Manar Al Hinai: Find what you know and love, then go into business in that field

How to pinpoint the right business opportunity to explore, according to Manar Al Hinai.

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During my entrepreneurship journey and writing about businesses over the past seven years, I have found that most entrepreneurs have a fair amount of experience in the industries and markets their business operates in.

They worked as an editor, for example, and then decided to start a digital magazine, or worked in a family business that operated several restaurants before opening their first cafe.

In other words, they were familiar with the products and the markets from a customer point of view. They knew what the competition offered and what the companies they worked for did not, and they knew what needed to be added to their model to ensure their customers have a complete experience.

Of the many entrepreneurs I have either met or read about, there have only been a handful that have started something in a field they were not familiar with. Even then, before they launched they had dedicated themselves to learning the tricks of the trade. Many of them also chose to partner up with individuals who were experienced in the industry, launching the business together.

Ella Woodward is a great example of someone who ventured into a range of new entities, from cookbooks to apps to retail – and all in less than seven years. In 2011, 19-year-old Ella was diagnosed with an illness that left her bedridden and fatigued. When conventional medicine failed her, she decided to change her diet, giving up meat, gluten, sugar and anything processed. Her symptoms disappeared and her energy returned.

With a sweet tooth, she decided to share her recipes on how to make natural food delicious and fun on her blog, Deliciously Ella.

The popularity of her blog led her to publish a number of books, launch an app, open a number of delis around London and sell retail products in Waitrose supermarkets.

She learnt a lot along the way and is a textbook example of an entrepreneur learning on the go in their field.

However, although Ella and many other entrepreneurs are exceptions to the rule, generally this is how it works: the more experience you have in an industry, the more you will know about its products, services, competitors, opportunities and risks. The less experienced you are, the more you must dedicate yourself to learning the ropes through trial and error, and the more you risk feeling frustrated and demotivated. The bottom line is that the more you build on what you know, the greater your chances for success. It is as simple as that.

So take a step back and analyse the opportunities you have come across during your work experience, as well as your experiences of dealing with different product and service providers. The next step is to decide how to take this opportunity and turn it into a solid business plan. A solid combination is starting a business you are both passionate about and in a field you are knowledgable on.

The questions below will help to pinpoint a business opportunity that you can explore:

1. Think about the different industries you have worked in during your career. If you were employed by a particular company, consider the departments you worked in or with. Now, which of those did you enjoy the most?

2. Once you have narrowed that down, consider the opportunities or solutions that were not provided by that business – elements that could be offered by a new business.

3. Which other companies or industries served as competitors to the company you worked for? What opportunities, services or solutions did they fail to offer their customers?

4. What specific service or product in your sector are you most familiar with? Were you in charge of a specific service or product?

5. Out of the businesses/services above, and the business opportunities presented, which do you feel you are most qualified to address?

6. Once you have narrowed down the answers for Question 5, ask yourself: which one are you most passionate about and would love to pursue?

Then take it from there.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages a branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai

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