Finding A Niche Within A Niche

Discover an even more distinct market and then capitalize on it

bought her wedding cake toppers — the little bride and groom that have traditionally adorned wedding cakes. After an exhaustive search, she had no luck finding figurines that suited her and her fiancé. She had to settle for two doves on top of her wedding cake instead of an attractive cake topper featuring an African American bride and an Asian groom. But instead of accepting that there were few options for interracial couples, Puebla, whose husband is Japanese, decided that she had found a business opportunity worth exploring.

PUEBLA SERVES HER NICHE CUSTOMERS BY SELLING INTERRACIAL WEDDING-CAKE TOPPERS.
Having worked in the wedding industry for years as an event planner, Puebla knew that the wedding market was strong. In fact, the amount of money spent on weddings has been increasing for years, with an average wedding costing more than $26,000 — $655 is often spent on the cake alone. In total, the 2006 wedding market is valued at $58.5 billion, according to theweddingreport.com.

Puebla, of Costa Mesa, California, also knew that interracial marriages had become more common. Therefore, in January 2005 she and one of her former gift-basket suppliers, Ellie Genuardi, established Renelli International to fill a niche market need. “We zeroed in on interracial wedding-cake toppers right away,” says Puebla, for several reasons, the first being the dearth of competition. The second was that the number of interracial marriages has increased more than tenfold in the last few decades, according to the Washington-based Population Reference Bureau. In 1970, 300
,000 interracial couples made up 7% of all marriages, increasing to 1.5 million in 1990, and more than 3 million by 2000, or 5.4% of the married population.

Puebla and Genuardi also believed that by pursuing a well-defined niche, it would be easier to identify their market and sell to them. By staking out a niche within a niche — a specific type of cake topper within the wedding accessories category — they’ve successfully carved out their own space. Sales are up 400% over last year’s sales of $100,000, with 2006 sales projected to be $500,000.

Another way the owners have differentiated the company is by positioning it as a wholesaler, not a retailer, marketing its products to salons, bakeries, florists, and wedding boutiques. Although it was initially challenging to land accounts, “we had to be persistent” says Puebla. Attendance at bridal shows and appearing in an issue of Cosmopolitan during the summer of 2005 has boosted their visibility and their business considerably. Renelli invests in marketing through major wedding channels, such as TheKnot.com, to target brides, and then refers them to local retailers who carry Renelli toppers.

Couples can choose from among 98 possible combinations of Renelli brides and grooms, which are interchangeable, including dark hair with African American features, dark hair with Latino features, and dark or blond hair with Caucasian features. The durable polyresin stone figures have delicate facial features and sophisticated tuxedos and gowns commonly found on more expensive toppers; Renelli’s retail for $69.99.

CROSSOVER TO HIGHER PROFITS
One of the benefits of establishing a niche business, say

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