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Posted by on Apr 13, 2014 in Blog, Good karma businesses, Life overseas, Running a business, Starting a business | 3 comments

Sexy soccer balls and making sure you are onto a killer business idea

Sexy soccer balls and making sure you are onto a killer business idea

It’s obvious right?  Build, make and sell stuff to people who are willing to pay for it, and profits will be so plentiful they will clog your mattresses, bank accounts and wherever else you hide your money.  You’ll be so crazy wealthy, you won’t know what to do with yourself…

Wow, that does sound great… now stop day dreaming and let’s get to nitty gritty. Whatever your idea is, it will require a lot of persistence and hard work.  If you stick at it, your day dreaming may well come true.  However, it will never come true if you don’t do one simple thing  – sell stuff that people want.

Every single successful Destination Entrepreneur I have interviewed sells something their customers want.  Bianca Forzano spent enough time kite surfing in the Dominican Republic that she realised there was potential to sell kite surfing lessons and extreme sports bikinis to people who love sports on the water.  Malcolm Ryen spent so much time with big animals in Tanzania that he knew exactly how to give customers an experience they will never forget on safaris and his private island, and Zoe Cohen had mingled with Kenya’s fashion scene for long enough that she knew she could sell up-market handbags to people who want fashionable, recycled accessories.

The store was finally selling the type of pink woollen socks that got everyone excited

The store was finally selling the type of pink woollen socks that got everyone excited

The big (not so secret) thing they all did?  Before starting a business, they spent time with their potential customers.  They lived in the country they wanted to work in and spent time understanding what the market looked like. As a result, business opportunities started to become obvious.  Let me repeat that because it is pretty important.  The BEST business ideas aren’t forced.  They don’t come from a 50 page business plan.  They come from spending time with your potential customers, learning what they want and need, and then figuring out how you fit in.  In other words, good business ideas come from an obvious market need – customers want what you will be selling.

Now that you know the secret to a killer business idea (its not very complicated), it’s time to learn from a business that has gotten it wrong in a big way.  Enter Soccket, which is staffed by lots of smart people and has come up with a really cool business idea for a market need that probably doesn’t (and possibly never will) exist.  I wrote about Soccket in Fast Company a few months ago:

Soccket is a company that has made a soccer ball that harnesses kinetic energy to generate light. Cool right? This company has received loads of press, and has raised nearly $600,000 from crowd funding sites. Even Obama and Bill Clinton love it. It is undoubtedly a nifty piece of technology.

The Soccket powers lights and charges mobile phones

The Soccket powers lights and charges mobile phones

The problem? At a cost of $60 per Soccket, it is the most expensive six-watt light on the market. D.Light, for example, produces a high-quality study light with a two-year warranty and similar functionality that retails for $10. The Soccket is also certainly the most expensive soccer ball the customer, presumably kids with no access to electricity, is ever going to see. (A more in-depth analysis of the concerns with Soccket’s approach can be found here.)

Unfortunately, the problems don’t stop there. A great 15 minute investigative podcast on the Soccket from Amy Collins over at  includes interviews with a number of Mexican families who received the product.  The results suggest the Soccket is not even something they really want.

The big point here, the point you need to take away from this, is that sexy ideas are not enough.  In fact, sexy ideas are not even necessary. Simple, boring, mundane businesses have just as much chance of success (maybe even more??) as the ones that get featured in all the glossy magazines.

Bob couldn't figure out why his customers didn't like him... until he started to listen to them and realised he wasn't selling them what they wanted to buy

Bob couldn’t figure out why his customers didn’t like him… until he started to listen to them and realised he wasn’t selling them what they wanted to buy

So, let’s summarise:

  • Spend time in the country you are thinking of moving to
  • Base your business idea on something people want
  • Make sure you are filling an obvious market need
  • Care deeply about customer service and ongoing improvement of your offering

Do all of this, and you will have the makings of a great business that can fund your awesome new lifestyle abroad.


Do you have any stories of businesses ideas that failed miserably, or ones that only became obvious after you’d spent some time in the country you were moving to?  What was the thing that helped you land on a great business idea?  How long do you recommend staying in a country before taking the plunge into business?

Photo credits: Penn State, Soccket, Christopher Twigg


  1. Well said (or written)!

    I’d like to add regarding ‘persisting’. I’ve launched a service that was needed and wanted, but! since it was new, it was hard for prospects to trust the service and my company. So the first few deals were extremely hard, and I often asked myself if I should even continue.

    Now, after operating for several years, and after serving dozens of clients, things are much easier (not easy! easier :-) ).

    So in short, your product/service/company might be great, but it will take some time and track record to reveal its true potential.

    Hope this helps,

    • You tried something new!! Good for you! I’m always afraid I’ll mess up when I try new stuff.
      What made you decide to try something new?
      I’d like to get motivated. Maybe you have some ideas you
      can share.

      • Hi Jenni, thanks.

        Fear is a good feeling to have. We can bet we’ll mess things up when we try new stuff. So, the question to ask is — ok, what happens if we mess up?

        Many times, nothing really happens, we simply get to try again.

        All in all, it’s not about the lack of fear, it is feeling the fear, and deciding to go ahead. In fact fear is a good indication you’re in the right direction for a break through.

        Here’s why I tried something new:

        And here’s what you need for getting (and staying!) motivated: (I listed several good books here)

        Follow your dreams, Jenni!!

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