How to take any idea and run with it

Starting is often the hardest part of pursuing an idea, particularly if you don’t know what to do next.

I experienced this struggle a few weeks ago while talking with a friend. She wanted to do something new and exciting with her life, but hadn’t the slightest clue on where to start.

As we started talking I came up with an example of starting a jewelry business.

For me, I’ve never worked in physical production – let alone with fashion of any kind. The idea of a jewelry business was foreign to me, but I was convinced then, while talking to her, that it was possible to start an entire jewelry business over the span of a weekend.

The more we talked about it, the more I realized that the example I was sharing was too good to pass up, so rather than talking her through how to move on the idea, I decided to show her how easy it is to take a seemingly massive idea and make it a reality.

First, start with what you know.

We first grabbed a notebook. I had her sketch jewelry piece ideas while I researched production options. Within 30 minutes we had a little over ten ideas for pieces of jewelry we’d like to produce, including a money clip for me to use.

Sketching the ideas was easy, anyone can do that. What comes next is where things really got hard for her. That’s the exact point she was struggling with though: what’s next? How do you take a drawing and make something not only tangible, but something you can sell?

Break down each step, and get help.

The solution for moving on with the idea was to break each step of the process into a smaller chunk and then do what many people shy away from: seek help.

Obviously we had no experience in manufacturing or starting a jewelry business, so we would need to reach-out to people who had. The Internet, fortunately, makes this step not only possible, but painless. Of course, it also helps to have friends who can move an idea forward as well.

So we first took the sketches we had done and passed them off to a local artist and friend of mine, Danielle Mariott, who took our really rough drawings and turned them into artwork which made the designs much easier to understand.

From there we decided to try 3D printing for the actual jewelry pieces. At the time I wasn’t even sure if it would be possible to do, but we spent a good 20 minutes research options and discovered that 3D printing would be a fun option. Today anyone can get 3D models printed using a lot of different materials for relatively low cost. We found Shapeways, which could print our designs in sterling silver (you know, to make them look like actual, high-end pieces).

But before we could get the pieces printed we had to design them in 3D, another area which neither of us were very experienced in.

I spent another ten minutes digging around the web and discovered oDesk, a marketplace where you can post jobs for people around the world to perform with different talents. Within an hour we had found a number of 3D designers to help turn our artistic drawings into actual, print-ready 3D models. We spent $50 on the designer and ended up with some very high-caliber 3D models, ready for printing.

The next step was obvious, since we had already researched it: we uploaded the 3D models to Shapeways, confirmed that they were print-able, and purchased a sample model for around $30.

It takes a few days for printing, so while we waited we scoped around at jewelry bloggers on Tumblr, reaching-out to people who might help us build exposure for our newly formed business. We followed inspirational stores and gathered an immense list of contacts we could use once our store was up-and-running.

Start to done doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Just like that, in a little under 72 hours, we had gone from two people who simply had an idea to the proud owners of a custom jewelry line.

Who could have imagined? Not even I could have, when that conversation first started. But once we got started everything seemed to be a lot easier than we anticipated.

The reason for this is simple: we simply broke the idea (start a jewelry business) into much smaller tasks (draw ideas for pieces, find a 3D modeler, get models 3D printed, make business contacts). We believed that we could do each step and so we searched for solutions, often utilizing the help of someone who specialized in the specific task we were hoping to accomplish.

In his great article How to be an idea machine, James Altucher explains this concept beautifully:

“If you think you can do something, if you have confidence, if you have creativity (developed by building up your idea muscle discussed in many other posts here), the big ideas become smaller and smaller. Until there is no idea too big. Nothing you can’t at least attempt.”

So the next time you have an idea – big or small – and aren’t sure where to start on it, break it down into smaller steps and seek help whenever you feel stuck. The rewards speak for themselves and, if anything, you can at least say “I did it!”

Illustration by Tuyen Tran.