, they rush forward with the idea without taking the time to vet its viability.

In many business circles, this vetting process is known as “proof of concept.” Although definitions vary, I especially like this one from TechTarget: “A proof of concept (POC) is an exercise in which work is focused on determining whether an idea can be turned into a reality. A proof of concept is meant to determine the feasibility of the idea or to verify that the idea will function as envisioned.”

For 40-and-older entrepreneurs, testing in advance can be especially important for at least one reason: If the idea isn’t sound, you don’t have as much time as a younger entrepreneur to recover and regroup afterwards. And for all entrepreneurs, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” as Benjamin Franklin once said.

When you’re ready to test your proof of concept, here are a few ideas to consider:

Start small – If your idea is to open a restaurant, for example, start with a food truck before opening a full-scale eatery. Starting small lets you create demand and grow the business before you sign a lease or make other longer-term commitments.

Work for someone else first. Before Savvy Rest founder Michael Penny launched an organic mattress company at age 51, he worked at a futon company for seven years. This gave him an opportunity to learn the mattress industry and better understand how its products are made, marketed and sold. It also enabled him to identify where voids existed before he went out on his own.

Create a prototype – This lets you to envision what your invention might look like, correct problems and refine your design as needed before production.

Leverage social media – Use these platforms to conduct polls, ask questions and monitor discussions about similar products or services.

Start in your own backyard – Do a pilot program with a local organization with customer or member demographics that match the target users for your offering.

Hold focus groups – Meredith and Lee Hedrick used this technique before launching Doha Designs, a souvenir company, in 2013 (the Hedricks, then in their early 40s, have since sold their business). Feedback from focus groups comprised of local residents suggested strong potential for their business idea.

A final thought: The proof of concept process may reveal that your idea isn’t viable. If that happens, it isn’t the end of the world. Get up and dust yourself off. Then use your newfound knowledge to create something that will work.


About Lynne Strang

I'm a freelance writer who helps organizations and individuals meet their marketing and communications goals. I am also the author of "Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs: Eight Principles for Starting a Business After Age 40." To learn more, please visit my website:
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