Innovative Ideas

In the UK there is something called the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC); this provides over 600 different SIC codes and each one of these defines a different type of business. So there are a lot of different types of business you could potentially set up.

We need to be able to innovate ideas that are realistic and within our available budget.

In this lesson we will learn about:

  1. General research for innovative business ideas
  2. Some specific business types or sectors you can choose from

1. General Research for Business Ideas

To start off, a general principle for you to keep in mind. All the possible micro-enterprise ideas you look at are likely to fall into one of two categories:

  • Something that involves selling your time, or
  • Something that involves selling stuff

By this I mean if, for example, your enterprise is car valeting or hairdressing people are buying your time. They want you to do something for them and they will pay you to spend your time doing it; you are selling them a service. If your enterprise is selling tangible things like car valeting kits or hairdressing products you are selling tangible goods. Even if you make the stuff you are selling yourself, your customers are still buying your products and not your time.

The big implication of this is that the number of hours in the day and day in the week is fixed, which puts an upper limit on the amount of money you can make. This must be factored into your business plan; the hourly rate you charge must be high enough to cover your costs and make a profit.

Remember as well, you can’t sell every hour of your time. Your enterprise will involve you in admin and other tasks which you can’t charge to anybody. If you are selling products which are made by somebody else you don’t have the same restrictions. If you get more orders in, you just ask your supplier for more products.

It is worth doing a few general searches for micro-enterprise ideas; a sort of online ‘brainstorming’.

Search for ‘SIC codes UK gov’ and this will bring up a page on the website. Partway down the page you will see a heading for “Condensed SIC list in CSV format”. Click the ‘View online’ link and you can view all the 600+ industry codes.

Do some more general searches as well. “Types of new business idea” brings up lots of useful resources; for example “100 business ideas you can start today” from the website and “The 26 best low-cost small business ideas 2022” on the website. Finally, it is worth repeating the point from the previous lesson; make sure your business idea is realistic.

Further Thought

Companies that are dormant or non-trading may still have to complete tax and other official documentation so they have their own SIC categories:

  • Dormant companies – 99999
  • Non-trading companies – 74990

2. Business Sectors You Could Consider

Remember what we said in the previous lesson about brainstorming. Don’t be too quick to dismiss ideas without thinking about them first; one idea might ‘spark’ an idea for a different opportunity.

We’ll look at some of the sectors you could innovate a business idea in and suggest some possible areas you could look at within each sector.

Animals and Horticulture

Dog walking; dog grooming; breeding fish; supplying pet and animal care products; gardening and landscaping services; growing plants to sell; selling gardening products.

Art and design

Creating and selling art; commercial design (logos, posters, websites etc); photography (portraits, weddings, pets); videography (weddings, corporate videos); interior design and garden design.

Cleaning and Maintenance

House and office cleaning; garden maintenance; rubbish clearance; car washing and valeting; window cleaning.

Creative and Speciality Crafts

Have a look on for inspiration. Practical products for the home, garden or office; products people might buy as presents or for special occasions like weddings; craft kits for people to make their own craft items and presents; online courses showing people how to make things.

Entertainment, Performing Arts and Leisure

DJ; entertaining children (private parties and in schools); tour guide; providing technical services (like lighting and sound) to small theatres and theatre groups or acting schools; monetising online services like podcasts, blogs, audiobooks, a YouTube channel.

Fashion and Accessories

Fashion design; designing, producing and selling small fashion accessories; sourcing and selling unusual fashion items; personal shopper.

Food and Drink

There are lots of hygiene and other legal issues to think about here. Opening up a pop-up cafe; catering for parties and other events; creating a unique food product to sell direct to customers or to local cafes, growing and selling fresh produce.

Hair and Beauty

Mobile hairdressing or barbershop; beauty consulting; nail bar; sourcing and selling beauty and hair care products to end-users or to other businesses;

Holding/Hosting Events

Organising events like wedding fairs, open days, conferences; managing venues; arranging seminars and business events; taking bookings; wedding and party planning.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

This covers a wide range of possible business ideas including massage therapy and aromatherapy.

Remember the distinction I made earlier about selling your time and making and selling or re-selling products. There are many potential products that fit into the health and wellbeing category including, essential oils, bath salts, homoeopathic and herbal products, natural beauty products.

Sport and Exercise

Sports and exercise classes (online and offline exercise); mobile classes (for example exercise classes in retirement homes or football clinics in schools); pitching a business idea to a local football, rugby of cricket club for something you think they need – like better catering, better social media marketing or doing a better job of managing their facilities.

Sustainable and Environmental

Recycling and/or upcycling furniture – for example converting an old door into a new dining table, bicycles, hand tools and garden equipment, clothing. There are lots of companies making money recycling unusual stuff; for example, recycling waste coffee grounds from countless coffee shops to make logs for wood-burning stoves.

There are certainly other imaginative recycling ideas out there just waiting for someone to come along and ‘join up the dots. Can you think of a bi-product or waste product that no one wants that you could turn into something people do want?

And here’s a real win-win scenario. Can you think of an idea where someone would pay you to take their waste products away which you could then turn into something you could sell – so you’ve got two sources of revenue!

Teaching, Education and Coaching

People and companies make money teaching all sorts of things; languages, musical instruments, using software, sports and physical activities, gardening, making things, photography, cookery as well as all the academic subjects you learn in school and college.

Don’t forget teaching and education comes in many forms – online, face-to-face, one-to-one, in a classroom, by video, audio/podcast and written word.

Technological, Digital, Social media and E-commerce

E-commerce (selling online) is massive, either selling direct to customers or through online marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon. Can you think of any opportunities around website design, online content production, or managing social media channels for businesses that you could turn into a micro-enterprise?

Writing and Publishing

Writing and selling your own written content, or using your knowledge and expertise in technology to publish other people’s material. There must be plenty of people out there who have written things and have no idea what to do next. A micro-enterprise with the right skills could help someone sub-edit their book, design the cover and create artwork like maps, then produce, distribute and market the book.

Companies also pay for writers to help write important presentations, text for websites and brochures, social media posts, press releases and articles to send to the media.

Do your research

It is essential that whatever idea you take forward for your micro-enterprise is thoroughly supported by the research you do. You need to demonstrate to the examiner that you have thoroughly researched your ideas and reached your decision based on sound business reasons, not just because you like the sound of something or because it involves doing something you enjoy.

Further Thought

According to the House of Commons Library, Business Statistics Briefing Paper, January 2021 there were 6 million businesses in the UK in 2020, 112,700 more than in 2019. 99% of these are small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Lesson Summary

So, to summarise what we have learnt in this lesson:

  • When innovating business ideas it’s worth remembering that they all generally fall into two categories; selling your time (services) and selling your stuff (goods).
  • It’s worth research different types of businesses online to help come up with ideas.
  • The business sectors you could consider include:
    • Animals & horticulture
    • Art & design
    • Cleaning & maintenance
    • Creativity & speciality crafts
    • Entertainment, performing arts & leisure
    • Fashion & accessories
    • Food & drink
    • Hair & beauty
    • Holding/hosting events
    • Mental health & wellbeing
    • Sports & exercise
    • Sustainable & environmental
    • Teaching, education & coaching
    • Writing & publishing