When you think of big businesses, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? A name like Amazon that sells a wide range of products or companies focusing on niche markets like Starbucks?
While there are multiple ways to build a business and there is no single formula for success, focusing on niche markets has recently grown in popularity, especially in the ecommerce industry.
And there is a good reason why.
Choosing a niche market makes it easier (and cheaper) to position yourself as the go-to brand for a specific audience.
Today’s success story is about a very successful niche business that managed to find a few scalable solutions to grow their business.
Jason and Cinnamon Miles built their business Pixie Faire with a focus on the doll clothing market.
Yes, you read it right – doll clothing. It doesn’t sound like a serious business venture. Still, it has proven to be a success. Miles contribute their success to a clear product strategy focused on an unfilled niche market and their ability to spot and unlock new areas for growth in their business that helped them scale up.
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How it all started?
When Cinnamon and Jason’s daughter turned six, they discovered how much young girls like dolls.
As an excellent seamstress and designer, Cinnamon began making doll’s clothing that soon made her daughter the neighborhood’s envy.
This was the beginning of their doll clothing business. They set up an eBay store and started selling.
Everything was going well until they reach the point at which they were maxed out at $1000 per month and struggling to scale. Miles could outsource manufacturing to China, but they decided against this.
Instead, they tried various things, such as ladies sewing from home and working with local sewists.
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After reading Jim Cockrum’s book The Sile Sales Machine, they found the answer. They started selling Cinnamon’s designs as digitally downloaded PDF files.
It was a model that scaled very well.
They quickly reached over 700,000 patterns downloaded.
But they didn’t stop there. Starting as a newsletter regularly sent to their customers, they soon figured that they could teach all those design principles, proportion, scale, fabric choice, etc. that they shared in a digital course.
Yet another brilliant step towards success. Digital courses are a great way to add a new revenue stream to your business and expand your market share.
The next step was obvious to them. Other doll clothes pattern sellers began asking Miles to sell their patterns on their website. By publishing 3rd party patterns, Pixie Faire quickly became the largest doll clothes pattern marketplace on the web.
Today, they’ve sold several million dollars worth of products online, and their sales are steady and growing nicely. They never take large financial risks. They focused on slow but steady growth and products that are scalable.
1. Find an underserved niche market
There are back corners of the Internet where people are actively looking for solutions and no one is serving them. Those are the most interesting niches to discover.
There are countless niches you can pursue, with the opportunity to niche down even further. The key is to identify a niche market that you can master and has a viable audience of customers. As Miles did.
2. Craft a clear product strategy
A product strategy gives you a focus on a specific target market, instead of trying to be everything to everyone.
If you are choosing to sell many products you can easily end up doing everything decently, while a specialist does one thing extremely well.
I think the key here is to focus very clearly on your product strategy and to work out whether your product has a high probability of success.
Young startups need to build a product and establish a market, and then they can think about growth.
3. Find opportunity for growth and scale
Fewer than 10 percent of companies make an effort to unlock new sources of profitable growth from their core business. Recognizing – and monetizing – them is important for every business, and Miles did just that.
Miles managed to find three new areas of profitable growth:
- Selling Cinnamon’s designs as digitally downloaded PDF
- Offering a digital course
- Allowing other people to sell their designs through their website
All those three areas are actually an opportunity for scaling (not just growing) because they brought more revenue to their business without a substantial increase in resources.
If they had chosen the most obvious path for them: find a manufacturer from China, then they would go through the traditional approach of growth in linear terms: a company adds new resources (capital, people, or technology), and its revenue increases as a result.
That’s the big difference between growth and scale. And Miles chose the scaling option.
Successful scaling is about applying a product strategy that can be done en masse without extra effort.
4. You can’t grow without marketing
Regardless of what marketing channels you choose to invest, your business will need marketing in order to grow and thrive. Every business has to have at the minimum a basic marketing plan to help reach new customers and stay connected with existing ones.
The first marketing tool Miles actively worked on was YouTube. They started making videos about their work and used their daughter as a celebrity spokesgirl.
Later, they added additional channels like email marketing, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. to reach bigger audiences.
Implementing a thorough marketing strategy that includes email marketing, social media, advertising, and blogging will help ensure your business is found online so you can stay growth-focused.
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