It Came Out of the Airwaves: Where to Find the Inspiration for Your Next Business Project

Jul 19


Donna Schwartz Mills

Donna Schwartz Mills

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There's no secret to creating that "killer app" in ... a niche and fill it.If only that was as easy as it sounds! Some of us ... Isaac Newtons -- we get hit on the head byan a


There's no secret to creating that "killer app" in business:
Find a niche and fill it.

If only that was as easy as it sounds! Some of us are
entrepreneurial Isaac Newtons -- we get hit on the head by
an apple in the form of a need we discover -- and we have a
vision of a way to solve the problem (and earn an income
while we're at it).

My favorite example of this is the woman who invented the
"Stroll'r Hold'r" - you know,It Came Out of the Airwaves: Where to Find the Inspiration for Your Next Business Project Articles that little cupholder you snap
onto the handle of your baby's stroller. You don't know you
need one of them until you actually try to carry a drink
while pushing your baby around the mall... and when you see
this very simple product, you say to yourself "Why didn't
*I* think of that?"

Most of us need a little help -- I know that I do. And as
my universe has shrunk into a little circle consisting of my
home, my daughter's school and activities and the local
supermarket, I find I must do whatever I can to broaden my

But as is often the case for us parental units, the big
limiting factor is time. I used to have plenty for reading
newspapers, magazines, and books. (OK - I was single and had
no social life so I had nothing BUT time!) This is no longer
the case. Today I pick up the slack through my choice of
radio stations.

Public Radio has been my savior. From the moment my alarm
goes off with the "Morning Edition" theme, to the evening
rush hour traffic (which I am often caught in after one of
Megan's karate lessons), I am tuned in to my local NPR station
and learning ... which is where I find inspiration for many
of the articles I write for my website and newsletter.

But the thing that makes radio such an ideal medium (the
fact that you can do other things while you are listening),
is also its drawback (because you are focused on other
things while you are listening). There are times when I miss
important facts, as my mind is just tuning in at the end.
This is why I was delighted to discover that most of my
favorite public radio news and information programs are also
available on the web. Here's a rundown of the best ones
for business:

Marketplace: David Brancaccio's business broadcasts are
fascinating, and might I say it: Entertaining! This daily
half-hour program does a wonderful job of explaining what is
happening in the financial markets, deconstructing complex
stories such as Enron and Worldcom, and making sense of the
mysterious theories of leading economists.

If that's all they did, it would be enough to help you make
home business decisions by knowing where the economy is
trending. But Brancaccio and crew also give you what I
think of as "human interest business" pieces -- they
regularly cover economic news from the perpective of Work
and Family, the Arts, Health, and Technology.

If your local public radio station does not carry
Marketplace, you can hear it broadcast in full at their
website. There you will also find archives of past features
plus current headlines from the Economist and the Globalist.

NPR Morning Edition and All Things Considered

All Things Considered is the granddaddy of the National
Public Radio network, having just celebrated its 30th year
on the air. ATC looks at the news of the day, airing every
afternoon (usually during drive time).

It's not just a news broadcast. For instance, after running
through the news of the day, today's program included
features on Amtrak, a "faerie festival" in Glen Rock, PA, an
interview with international financier George Soros, hotels
and motels which have decided that advertising themselves as
"American Owned" is a good business idea (I wonder if that's
true and if it's something that can be extrapolated down to
one of my home businesses?), and Cuban piano player Ramon
Sosa. It's eclectic. And you never know when they will
introduce you to something that makes sense for your
business venture (like that "American owned" thing).

Morning Edition is ATC's "little sister," celebrating the
20th anniversary of its debut this year. ME gives you the
same mix of news and features in the morning. Hear them both
(as well as other NPR programs) here:

The World: When my British in-laws came to visit they were
shocked at how provincial America's news coverage is,
focused almost entirely on what is happening in the United

There's a whole world out there, folks -- and the Brits are
used to getting news on all of it from the incomparable
BBC. Well, this radio show brings a little of that
comprehensiveness to the good ol' US of A.

Co-produced by "Auntie Beeb," radio station WGBH and Public
Radio International, "The World" is a fascinating mix of
news and in-depth reports on events cultural, political
and economic... in *all* the Earth's hemispheres. I
especially enjoy their daily "Geography Quiz" (and am
ashamed at how rarely I manage to come up with the correct

If it all sounds a little dry -- trust me, it's not. Catch
it here:

To the Point: This is talk radio at its best. I remember
watching host Warren Olney when he was a reporter at some of
L.A.'s local TV news stations. But as TV news became more
about ratings and less about substance, Olney retired from
that medium and moved on to Southern California's largest
public radio station, KCRW.

This show got its start as an in-depth look at the
conditions that led to the violence that followed the Rodney
King verdicts in L.A. A master at handling calls from people
with differing viewpoints, Olney has kept this program on
the air for 10 years, covering just about every issue of
importance to the residents of Southern California.

Olney has also been hosting this national version since
October 2000, in which does the same for "hot-button
issues" that face the U.S. as a whole.

As operators of home businesses, many of us tend to close
ourselves off as we focus on the needs of our families and
our finances. While focus is good, it can result in a kind
of tunnel vision that can prevent us from seeing that next
big thing. Don't let that happen to you! If finding time to get out
there, to read, and to
learn is a problem, you can fill in the gaps simply by turning
on the radio.