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Dear Jess...where do I start?

Every Friday, Jess Ratcliffe drops by to help us overcome the obstacles and worries that are holding us back. Share your questions with Jess anonymously at

Dear Jess, I have a business idea - a few ideas actually - but I don't know where to begin. Where do I start when my idea feels so big, it's overwhelming?

You're in the perfect place. There's something about turning an idea into reality that lights my soul on fire. I've been building products and companies since I was in my teens so we've got this - together.

The first thing to do is define our vision

Ask yourself: what is the problem we're solving?

When we're at the start of turning our idea into reality, "how" we're going to "get there" can feel overwhelming. We look at where are now (the start) and where we want to be (the end...?) and focus on the chasm we've got to cross.

When we have clarity on why we're doing what we're doing - why we're building this business, product, service - that will be our guiding light and see us through (pardon the pun) the darker days.

Having clarity on the problem we're solving - the pain we're easing - will help us turn our BIG vision into our MVP - our minimum viable product. And this is invaluable when it comes to testing our assumptions and learning early and often in the building process.

"It always seems impossible until it is done" - Nelson Mandela

Now we know the problem, let's define our solution

With your problem in mind, take a moment (or many) to define your solution to this problem - what's your business idea? It might be a service you want to offer, an app or website you want to build or a community you want to create. How does it solve the problem we're focused on? Does it do so in one way or multiple?

Aim to get every idea out of your head and onto paper - no matter how big or small they feel. There's no right or wrong here.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the thoughts flying around our minds when we leave them in there.

Now for the (extra) fun bit - let's get testing

Looking back over your notes, ask yourself: what is the minimum I could offer - or do - to test my idea; to solve this problem? This will form our first MVP - or in other words, prototype - to take out into the world and test with potential customers or clients.

The objective of an MVP is not to offer the bare minimum and that be it. The objective is to validate the assumptions we're making as quickly and cheaply as possible.

When we’re building products, we make assumptions all the time. We assume there’s a problem we’re solving and that people will want our product or service. We make assumptions about our users - what they do, think, feel and need.

Those assumptions need to be tested. Otherwise, we'll find ourselves with a fully built out business, product or service that no one wants.

Our MVP will help us validate:

  • that there's a need - and a market - for our business idea; that we're solving a real problem;

  • that our proposed solution actually solves the problem we're focused on (and if it doesn't we'll learn what changes to make).

To loop back to your question of where to start, start with the tiniest step

Ask yourself what assumptions you're making and go out and test them.

This might be using the above flow to create your MVP or it might be gathering your friends and asking them questions or finding people who suffer with the problem you're solving and speaking to them.

When starting feels overwhelming, it's because we're biting off more than we can chew. The key isn't to stop but to take smaller bites.

Jess is our resident coach. She helps extraordinary people, like you, turn the vision you have for yourself into reality, with her powerful coaching workshop - Unleash Your Extraordinary - and 1:1 programs.

Did this week's column strike a chord with you or do you feel stuck in the process of turning your idea into reality?

Jess would love to help. Say hello at and we'll schedule a conversation.

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