The Perfect Business Idea. The Journey to Rebel: A Series of Trials and Triumphs.

By co-founder of the award-winning Rebel Business School, Simon Paine.

The Perfect Business Idea.

Spoiler alert: it doesn’t exist. If you stumble upon a business idea that works flawlessly the first time without any adjustments, brings in money, and you enjoy every moment of it, then I’ll be genuinely impressed. I mean, I’ll be happy for you and might even claim credit for being the person who shared how, but I’ll secretly be a bit annoyed.


What I’ve come to realize (and wish someone had told me) is that business isn’t an achievement; it’s a process. It’s a way of life that doesn’t solve your problems; it just gives you different ones. Reflecting on 2003, when I started my first business, I began because I believed my problems could be solved if I left my successful career (that’s another story).

What I realized is that the problems needing solving were within me and unrelated to the job I was doing, but again, that’s another story.

So what about the idea itself? Until I started Rebel with Alan in 2011, I did a mix of freelancing, starting businesses, and doing odd jobs in between to pay the bills.


Here are Some Business Ideas That Made It Off the Whiteboard (there are plenty more, but this will give you a good flavor):

Business Idea #1 - Dotcom

What worked: Cool idea.
What didn’t work: A bit cumbersome.
Result: Small profit.
Key learning: I don’t like admin that much.

Business Idea #2 - Publishing

What worked: Made a deal that earned me money whether successful in ad sales or not.
What didn’t work: Advertising sales are highly competitive.
Result: Small profit.
Key learning: Sales is about persistence, and you need 10 to 100 times the conversations you think you need to.

Business Idea #3 - Indoor Outdoor Advertising

What worked: Cool idea; building owners loved it.
What didn’t work: Didn’t make nearly enough sales calls, focused on the stakeholder, not the client.
Result: Loss.
Key learning: Sell first. Don’t give lawyers money unless you have to. Didn’t solve logistics properly – got stuck in detail.

Business Idea #4 - Facilitator and Trainer

What worked: Already good at this stuff.
What didn’t work: Didn’t proactively network to expand the client base; a bit lonely; didn’t have a vision.
Result: Good profit.
Key learning: Narrow focus to make marketing action clearer; your network is your net worth.

Business Idea #5 - Web Design Company

What worked: Huge need for it before self-build websites existed.
What didn’t work: Didn’t make enough money fast enough, and I couldn’t pay my bills.
Result: Some profit.
Key learning: Charge buoyantly; spend as much time building trust and being honest with your collaborators as you do building your business.

Business Idea #6 - Enterprise Development in Communities

What worked: Tested the theory that social housing wanted to help their residents start businesses.
What didn’t work: Hired the wrong contractor; delivery model didn’t work; geographic area too small.
Result: Profit.
Key learning: If you really want to know if it works, don’t dabble – commit.

The Journey to Rebel: A Series of Trials and Triumphs

Then came Rebel, and writing this has reminded me that Rebel didn’t work the first time either. Not just because of the previous project, but we did a bunch of marketing to 30 housing associations, which only got us one meeting. It was only Alan doing a piece of work for a housing association, teaching their leaders how to present, that gave us the opportunity (now with a bit of trust) to pitch a community business school idea to them. They loved it, and the rest is history.

Everything Starts With the First Sale.

But we never set out to train over 30,000 people in 10 countries. That was never the vision – we just had an idea. We thought it was a cool idea, and we wanted to test it, and it worked! But so much has changed since then, and if we hadn’t delivered that first course, Rebel would not exist. Everything starts with the first sale.

The best business idea for you will only emerge once you’ve run a whole bunch of mini-experiments like we teach on the course. Because it’s the mini experiments that will help you tack your way to success, learning along the way what you love, what you don’t love, what works, and what doesn’t.

The Thing You Have To Remember is this:

Starting and building a business is a contact sport. You can’t do it from the stands! So get out of your seat, get onto the field, and get involved.

The payoff is being able to choose what you do, when you do it, and with whom you do it. That’s a pretty good outcome.

If not now, when?

Simon Paine.

Simon is co-founder of the award-winning Rebel Business School.

As well as helping start-ups realise their business dreams, he has coached, trained and facilitated senior leaders from some of the world’s most famous companies including Microsoft, British Airways, and Thomson Reuters.

Find out more about Simon on our team page.