Last week I wrote about passion – and my absolute belief that your passion is what will ultimately make your business successful.
And that’s fine, assuming your passion is working with owners of SMEs, building websites or manufacturing car seats for small children – there are plenty of customers out there, just as there are for a million other businesses.
But supposing your passion is a real niche business? Is passion enough then – or do you have to accept that however much you care, there simply aren’t enough people that care as much as you do to make it a viable business?
I was having a drink in the pub the other Friday night when I was introduced to a young woman, probably in her mid-thirties. She told me that she ran her own business…
“What do you do?” was the obvious question.
“I make cloth dolls,” she said.
I was dimly aware of what a cloth doll was – but only just. “Right,” I said. “I’ve two boys. I don’t know much about cloth dolls…”
“You wouldn’t have come across mine,” she said. “I specialise in Goths and Steampunk. But I don’t know,” she added, “The market just doesn’t seem to be there…”
We were interrupted at that point – luckily for me before I made a fool of myself trying to hold a conversation about Steampunk.
But I kept coming back to the conversation and I ended up doing ten minutes’ research with those two indispensable members of everyone’s team, Google and Wiki. I learned about Steampunk and I saw how many people went to Whitby for the Goth Weekend.
And I started thinking about passion again – and niche businesses.
Because no, there are nowhere near enough potential customers for the lady I met in the pub if she limits her horizons to South Milford – or even Leeds. But Yorkshire? The UK? The rest of the world? Now we’re talking.
She makes Steampunk and Goth cloth dolls. She sells them for anything up to £200. Number of people needing one in South Milford in a year? One if she’s lucky. In Leeds and the surrounding area? Maybe ten. But in the world? Enough to have a very successful small business.
Just imagine Dav and I are thirty again – and at the weekend we’re Goths. But all that is about to change. Dav is pregnant and weekends in Whitby will shortly give way to the mother and toddler group. But I want to give Dav a present – something absolutely unique: something to remind her of our time as young, carefree Goths…
What better than a cloth doll of Dav the Goth? How utterly brilliant would that be? Would £200 be too much for a custom-made, absolutely unique memento? No, it wouldn’t.
(I have to tell you that my wife peered over my shoulder at that point and read what I’d been writing. I may have some explaining to do…)
But I’m making a serious point. If your passion directs you to a niche business, so be it. Today the internet – and the worldwide market it offers – makes all sorts of businesses possible, from Steampunk cloth dolls upwards. But there are three crucial points you need to bear in mind which will ultimately contribute to your success:
- You have to be brave: many of us came face to face with some quizzical looks and some indrawn breath when we announced that we were going to start our businesses. If it’s Steampunk cloth dolls then the heads are going to be shaking even more vigorously. There’ll be plenty of days when you doubt your decision – but as I wrote last week, your passion will carry you through.
- You have to be committed. That means being committed to your niche and being prepared to turn some customers away. You all know my old pal the fitness coach for pregnant women in Knightsbridge. You have to be prepared to say, “I’m very sorry, you’re in Islington…”
- Lastly, you emphatically must not be afraid to charge what you’re worth. If you’re one of only three people in the country who do what you do that potential customer has not just rung to haggle over the price. And we’re not talking about the price someone would pay in South Milford either: pitch your prices in SW1X and go from there…