by Anne Day | Featured Contributor
Experts will tell you that you need to find your niche, and more to the point, a niche market that will pay for your product or service. And they are right, but that’s not always realistic when you are starting out.
Finding customers at the beginning can be a challenge, especially if you are not totally clear about what business you are in. Sales become more of a fishing expedition, where you throw out the bait and see who bites. Not ideal, but you do have to start somewhere.
I have often compared this early stage in a business to when we decided, in our infinite wisdom, to plant a vegetable garden at the farm. Being novice gardeners we started by planting all sorts of vegetables and strawberries, and I have to confess we hadn’t a clue what we were doing. Sort of like starting a business with no concept of what you need to do and when.
The first to take off was the radishes, which is when I started to question our choices – you see none of us liked radishes, so why were we growing them? So note to self, don’t offer a program or service that you don’t like to do either.
Growing our garden was a lesson in flexibility and not predicting outcomes. Given our lack of knowledge, the weather and other tests of nature, such as local critters that were also keenly interested in our end products, it actually paid to diversify. And that’s what you have to do when you start, and then narrow it down when you’ve found what’s working best.
We also learned that we’d been a bit ambitious, planting the seeds too close together. Likewise in start-up mode, in your anxiety for money to start flowing in, you can run the risk of trying to do too much, and spreading yourself thin.
Been there – I know when I had my consulting practice, I took on every project that came my way, as I didn’t know if there would be another one around the corner. So, pace yourself and be prepared to bring in other people which is what I did when I had too many projects on the go.
When you start out you have to plant your business seeds far and wide. And just like our vegetable garden, you may be surprised at what takes off and ends up being your niche market. So often I see “newbies” in a very different business by the end of year one as they’ve tested the market and found out what works, and more importantly what didn’t. Be prepared for non-starters, like our strawberries, which we just dug up, never to do again.
If you have just ended your first year of business, no doubt you will have grown too and be better prepared for the next season in the life of your business. Yes, some aspects may not have panned out as you wanted and actual revenue may have been slower than you expected, but it is key to learn and move on. Don’t give up.
As Seth Godin says in his book The Dip, so often people pack it in when success is just around the corner. So hang in there.
Hopefully you will have zeroed in on your niche and target audience and are ready to replant and further grow your business in the year ahead.
One of the joys of growing something – be it a business or vegetables – is that you get to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
But she found working for yourself can be isolating and so eleven years ago she started Company of Women as a way to connect and support women entrepreneurs. Today the organization has six chapters across the GTA and beyond, and over 300 members. In 2009 she received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Oakville and the TIAW World of Difference award for her work in supporting women internationally. Over the years she has helped thousands of women grow professionally and personally through her programs, services and personal encouragement.
She is the author of three books, the most recent being Day by Day – Tales of business,life and everything in between. She is a regular business columnist with Huffington Post, and blogs for numerous other publications. She is currently co-authoring a book on women not feeling good enough.