Have you ever had that epiphany that an idea might grow to be a successful business? Of course, the next step is to determine how you flesh it out, so it’s a viable one. I once faced that challenge. My first business idea started when I called my parents and told them that all I ever wanted was to open up my own pet shop.  I strategically grew that idea into a successful business, but from idea to successful business, I took a lot of steps to make sure the idea was viable.

I get it, as immigrants, we are natural-born risk-takers, and we want to start NOW – or even YESTERDAY! We tend to go from idea right to execution without really taking the time to validate, assess and confirm assumptions. I mean – “who has time for that?!?” 

Take it from me, validating your business idea and making sure it’s viable is something no one should skip, particularly if you are an immigrant with limited resources about to invest everything you have in a business.

Today, I help fellow immigrants like you discover how to flesh out ideas into viable businesses. Before going all ‘Eureka! I have found the perfect idea!’ let’s take a look at it one step at a time.

A business idea is a process where one intends to solve a problem. Read this again, my friend: a business idea is a process where one intends to solve a problem. It could be an idea from your passion or perhaps a continuation of your business from your country of origin. However, how you plan to solve the problem may not be relevant to your potential customers in Canada. 

As an entrepreneur, you need to take steps to confirm your business idea before diving into it – and as a newcomer entrepreneur, you need to validate that the idea will work and that it will work in Canada. 

Now, taking action to test your vision does not mean you should spend time trying the concept. Below, you will find strategic steps to clearly define, test, eliminate and develop your idea into a viable business.


Solve a Problem


It’s great you are a problem solver, but you need to be clear on your intention. Be clear on how you intend to solve the problem, who you intend to serve and if it is a problem in the first place. Take inventory of your own life. Think about your day-to-day activities, even the mundane ones like making your bed, cooking a meal or doing laundry. Think about conversations and interactions with your friends, your family and at work.

Is there a recurring problem or frustration that you personally want a better solution for? Are there areas of your life that make you say, “Gosh, I wish someone would come up with a better way to _____________?”

Here are a few other questions:

  • Is this problem a problem outside your immediate circle?
  • If so, are there existing solutions that solve this problem? Is it working or not? 

Clearly define if your idea is relevant to the Canadian market.

Look around you to identify the ideal customer that experiences this challenge. Take time to run market research – ask your friends, your colleagues. This process determines the market for your solution, what, and how they respond to the issue at hand. If there is an existing solution, figure out what worked and what didn’t. Empathize with your potential clients’ needs and pain. 


Validate your solution – will it work?


Most times, an idea is born out of an assumption – that the concept might solve a problem. You need to check if your idea is doable, achievable, relevant and tangible – and that people will pay money for it. In solving your customer’s initial challenge, will it complicate things along the line? Ensure your prospect will be able to understand the solution and will be able to use it beneficially. 

For instance, if you intend to open a food business, you would need to consider fundamental questions. Does your menu appeal only to immigrants from your community in Canada? Or do you offer your catering services to people interested in experiencing your food and culture?

Or, you create a device that intends to treat the water system at home. However, you need to consider the type of water that runs in your province – hard or soft. What sort of toxins does your engineered system filter? And is your device and patent approved by Health Canada. If you neglect this process, you may end up incurring legal charges and unwanted issues. 


Learn from the Competition


Another approach is to check out the competition. This step is one of the easiest ways to know if there is a market for your business in the first place. Learn what they do and what their customers are saying about them. Check their reviews on google to learn what excites their customers and what doesn’t.  

To develop this idea, you need resources to create a solution. Are the materials available, accessible and affordable? What are the numbers like –  is the financial forecast valid? Can you connect with vendors to supply you with things you need to develop your idea? If so, will it end up being too expensive for your prospect? Is your identified prospect the right match to your vision and vice versa? The ocean is significant, and your boat is small – but confirm if you have the right tools to set sail on the sea.


Revenue Model


Are you clear about how this business idea will make money? Can you quickly and easily describe what your customers will pay you for? You can have the best ideas, but if you can’t confirm that people would actually buy it, then there is more work to do.

Statistics Canada has a great tool called Canadian Industry Statistics. This tool provides information on Canadian businesses, divided by industries and their level of profitability. These are real numbers based on real Canadian companies. Check it out and see if the industry you have a business idea in is statistically profitable in Canada. This is one of my favourite tools!


Develop a prototype


You have defined and validated the good intention of your business idea and ensured it solves a problem. You went further to confirm your idea is practical; you thought about its revenue model and profitability potential. You now have one last run to go – develop your idea. If you notice, the process you went through guides you in developing your business plan. You proceed with facts, numbers and your findings instead of just going with the flow. 

Developing your idea should not break the bank. Build your first product or service delivery process as a prototype. First, test-run your solution with your customer. In testing, you observe how the real market perceives your business. And confirm if it will be a sustainable business in the long run. 

Doing it this way, in small steps, helps test/validate and get real-time feedback while changing and iterating quickly. It helps to map out your strategy from start to finish. You will find if your prospective customers enjoy your solution or if there are things that you need to adjust.


Suppose an idea doesn’t have a clear revenue model. In that case, you can’t find any competition, and you’re not able to easily articulate the problem the idea is solving, it’s likely not worth moving ahead with, and it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

So, there you have it, my friends, a business idea needs some work before it turns into a viable business. However, if you follow these steps, you will have a better understanding of your business, your customers, the problem you are solving, and what needs to be tweaked to succeed. 


Is there a business idea you need help fleshing out? Let me know below.