Hi Sherry, I really like your idea. Here's what I see as your major advantages:
- You meet with your potential customer base everyday at your job so you have intimate knowledge of the problem. This is the most crucial aspect of any startup.
- The type of business you're running is a service business which means you can start it for virtually nothing in your spare time.
- The problem you are trying to solve sounds like it will relieve a lot of pain on both sides - for the billers and, more importantly, for the foreign families. That makes your service practically a necessity.
If you are adept at Spanish and/or Portuguese then that also gives you a huge amount of leverage. Is this the case? If not, do you have someone that would help you, or someone that you could hire or bring on for equity?
So you have intimate knowledge of the problem, low start up costs, & you're relieving others pain with your service. That's insanely awesome! The business idea is sound but is it viable?
The above posts mention free translation software. I'm assuming that the majority of foreign-speaking people you collect from do not use this translation software, otherwise they could effectively communicate with the billing agents before collections gets involved. You need to find out why. My initial assumptions would be:
- it's too cumbersome for them to type in all of their bills to google translator.
- they don't have access to the technology.
- they have access to the technology but don't have the skills to operate it (typing, basic web form skills, etc.)
- they have access to the technology & skills to operate it, but they just don't know about the technology
- The free translation tools aren't accurate enough for these people to stake their finances on
- A combination of all of the above
When you figure this out, you'll know whether or not your business idea is viable. If the majority of the foreign-speaking people say #4, then it's probably not as viable. (Although I can think of several pivots off of the top of my head where your new client would be the bill collecting agencies). Any of the other reasons would make the idea very viable.
I cannot express the importance of actually getting out of the house to engage your potential clientele. Make sure to ask open-ended questions, get as much information as possible, and don't assume anything. Armed with this, you cannot lose.
Let me know what you come up.
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