How to Start a Business: Market Opportunities

In this segment, we explore different types of problems in the marketplace.  These types of problems include known and unknown issues that customers may have.  To best identify these types of problems, creating a list of 100 identifiable problems is a great way to build a key entrepreneurial skill, which is identifying problems.  From this identification, possible business opportunities may present themselves.

Known Customer Problems

The main reason businesses flourish or even start is that they solve problems for customers.  Without customer problems, there will be no business.  It really is as simple as that.  Fortunately, customers have an endless supply problem.  These problems may include getting groceries home after a busy day at the office, needing to improve marketing for a company or watching children so parents can have a night off.  Once these problems are identified, then potential entrepreneurs are able to create businesses to exploit these opportunities.

Unknown Customer Problems

Some customers have problems that they do not even know exists.  Who would have thought that people needed more social interaction using mechanical devices (Facebook and other social media)?  In these situations, an entrepreneur’s passion for a concept or idea may help customers identify something that is missing from their life and they need this product or service in order to be fulfilled.

How to Start a Business: Identifying Customer Problems

List of 100 Problems

Regardless if a customer knows they have a problem or not, there are certain steps that entrepreneurs can take to identify problems in the marketplace.  The first step is to list 100 identifiable problems.

I developed this concept several years ago, while teaching entrepreneurship to high school students in Durham, North Carolina.  For this exercise, take a walk with a notepad, and start thinking about or identifying problems around you.  Make sure to number each one of the problems that you identify.  Honestly, it really does not matter how insignificant the problem may seem.

Some of my favorite problems identified by students:

  • Customized soda machine.
  • I have to pee.
  • Heels to Flats shoes.
  • Wooden cases for smart phones.

Exercise Objective

The objective of this exercise is twofold.  First, practice identifying problems is a skill entrepreneur need to flourish in the marketplace.  Not only will this skill help identify a possible business idea, but it will help later on in optimizing operations and lowering costs for a business.

The second objective from this practice is identifying a problem that a business may solve.  With the 100 problems identified, the next step is to write done a business solution for each problem noted. This will lead to 100 business ideas!


All businesses start by solving problems for customers.  However, some problems are less identifiable as compared to other problems.  Because of these challenges, entrepreneurs need to learn the skill set of problem identification.  A great way to build a skill set is to list 100 identifiable problems in your immediate surrounding.  From this list, just construct different business ideas to solve the various problems.  With this done, now you have a great variety of business opportunities for the foreseeable future.