Original? Really?

It’s not that difficult coming up with a business idea – between the two of us co-founders, we’ve had plenty. On a daily basis, as we go about our lives, there are certain things we wish we could have, or things that we moan about that are bad. These sometimes spark ideas about a new angle on a product or service. Not all of them are doable though. Sometimes an idea is before it’s time, sometimes it’s too big for a single person of modest means and ability to take on. Many startup ideas need a bit of ingenuity to make them truly groundbreaking. We sometimes have ideas that we don’t pursue and then kick ourselves when someone else comes up with a similar idea, but implements it much much better than we could ever have. So, what then were the things that helped convince us that Toghal was a good idea?

Grit?

Firstly, is it an idea that has grit? In that, it sticks around in your mind longer than a day, a week, a month? You find yourself rolling the idea around in your mind often, thinking of angles, options, challenges, sweet spots. What we found when thinking through ideas is that the more focused the idea is, the better. It takes time to hone the idea until it gleams with self-importance, and trips off your tongue at every opportunity.

For me personally, the lightbulb moment was when we moved into a house in the British countryside, and I wanted elements of Africa in it. I found it hard to integrate the typical brightly coloured Dutch wax fabric, which I had successfully used in brighter climes, into smaller enclosed spaces. I could easily find Asian influenced fabrics in softer colour palettes on different kinds of fabric such as silks, velvets and soft cottons, but not African influenced ones.

Wide appeal?

Secondly, is it a concept that has wider appeal? At the point when your immediate family is sick and tired of hearing you talk about your business, it may be time to air it in slightly wider, yet still friendly, circles. Cosy focused chats with groups of friends over a cuppa, or better still, trapped into a corner seat at a restaurant while you continue your summing up. A limp response is when they say, stretching out the vowels – ‘weeeeell, it miiiight wooork’. A more helpful response is when they say:

  • I would buy that if it was priced at £x, or
  • I read about something similar that you might want to see, or
  • Have you heard about company y which seems to do doing what you are planning?

An enthusiastic response is when your focus group buddies later send you weblinks to look at.

I ambushed my focus group of three at Bill’s restaurant in Covent Garden. This is the idea, and here are some pretty pictures to show you all the places we can get inspiration from. These are the things I want to make. Would you buy from me? I asked, as they attempted to tuck into their puddings. Quite possibly, came the reply, any discounts for friends?

You’re not out of the woods at this stage – friends can be too supportive at times, but if they are good friends, you kind of expect them to sort of tell you the truth(ish). There’s a lot more homework to do to confirm that your idea has legs, but at least you have confirmed that it is beyond a mere enthusiasm and you have a green light to keep going.

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