What to do when you realise your idea isn’t original

‘An advicey column to ask the questions that keep you awake at night when you need to run a business.’ Entrepreneurs Anonymous #3

Hi Sheryl,

Need some advice from a smart chick.

I am hitting some roadblocks lately. It seems every idea I have and map out seems to have been taken by someone else. I come across it all during my competitor analysis and deep dive work.

I’m all about originality so it crushes me to cross over on someone’s space. But my business idea is something I have been mapping out for quite some time and am extremely passionate about so don’t want to just let it go.

Have you ever felt like this? If my product and service has a 30% difference do you think it’s still worth pursuing?

Would love to hear if you have had similar roadblocks.

- Keeping it OG

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Hi Keeping it OG,

When I started baking cupcakes and selling them at the farmer’s markets, I remember there was one time I stuck Tiny Teddy cookies on top of my cupcakes. Ok I’ll admit it, I had seen this done before and thought they were super cute. Instagram didn’t exist back then but I had uploaded photos onto Flickr. A day later someone had commented that I had copied another cupcake store in Melbourne, that I was embarrassingly unoriginal and had no respect for other bakers. I was mortified and for days I mulled over that comment feeling like I was a fraud. It taught me a good lesson because that fear of humiliation pushed me to figure out how to tap into my own creativity to develop my own personal style.

Firstly, let me start by sharing this unoriginal statement — nothing is new. No idea is original, they all stem from a stack of ideas. Ideas are mashed up, remixed, transformed and can evolve into something better (and sometimes not so much).

Yes, I completely get it. You’ve been searching for that idea for so long and then one day, *bam* you feel as though you’ve struck gold. You’re SO EXCITED, you could pee your pants. You think it’s a completely unique idea and can’t wait to get started. Well…that’s until you pop open a browser and start to google your idea. Your excitement starts to fade and that sinking feeling sets in as you realise 10 other people have had the same exact idea. What’s even worse is that they’ve already executed your idea. Perhaps better than what you had in your head.

You start to lose faith in yourself and think perhaps that this is all too hard, it’s hopeless and that all your good ideas have been taken. You want to be original, you don’t want to be a cliche or stale. And it’s back to the drawing board…

Well staaahp right now. Thank you very much.

Here are 3 reasons why you should not abandon your idea so quickly:

1. To market, to market.

“Pretty sure that’s already been done” — don’t you hate it when you tell you bestie your new genius idea only to be met with this phrase? Well instead of slapping them out say, “Thanks babe. Yep, it just means I’m onto something that the market already wants but I’m going to do it better.”

Well of course most ideas have already been done, otherwise we would not have competitors! It would be a boring world if we only had one monopoly company or brand for each idea. See it as an opportunity to see what you can offer better than what’s out there on the market.

2. Our own uniqueness and exclusivity comes from our own voice.

It is our own frame of reference and our own authentic voice that makes our business unique. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Yes, Simon Sinek that sh*t.

3. Are you really passionate about it?

When people ask me why I willingly share my cupcake recipes to people and why I wasn’t afraid that they would go and open a cupcake store themselves, I would say, “Well, if they’re just as passionate to bake cupcakes for a living, then they deserve success.” If someone has a dream, even the same one, who are we to deny them from it. So if you are passionate about it, then why deny yourself from this dream, why allow someone else deny you? Don’t use it as an excuse.

If this idea keeps you awake at night, if it lights a fire in your soul and if it makes you dream of endless possibilities. Then it’s more than enough for you to drive creative ideas from it. All the tools in the world are meaningless without first having an idea. With passion, you will evolve the idea, you will use intuition to evolve it into your own.

So yes, even if your product and service has 0% difference right now, know that you have it in you to use your passion, intuition and authentic voice to make it originally yours. Go forth and pursue it.

Let me just add, it’s a great thing that you are self-aware to know that you want to keep things original. There are some people out there that will be lazy - copy designs & content, plagiarise and imitate. That’s just not cool. When I do find inspiration for new ideas, I like to ask myself, “Am I adding more value to this idea and am I using my own voice?” If not, I trash it.

Keep pursuing and stay peachy,

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Sheryl Thai