the Sanders, is that “Once you’ve built one successful niche business and understand the thought process behind it, what is to stop you from using that same knowledge to build a similar business that serves a slightly different niche, or add products and services to more profitably serve the existing niche?” Through a phenomenon called “cross-over niching,” Franklin saw an opportunity to increase sales by selling other products to her customer base. There was also a strong indication of a void in the market, she says, which she knew she could fill.
Although Accents of Color Hosiery initially specialized in ultrasheer pantyhose for women of color, Franklin has since recognized the potential to expand her niche — to crossover. To broaden her product line beyond plain pantyhose, she is in the process of adding a number of new products that her customers have been asking for. They will soon be able to buy Lycra support hose, knee-highs, thigh-highs, shimmers, and personalized or designer pantyhose from Accents of Color. In addition, Franklin is adjusting her marketing to reflect the broader appeal of her products, which she didn’t expect. The slogan of her company is now, “Accent your legs colorfully,” so as not to exclude lighter-skinned women who have also embraced her line. “I thought my target market was darker-toned women of color, but I’ve found that all women of color have trouble finding the right shade,” she explains.
She also discovered that this challenge was not limited to women in the U.S., where she has focused her marketing efforts. “To my surprise, ladies all over the world are finding me,” says Franklin, thanks to her Website. “It’s a global issue,” she says, and sales to women in countries such as Romania, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Canada, England, and Africa are proof. “Women go to great lengths to get the right pantyhose.”
Crossover expansion is also underway at Renelli, where the company’s target market has broadened to include same-sex couples, who frequently have the same problems that interracial couples do when looking for wedding accessories. The response has been enthusiastic, with sales of same-sex toppers now accounting for 50% of the company’s sales, especially from couples in Canada, reports Puebla. The company is also pursuing private-label opportunities, manufacturing wedding cake toppers for other retailers under their brand name.
Although starting any business has its risks, Peter Sander says niche businesses almost always have a better chance for success. “If you start broad-focused, you may not be able to survive,” he says, while the opportunities for niche businesses seem limitless.
3 WAYS TO FIND YOUR NICHE
If creating a new niche business, or focusing an existing business, sounds like a smart idea, use these three strategies to hone in on the right niche for you:
Update an old idea. Rather than coming up with a revolutionary business idea, like the iPod or mail-order movies, put a new spin on an old idea, say the Sanders. Consider old business models for inspiration and envision how you would run them today. Is there