How Can I Start A New Business 101

Hey loves,

So I put together a short guide on starting a business. Everything you need to know to get started can be pretty much summed up in this post. It’s a combination of an awesome Quora answer I found on this subject plus a post I wrote for the Productive Muslim a while ago. It also includes a case study, in case you wanted to get someone to help you work through your business idea. This is a massive topic that requires you to find solutions that fit your own personal needs, so take this a simple guide. Nothing more.

How Can I Start a Business 101

From Quora by Mark Effinger 

Here’s the shorthand:

1) Find a problem.
2) Solve the problem.
3) Turn the solution into a service or product.
4) Sell your solution.
5) (Sit on a sun-drenched beach sipping cocktails… HAH!)

Volume II:

1) Take something you’re passionate about. eg Soccer.
2) Find the market gap (the underserved area or issue within your passion). eg. Soccer balls don’t give feedback. But in your New World, Soccer Balls have sensors that know the parameters of the field (for boundary issues). They know their speed, and who kicked or dribbled them, when and how fast, with how much English on the ball.
3) Prototype using existing hardware. Beg and borrow the talent to make it happen.
4) Presell it to individuals, teams and the market channel using Kickstarter, Indiegogo or similar crowdfunding service (so you’re both preselling AND funding, all in one fell swoop).
5) Get busy marketing.
6) And better get into production. Refine. Test and otherwise make happy customers. Iterate fast.

The best thing you can do for yourself is…
Find a Startup Weekend near you, and join a team. You’ll learn more, have more fun, and find Your Tribe – the people who will join you, or who you can join, to experience what a startup feels like.

Even after 13 startups across 25+ years, StartupWeekend taught me as much as anything I had ever learned prior. AND it released me from the old 18-24 month “idea to launch” startup cycle. Invaluable lessons there.

Oh, and one more thing:
Doing startups takes guts. They’re painful. They will absorb every moment of your day (it’s 11:49 as I craft this pithy response, and I have been up since 7:40 answering emails. Developing product. Working on a website. Handling some unique customer service issues. Making payroll for my employees. Putting specific ingredients aside to complete a new SleepNutrients product tomorrow. And contacting a half dozen professional sports trainers to meet me at the gym tomorrow at noon to sample some new products and try a new device I developed).

Your startup will own you.
But, as a pharmacist, you already know what long hours are like.
And you’re clearly smart enough to have acquired a degree in pharmacology. So now, all you need is an idea and commitment.

Here’s a sad story, and a lesson:
A few years ago I helped a guy launch a cool product called StairCycle. It was a really solid product idea. And he even had it manufactured like a pro.No problems there.

We got him on a Yahoo Small Business Contest – and he won! Richard Branson (yes, THAT Richard Branson, of Virgin fame) had us Fedex a StairCycle to his private Island. He loved it, and crowned it Best New Product of the Year. He even had the founder of StairCycle meet him in Times Square, announced on national TV, with a PR campaign, and $100,000 in advertising and web development provided by Yahoo.


It’s a home-run, right?


I called the owner a few weeks later to ensure everything was on schedule (production, the new website, ads, PR, deliveries, channel relationships with bike shops, Target, etc…).

Guess where he was?
Sitting on his new Barcalounger, watching his new 50″ TV. And he told me he’s tired, and didn’t feel like he could handle the pressure of the startup life. His day job as an X-Ray tech gave him enough money that he didn’t feel the burn a true entrepreneur feels for his vision, customers, products, employees, partners and investors.

The company died that day.
He could have owned a multi-million dollar company with just that one product. It was slick, easy to ride, fun, and a great workout.

But being an entrepreneur means more than a great idea and a killer product launch. It means you invest yourself, your soul, into your work. Maybe not forever. But definitely long enough to get momentum, stability and the resources to hire real players to fill-in your team. Even a CEO/President to run the dang thing when you’re about ready to die from too many 100 hour weeks.

But… it’s worth it.
Even when you fail.
Because you’ve become a greater contributor to the world through your actions, commitment, learning, and hopefully, giving.

Starting a company is probably only second to raising my kids. It’s opened a world to me, my employees and associates that I could not have imagined. And the successes so far outweigh the failures and stillborn businesses, I now consider them stepping stones, rather than the huge sinkholes they appeared to be at the time.

So go for it.
The roadmap is easy.
All you need to do is put in The Work.
(See Stephen Pressfield‘s classic The War of Art to understand what it takes to face down The Resistance you’ll find in every corner of being an entrepreneur).

Best of success to you,


 What Should Your Business Be About?

When beginning your entrepreneurial journey, it’s less important to be looking for a “big idea” like the next Google or the next Facebook but more important to look for a business idea that matches your skills, knowledge level and, most importantly, is solving a problem for your intended market.

Separate Facts from Fiction

You’ve probably dreamed about starting and growing a successful business. You’ve also probably thought that your idea had to be original or that you have to wait for the ‘right time’.

For every great idea out there that becomes a business, there are thousands of ideas that don’t end up successful.

Contrary to popular belief, what you would be surprised to learn is that most successful businesses1 we see today were a result of a simple idea executed successfully by a smart team. They never waited for the ‘right time’. They just went ahead and started. If you study successful businesses, either small enterprises or large Fortune 500 companies, you will learn that they rarely reinvented the wheel either. They simply made an existing idea better. They looked at the marketplace, identified a gap in the market and said: “How do I make this better?”

It’s not about the idea that you have, but rather the execution of that idea.1

Here is the simple formula that makes up a successful business idea: find a problem or a pain-point for someone and provide a solution.

Finding a pain point means that you must be solving a problem for someone that they are willing to pay for that is better than what already exists. What can you do that will make something easier for someone? What can you create that will make life more enjoyable for someone? What can you build that will help uplift someone or bring happiness to someone?

This is the starting point of finding a great idea.

Practical Steps to Finding a Good Business Idea

If you are starting from scratch, follow along below:

Step 1: Who are you?

Think about your work history. What have you done? What fields have you worked in? Do you have hobbies? What skills do you have? What activities do you enjoy doing? What do you like? What do you love to do?

On a blank piece of paper, write down five things about yourself.


  1. I love taking care of children.
  2. I love helping people market their business.
  3. I love making cupcakes.
  4. I love taking photographs of people on their wedding day.
  5. I love creating beautifully-designed posters for people.

Don’t think too much about what you are writing. Take your time, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and write down whatever comes to mind first.

This step is important because you will be acquainted with specific industries, markets, and communities you can solve problems for.

Step 2: Identify Problems in Your Everyday life

In contemporary business discussion, you will hear that the best way to find a business idea is to solve a problem for yourself.

What problems do you face on a day-to-day basis that you wish there was a solution for? List all the problems you face in your day-to-day life.

Ask yourself:

  • Are there things you wish were easier while working at your job or on your hobbies?
  • Have you been in a situation where something happened that you didn’t like?
  • Did you have to learn or do something the hard way and found an easier way to do it?
  • Is there a product or service you wish you had to make your life easier?
  • Is there a skill or piece of knowledge that you are passionate about that you can ‘niche-down’ for a particular audience?

Step 3: Combine Your Skills with Potential Problems

The third step is to see whether you can identify opportunities to develop a business idea based on markets, fields or communities you are familiar with that also match your skills and passions. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Were you a full-time working parent and found yourself needing affordable daycare for your children? Are there opportunities to start a daycare in your neighbourhood? Even better, think smaller: what about providing Islamic daycare for young Muslim families?
  • Love photography? Are there opportunities for you to photograph clients for a fee? Even better, think smaller: what about catering to shooting female-only (if you are a woman) or male-only (if you are a man) events? What about shooting weddings for Muslim couples?
  • Love graphic design? Are there opportunities in your network to provide beautifully designed posters for events? How about designing for a few events for free and see what response you get?

Additional Tips

  • Your best ideas may come from your network: Identify entrepreneurs and business people in your network who you can bounce ideas off of. They might lead you to a new direction.
  • Find inspiration: Sometime the best ideas come when you aren’t thinking about business, they come when you are inspired. The best way to be inspired is to do what you love: paint, take a walk, go surfing – do something you enjoy and you might come across great ideas for a new business
  • Context – remain aware of your environment: Keep up with the local news, read more industry magazines. Are there opportunities, trends or potential booming demographics that you can provide a possible product or service for? Are there markets that are underserved and needing solutions?

The Key is Creating Value

Finding a business idea is not as complicated as one might think. All around us, there are needs that are waiting to be fulfilled! The most important thing is to realize that it doesn’t need to be original or unique; you must simply try to improve upon existing solutions to the problem that you are trying to solve.

Value creation is the core of any successful business. When you solve a pain-point or a problem for someone, you are creating value.

Whenever you come across an opportunity, ask yourself these questions:

  • How can I improve on this?
  • Is there a market that is underserved and how can I better meet their needs?
  • Can I run a better, more efficient business than that person over there?

In no time, you will have a flood of ideas coming your way and ample opportunities to create value and serve your market; and with the right amount of planning and effort, you will have a thriving business, In sha Allah.

Download this case-study to work through a real-life business idea.


[Being Your Own Boss – Part 1] How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Hello beautiful readers,

Of the many things I am blessed to be apart of, I am the head of operations and marketing at Ummahhub, a platform of entrepreneurs and changemakers within the Muslim community, that recently went live about 2 months ago. My passion as always been developing the entrepreneurial, innovation and creative capacities of people from underdeveloped, marginalized and underserved backgrounds.

Trying to become an entrepreneur, or building a business, making an impact, developing successful habits isn’t easy. When you face struggles and obstacles due to societal infrastructure or structural racism or roadblocks that prevent you from resources because of who you are, then success isn’t an ‘roadmap’ as constantly overstated by personal development gurus. When individuals benefit from privledges within society and then fail to acknowledge that things were ‘easier’ for them due to the societal structures that were put in place to make them succeed and others fail, then what happens is a lot of people trek down the same path thinking that there is a formula for success, when there isn’t.

It isn’t just about hardwork, it isn’t just about ‘networking’, it isn’t just about ‘getting off your ass’ – you need to have insane work ethic and put much more pressure on yourself to succeed because the stakes are higher for you. As a colored person, your risks are higer because you may not come from a community that will support you and don’t have much of a cushion for fall back, getting an investment is much harder, not having access to knowledge or mentors etc. This isn’t victimhood. It took me a long time to realize there are clear, structural and social infrastructure put in place to make it harder for colored people, and blacks to succeed. I was one of those people who thought that things were equal playing field for everyone. Not anymore.

What does this mean?

It means that a special effort needs to be put into particular communities on an awareness level, to help give them access to the knowledge that there are many others ways to live – you don’t have to just survive. That it is possible to put your talents to use, to put your gifts and skills to use to create a brighter future for yourself and those around you.

Life doesn’t have to be dictated to you.

So as a part of Ummahhub, this is my mission. I wrote the following piece and it was co-edited and produced by Obaid Ahmad and Sonia Riahi, the two other members of Ummahhub and featured on the Productive Muslim. I hope it is beneficial.

Feel free to let me know what you think and how I can help you further.

with love,


[Being Your Own Boss – Part 1] How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset


This is Part 1 of UmmahHub’s series on Being Your Own Boss that reveals the 10 keys to help you become a successful entrepreneur and be the best you can be in business and in life, In sha Allah.

To be an entrepreneur and be involved in business consists of exerting significant effort and hard work, which is highly encouraged in Islam; as the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“No doubt, it is better for a person to take a rope and proceed in the morning to the mountains and cut the wood and then sell it, and eat from this income and give alms from it than to ask others for something.” [Bukhari]

Many of the early followers of our faith, including our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), were merchants and traders. In fact, much of how Islam spread from West Africa to China was through traders. As the country with the highest Muslim population in the world, Indonesia is said to have embraced Islam by witnessing the the strong ethics and beautiful character of Muslim businessmen and entrepreneurs they came across, which speaks to the immense power of business that is driven by faith-based values.

Entrepreneurship is one of the most powerful methods to create long-lasting change in our communities that is currently being neglected. This is due to the lack of proper entrepreneurial education to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs within our community. There simply is not enough awareness about what entrepreneurship is, how we can develop more entrepreneurs, and how we can start and run successful companies that can create a long-lasting impact.

Who is an Entrepreneur?

There are many definitions for the word ‘entrepreneur’, but the most common definition is that an entrepreneur is someone who identifies problems and then turns them into opportunities.

“Entrepreneurship,” says Bob Reiss, the author of ‘Low- Risk, High-Reward: Starting and Growing your Business With Minimal Risk‘, “is the recognition and pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources you currently control, with confidence that you can succeed, with the flexibility to change course as necessary, and with the will to rebound from setbacks.”

Being an entrepreneur is not necessarily just about launching and running a business, it is about developing the entrepreneurial mindset, which is useful to anyone who is part of an organization. It is the mindset of looking at problems as opportunities and creating more with less. This mindset encourages risk-taking, creativity, innovation, and unconventional thinking.

This is the mindset that we Muslims need to develop in order to properly create healthy communities that can deal with the myriad of socio-economic issues we face.

Revive Your Entrepreneurial Spirit

The industrial revolution forced a mass migration of people from rural areas to urban cities. Prior to that, most people in North America were entrepreneurs who owned small businesses and bartered to get what they needed. Now, as technology and global competition changes the employment landscape, traditional employment that was reminiscent of the industrial revolution is being challenged. Individuals are now being forced to become knowledge workers, who essentially rely on selling their skills to make a living. We were all entrepreneurs long before the industrial revolution changed that. We need to return back to our entrepreneurial roots, not just socially but religiously as well. Interestingly enough, history has come full circle and we will all need to become entrepreneurs to survive in the future.

What makes entrepreneurs unique is their resourcefulness. In other words, they are able to do more with less. Whatever the problem, they will find a way to make it happen even if they do not have all the tools.

The key to developing an entrepreneurial mindset is recognizing the qualities you have, then building and improving upon those you do not yet have. To get started, we have mapped out key ways to develop your mindset as a Muslim entrepreneur.:

1. Have Tawakkul and Be Grateful

Part of being a Muslim is understanding that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is the ultimate disposer of our affairs. He is Al-Awwal (the Beginning) wal-Akhir (The End). Everything begins with Him and everything ends with Him. Consequently, He is the source of everything and the Provider of all.

Contemporary business practices today cite scientific studies showing that an attitude of gratitude brings more into your life. It means the more you are grateful, the more you will receive. Believing that there is a limited amount of resources for everyone to access is a flawed mindset for any entrepreneur. You must operate from a place of abundance and believe resources are unlimited.

As Muslims, we do not need modern scientific studies to show us that being grateful and having faith in a higher being who is the Source of all is enough reason to never worry.

In the Qur’an, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’ ” [Qur’an: Chapter 14, Verse 7]

Know that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has given you all the resources that you need in your life to create a successful business and create some impact in the world. Once you realize that you were given quite a lot, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has guaranteed to give you more.

2. Work Hard and Think Long-Term

That no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives. And that his effort is going to be seen – Then he will be recompensed for it with the fullest recompense.” [Qur’an: Chapter 53, Verses 38-41]

A crucial step to developing an entrepreneurial mindset is having the ability to think long-term. Long-term thinking allows a person to develop discipline to work at a problem while having a future vision in mind. This helps prevent the need to fulfill short-term gratification.

In Surat al-Israa, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

Whoever should desire the immediate – We hasten for him from it what We will to whom We intend. Then We have made for him Hell, which he will [enter to] burn, censured and banished. But whoever desires the Hereafter and exerts the effort due to it while he is a believer – it is those whose effort is ever appreciated [by Allah]. To each [category] We extend – to these and to those – from the gift of your Lord. And never has the gift of your Lord been restricted.” [Qur’an: Chapter 17, Verses 18-20]

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says:

Whoever desires the reward of this world – then with Allah is the reward of this world and the Hereafter. And ever is Allah Hearing and Seeing.” [Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verses 134]

A key part of having a long-term vision is having the understanding of what guides your decision-making. What vision do you have for yourself, your life and your business? What impact do you ultimately want to make? This will be your reason, the one that will get you through the main obstacles you will inevitably face. As Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has said, if you work, you will receive the fruits of your striving.

3. Have Grit

University of Pennsylvania Psychology Professor Angela Duckworth’s research has shown that people with “grit”, the trait of exceptional persistence and devotion, consistently perform better than those with higher IQ.

If there is one guarantee in entrepreneurship, it is that it is a roller coaster ride. There is no linear path to becoming a successful entrepreneur. It essentially consists of making numerous tiny decisions everyday on multiple things: teams, administration strategy, marketing, etc. It takes a certain type of mindset to withstand this kind of pressure. The key here is persistence.

Persistence is the ability to look past obstacles and keep moving. When speaking to many successful entrepreneurs, they will cite the ability to not give up as being a crucial reason for success. Sadly, many people do not succeed because they gave up right before they were about to find success. The key to persistence is to keep trying until you get to your end goal.

“Keep focused on the problem you are trying to solve but be flexible on how you solve it”, says Jason Nazar, co-founder and CEO of Docstoc


4. Focus on Creating Value

Another key to becoming a successful entrepreneur is by creating value. The amount of success you have is proportional to how much value you bring to others. Entrepreneurs focus on creating sustainable solutions by solving problems faced by people.

Before starting your business, it is essential to ask yourself: “Who am I helping and how can I make that solution better than what exists currently in the marketplace?” This is the primary mentality to have when looking to become an entrepreneur and the basis of great business models. Contemporary entrepreneurship encourages one to find a solution for a problem within the marketplace that customers are not happy with, then create a product to help them, while constantly revising and improving that product based on their feedback.

Entrepreneurial Education: The Way Forward

Growing and developing the next generation of entrepreneurs is crucial for our long-term communal prosperity. In order to solve the myriad of social problems that we face, we need to support those who are solving these problems. That is why entrepreneurial education can become a crucial asset for our community.

The first step in doing so is to develop the mindset of an entrepreneur.
 On a community level, helping more people develop an entrepreneurial mindset means we help unleash the creative potential and innovative thinking of many individuals in our community. These new ideas can help spark new businesses, organizations and projects that will benefit our community for years to come. Developing an entrepreneurial mindset gives individuals the inspiration to dream, to be innovative and to take risks.

With this spirit, we have to encourage the next generation to become the change-makers and entrepreneurs they have the potential to be!

Next time we will show you how to get inspired and develop business ideas. If you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs, or thinking of becoming one yourself, let us know in the comments section below!