Thomas Cooney: Where do I go to get a business idea?

Irish Independent Business in conjunction with ICSB World Entrepreneurship Conference is proud to present the first in our six part 'Start Your Own Business' series offering practical advice to aspiring entreprenuers.

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Thomas Cooney

One of the comments that arises most frequently during Start Your Own Business courses comes from participants who believe that it is very difficult to identify a business idea and therefore they cannot start a business. Not having a business idea is obviously an initial barrier to creating an enterprise but it does not need to stay that way as there are many ways in which you can identify business opportunities.

The easiest technique to use in identifying a business opportunity is to purchase someone else's idea. Franchising is a very effective method of starting a business since you are using a business model that has already been proven to be successful and failure rates for franchises is significantly lower than for non-franchise enterprises. To look for a franchise opportunity in Ireland, you should go either to or Both of these websites provide a wide variety of franchise ideas and details on the advantages and disadvantages of franchising in Ireland.

But there are also other ways in which you can purchase business ideas. Almost all universities and institutes of technology now have Technology Transfer Offices which are looking to sell products or services (through product licensing) that have been developed through research and development within their institution. As one example of what ideas are available, go to the Dublin Institute of Technology website at Alternatively, check out the Irish Patents Office website

For business ideas more generally, I would suggest that you simply browse internet sites such as or the American website businessideas. Both of these offer hundreds of business ideas. Alternatively you could simply purchase an existing business from the Irish website

I would recommend to everyone interested in starting a business that they should trawl the internet to look for business opportunities as it helps you to train your mind as to what types of business ideas are currently available. However, if you are not a fan of the internet then there are other ways in which you can also generate business ideas. The first of these techniques is to keep your eyes open for opportunities when you travel abroad.

How often have your been in some other country and seen a product or service that is not available in Ireland and you thought to yourself "I could do that in Ireland"?

In a similar vein to this technique, enterprise support agencies love the idea of import substitution so if you can manufacture a product that is currently available only through importing, then you will potentially receive support from your local enterprise agency.

Other methods of identifying business opportunities are through networking at business events, through your own work experience (can you make it better, faster, or cheaper than your current employer) or through your hobbies. Many photography businesses have been started as a result of a hobby. Some years ago, a person on a course told me of his idea to open a Bed and Breakfast house in the west of Ireland that caters for animals as he could not bring his dogs away with him for long weekends because no accommodation existed that welcomed animals.

Generating business ideas becomes easier if you take a proactive and open approach to business opportunities. It will not happen like a bolt of lightning suddenly striking you and you awakening to a fabulous new business idea. Less than 4pc of businesses that get started each year are based on truly new ideas.

Thomas Cooney is Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Dublin Institute of Technology and Chair of the ICSB World Entrepreneurship Conference which will take place in Dublin from June 11-14. More details on the conference can be found at

If you are passionate about being your own boss follow the series for a chance to win a pass to the conference in June.