Rejection hurts. Especially when you’re putting yourself out there by starting a business. But, if you can put your pride in a little box on the shelf, rejection can be a powerful tool that saves you time and money. The goal is to figure out the secret sauce that will make your business idea successful, and rejection can keep you from going down the wrong path. So, let’s pretend your idea is for a new business that saves parents time by preparing and delivering healthy, kid-friendly school lunches.


Well, who will be your customer (or end user)? Focus your efforts on them. In this example, it’s parents, which means that you will actually have to find and talk to as many of them as possible. If you’ve already begun building a prototype or website, no problem. You can turn it into a show and tell.


While talking to potential customers before you have a finished product to show them may seem counterintuitive, think about it. Talking to your ideal customers about your great idea costs nothing and who better to shine some light on the problem and give you ideas on how to make it better than the people you hope will use your product or service? The bad news is that people will probably tell you, albeit in a really nice way, that your business idea, the thing you’ve probably thought about and researched for months, sucks. The good news is that the sooner you find out why, the less time you’re going to waste going in the wrong direction.


These are three crucial questions to ask potential customers. Talk to as many potential customers as possible. If a few people aren’t interested, don’t give up. Keep asking people until you have a large enough sample to draw conclusions from.


Question: “Do you find it difficult and inconvenient to pack healthy school lunches that your kids will actually eat?” Aim to ask fifty parents this question to ensure you have a large enough sample.

Potential Answer #1: “Yes!” Great! A problem to be solved is an essential part of a successful business equation. If the majority of these fifty parents answer with a ‘yes’, they’ve helped you confirm your hypothesis that this is a problem and validated that you’re on the right track thus far.

Potential Answer #2: “Sort of…” or “No/Not really.” If forty of these fifty parents answer this way, you may want to consider moving onto something else. No problem to solve = no business. But, all is not lost. Ask them what other kinds of things they’re struggling with as a parent. You will gain valuable insight into real problems you can solve and build a business around that.


Question: “Just how difficult or annoying is it to make delicious, healthy lunches for your kids every day?” Ask parents to rate how big a problem this is from 1 (no big deal) to 10 (oh my god, make it stop!). The larger the problem, the more likely it is people will be willing to pay for a great solution.

Potential Answer #1: “I would say it’s a 1-6”. If parents rate this as just a mild inconvenience, they’re less likely to pay for a solution.

Potential Answer #2: “I would say it’s a 7-10.” Now you’re onto something! This is clearly a pain point for parents, so providing an amazing solution is something they’ll be lining up for.


Question: “Do you think a healthy kid-friendly lunch delivery service would solve this problem for you?” Ask them to rate how good they think it is from 1 (meh) to 10 (sign me up now!).

People may not want to tell you to your face that your solution is not the best option. Do your best to make their answers as anonymous as possible to ensure you get the truth. Get a small group together and ask them to write the number on a piece of paper and put it in a box for example, or send an email survey to reduce any face-to-face awkwardness.

Potential Answer #1:I would say it’s a 1-6”. Resist the burning desire to defend your idea, bite your tongue and listen, because these naysayers are handing you a little gift – they’ve validated that you’re not on the right track and possibly identified a variety of ways to make your idea better, or solve the problem in an entirely different way. Congratulations! You’ve just saved yourself endless hours and thousands of dollars!

Potential Answer #2: “I would say it’s a 7-10”. Great! These parents have helped you confirm your idea would be a good fit and validated that you’re still on the right track. Your next hurdle will be to prepare meal samples for parents and kids to taste. If kids, your end users, don’t like the product, that’s an obstacle you will have to overcome.


While rejection sucks and there are no guarantees, it’s far better to find out the bad news sooner rather than later. You’ll be able to put all that time and money you would have wasted into an idea that solves a real problem instead!

[Photo Credit: dullhunk]