Business ideas

How a Unique Idea Became a Successful Business

By DeVry University

Todd Horton got the idea for his award-winning business when he was teaching a marketing class in South Korea. One day in 2008, a student sent him a text, thanking him for a great class, and attached a coupon for a free latte at Starbucks. He was so impressed with the gesture that in 2009 he turned it into Kango Gift, a platform that allows employers to send their employees token gifts of appreciation.

Starting a business from a unique idea or experience is an increasingly attainable goal in the modern world. It can be meaningful and exciting to start a company no one else thought of, but to make it work you need solid business skills in addition to a novel idea.

“There’s a big difference between a product and a business,” says Horton. “For the first three years, we didn’t have a business. We had a great product idea.”


Entrepreneur Magazine called Horton’s idea “brilliant” in 2009, but he says his company didn’t have an actual business until it realized the product could help companies solve a problem.

Unique business ideas are great because they can help people solve problems in new, unexpected and exciting ways, but not every idea solves a problem for someone. The key is to figure out exactly how this idea can help someone do something more easily or effectively.

“Many times we get caught up in the novelty of our idea and don’t think hard enough about ‘Is this solving a problem for a particular customer?’” Horton says.


Your idea can help many people, but it’s important to choose one or two groups to be the primary focus of the actual business. Kango Gift focuses on businesses looking for ways to give employee recognition, and companies like Starbucks who are looking for ways to offer online gift cards.

“Every business decision we make goes through this filter of ‘How do we recognize the employee?’” says Horton.


With any new business venture, and particularly one based on a unique idea, it’s important to build and grow your business carefully. Because of this, Horton advocates what he calls the “slow and low” approach, which means people turn their idea into a basic minimal viable product, test it with real people and then gradually build based on their feedback.

“I think these days, entrepreneurs assume you have an idea, start a business and raise a lot of money really quickly,” says Horton. “Going slowly and testing your idea is much more effective than taking your idea and trying to go as fast as you can.”

Unique business ideas can become successful and fulfilling businesses. However, business know-how is at least as important as the idea itself. It’s important to have a solid foundation in core business concepts, leadership skills and the ability to manage resources to make the business concept a reality.

DeVry University offers a range of career-focused business degree programs including Business Administration with a specialization in Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship, taught by supportive faculty with real-world experience. At DeVry, you can build your schedule to fit your life with classes offered in eight-week academic sessions year round on campus, online or in one of our innovative extended classrooms*.

DeVry University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), To learn more, visit

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