Humans have countless needs, many of which we can’t properly address on our own. We all have limited time, resources, networks, awareness. Businesses are all about satisfying needs, so if you want to start a business, you can’t go wrong by finding needs that you can easily fill.

Here are places to investigate to get a sense of the needs around you. Taking the occasional tour helps remind you of the wide world of human needs and to consider how your skills, interests, and preferences overlap with them.

Tour your neighborhood

Think about your neighbors and your neighborhood. What are people talking about? What do you notice? Overhear? Talk to people everywhere. In stores. In parks. At school. At church. In your building’s elevator. Where can they use a hand? Where are they struggling? What are they striving and hoping for? What would make their lives easier and better?

Tour your personal contacts

Open your phone and/or email contact lists and scroll through, pausing a few moments at each name. Make a list of every need that comes to mind that you think they may have. It’s okay to guess — it’s an imagination and brainstorming exercise.

Tour your social media feeds

One by one, spend some time on the social sites you frequent, taking notes on desires, problems, frustrations, sources of overwhelm, and unmet needs that are hinted at or openly expressed.

Tour your triggers

Make a list of your known pet peeves as well as everything you complain about in the coming week. What things in your social circles and environment make you roll your eyes, slump, sigh,  or groan?

Tour major problems and how they show up where you live

What big issues come to mind and how do they show up where you live? For example, is global warming causing destructive flooding or fires? What do victims of these natural disasters need?

Tour the inventory of human needs

The Center for Nonviolent Communication has a giant  list of dozens of human needs on its site that can be consulted for business ideas. It identifies seven broad areas of human needs: connection, physical well-being, honesty, play, peace, autonomy, and meaning. Even a quick glance over this list will reveal places where you can develop attractive offerings for potential customers.

Organize your notes and put your findings to work

Congratulations! You’ve finished a tour of needs. Now explore possibilities for establishing your business and its offerings.

  • What are some ways you can meet these needs?
  • How can you provide care for others?
  • How can you serve your community? Make other lives easier?
  • Are there things you can create to meet those needs?
  • How will you accomplish these ideas? What steps will you take?
  • How will you meet your own need for customers, income, and satisfying work?

Sharon Woodhouse has directly counseled and coached hundreds of small business owners, solo professionals, creatives, authors, book publishers, and job-changers. She has been self-employed and the owner of small businesses since high school, over 30 years ago. Find her at

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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