How to get business ideas - remove steps

I see so many aspiring entrepreneurs stressed out hoping to find some spark of a business idea, but the common complaint is:

Everything good has already been done.

I used to feel like that too, but it doesn’t have to be hard. It can be as simple as:

  1. Find a job people have.
  2. List out every step people take to complete that job.
  3. Remove as many steps as you can.

Look at measuring cups.

People have been using cups to measure things for thousands of years. And standardized measuring cups have been around since Fannie Farmer invented them in 1896.

You can’t possibly come up with a new idea for a measuring cup. Right?

But then someone does. A guy named Steve Hoeting was trying to come up with a new recipe for brownies, and realized he spent too many steps in the process reading the level of stuff on the side of his measuring cup. Could he shave steps from that process, by putting the ruler at an angle to read it from above? A couple prototypes later, he had a crude design, which went onto become the wild success of the OXO measuring cup.


What about S'mores?


You can hardly come up with a simpler dessert: graham crackers + chocolate + marshmallow - a recipe that’s been around for at least 90 years when it first appeared recorded in a Girl Scouts’ book in 1927.

How can you simplify this into a business idea?

Well, three college kids had to come up with a last minute idea for an entrepreneurial class project a day before it was due. Realizing the chocolate step of S'mores was a small nuisance and that the chocolate is hard to get consistently melted in your recipe, they created Stuff n’ Mallows - marshmallows with the chocolate already stuffed inside.


They shaved off the steps of buying chocolate bars, and adding it to your S'more. Now, just heat the Stuff n’ Mallows for your S'more, and you’ve already accomplished the chocolate part.

Simple. I bet someone reading this even said to themselves, “That’s a trivial idea. It’s dumb.”

Now, just a year later, their product is in over 40 stores across the United States, and they’re winning innovation awards from one of the oldest trade associations in the world - the National Confectioners Association.

If Steve Hoeting and these college kids successfully simplified what already appeared so simple and had been around for hundreds and thousands of years, imagine how many things you can find to improve.

Want a good place to start looking for jobs to simplify? One of my favorite overlooked resources for business ideas is For Dummies books.

Make everything easier in your life with step-by-step instruction.

For Dummies website description

For Dummies has already done a ton of the work laying out job after job and the steps involved. Grab a Dummies book and use it as a starting point to find steps to try and remove.

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You can watch a short documentary on Steve Hoeting’s invention:


Now read this

Pricing in reverse: use a product’s price to figure out what you need to build.

wrong: build something and then figure out how much you can charge. right: choose your desired price, then figure out how to justify it.— Amy Hoy (@amyhoy) March 5, 2012 Amy brings up a great point and motivates me to finish a post I’ve... Continue →