18 brilliant start-up
Sometimes, it isn’t enough just to ‘love it’
There is no doubt that loving something makes your days go
much faster. But a word of caution: just because you love some-
thing doesn’t mean there is a market for it.
There is a risk that making a living out of your hobby might just
ruin your hobby.
Use your creativity to think of ways to make a valid business
out of your passion. For some great examples of how to do this,
I recommend reading How I Made It by Rachel Bridge. It’s
packed full of creative ways people have managed to turn their
interests into successful businesses including antique lights,
deep sea diving, and children’s theatre.
Now supercharge your idea
You have your business idea: that’s where most start-ups stop.
But we’re not most start-ups! We dont want to end up just
another ‘me-too’ business. We want to make our business unique,
the best in the market, and miles ahead of the competition.
So we need to supercharge our proposition. The following are
some simple but extremely effective ways to do this.
brilliant example
I sit on a funding panel for The Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust. In one
day we had two Polish restaurants looking for funding. Their rationale? ‘We
love Polish food!’ That’s fine, but their target market is Scottish customers.
There are already three Polish restaurants in Edinburgh, and the local Tesco
store has devoted half an aisle to Polish food.
Work on your brilliant business idea 19
Go niche
People tell you to ‘think bigwhen you start up. It’s great to
be ambitious, but it can be more valuable to ‘think small’. You
don’t want to be the Ford of business: big, lumbering and loss-
making. Your model should be Porsche: small, specialised and
the most profitable car company in the world. So, think of ways
to specialise your business into tightly defined niches.
There are many benefits to being niche:
you can charge more for your specialist services
you have a great competitive advantage over ‘generalists’
word of your specialism will spread
you can invest in specialist equipment and knowledge,
rather than being confined to a life of mediocrity
you can work anywhere, and it’s easier to expand
geographically.
It’s also relatively easy and cheap to specialise. Often a ‘special-
ist’ service just requires a more detailed understanding of your
specific market niche, and small tailoring of the service to fit.
So if it’s so easy, why don’t more start-ups do it? Usually the
following worries put them off pursuing a niche strategy.
brilliant example
You have a window cleaning business. How about a specialist service for
tall buildings, or retail shop windows which includes a paint retouching and
graffiti removal service?
Gender niches
One niche you might want to consider is sex. While differences
between genders become blurred, that doesn’t mean there isn’t
money to be had in exploiting them.
brilliant questions and answers
Will I have to turn-away customers who don’t fit my tightly defined
niche?
If they are existing customers, they won’t care what you call yourself.
You can set up a sub-brand for your specialist niche (e.g. banks have units
for charities, aircraft leasing, agriculture).
Is it a risk to have all my ‘eggs in one basket’?
There is a risk that sectors take a down-turn, but you should be able to
weather the storm and emerge stronger. And in most economic down-turns,
there are few sectors that remain completely unscathed.
Will my clients be worried about a conflict of interest?
The actual worry clients may have is one of confidentiality, and it’s
easier to reassure them on this. Most clients will value the specialism more.
As a client once said: ‘Two clients is a conflict. Three is a specialism.’ Bear in
mind, you can’t expect to win every customer you go for. Far better you have
a few very high paying specialist customers.
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brilliant global examples
It’s not just the bottle shape of Poland’s Karmi beer that’s different. It comes
in sweeter flavours than mainstream beers, such as pineapple and caramel.
It also has a lower calorie count, the same as natural yoghurt. It’s all part of
a successful venture to tap into a female beer market.
And it works both ways. Noticing her friends were fed up that their
husbands didn’t have the time or skills to fix things around the house, a
canny Australian entrepreneur set up ‘Hire a Hubby’. They’re now expanding
their fix-it business around the world.
20 brilliant start-up

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