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5 Ways to Validate a Business Idea, Right Now

Don't let your day job or lack of capital stop you from finding and testing a business idea. Here's how.
Last year, I embarked upon a personal challenge to validate a business idea in 30 days. To make it even more difficult, it was a random idea chosen by my readers. They asked me to do it without using my existing website, traffic and business connections and without spending more than 20 hours per week on the project. On top of that, I limited myself to spending no more than $500 validating this idea. The experiment was a success.In just two weeks, I built an email list of 565 subscribers without having an actual website. Then, I reached out to a handful of those subscribers and pre-sold 12 copies of a book that didn't even exist yet, all in less than 30 days. I wrote about the experiment in real-time with in-depth weekly updates, successes, failures and lessons learned along the way, right here in my validation challenge. Today, I want to share with you the five most effect…

Don't Be Afraid to Embrace Boring Ideas

Kikkerland's annual design competition results in an unexpected bestseller.
Dutch design firm Kikkerland is known for bringing whimsy to utilitarian products -- say, a cocktail shaker in the shape of a maraca, or a portable barbecue in the shape of a suitcase. So it was surprised when one of its most successful products of the past year was a… cord organizer. 
The product, the Cable Loft, was born out of Kikkerland’s annual Design Challenge, in which the brand partners with a retail company and a team of student designers, who submit problem-solving ideas for one particular challenge. For 2016, the challenge brought together The Container Store and students from the Rhode Island School of Design, who were asked to create a product for the digitally connected home. Students went through multiple rounds of presentations and critiques before final prototypes were submitted to buyers for consideration. Cable Loft -- an organizational home for a power strip and the many cords that plug into it -- was deemed the winner, and its student designer received a licensing agreement and a 5 percent commission. 
“From a Kikkerland point of view, we thought the Cable Loft was sort of boring,” says founder and CEO Jan van der Lande. “But [The Container Store’s] chief merchandising officer and president, Sharon Tindell, immediately said, ‘This is it! This solves a problem! This is perfect!’ And they know their customer so well.” So they went with it. And Tindell was right. “It’s been a big success,” says Van der Lande. “It’s already sold 8,000 pieces.”

The Cable Loft ($14.99) is currently sold exclusively at The Container Store, though it will eventually join the Kikkerland permanent collection. Given its initial success, the brand is considering further expansion into the seemingly snoozy space. “We may explore other possibilities in cord management and make it a little category,” van der Lande says. “We went outside our comfortzone on this, and it was a big surprise.” 

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