Ready, Aim, Market

The Evolutionary Niche

Holzschu began his business by taking aim at a specific market niche. Plenty of other entrepreneurs, however, reach their ultimate target markets as a result of business evolution.

When Tim Prero established JetWest International in Van Nuys, California, in 1992, he envisioned a robust clientele made up of several markets. But high overhead costs forced him to focus on a very narrow market. "After aircraft, fuel and pilot costs, there was nothing left for advertising," Prero says. "So I began by offering to fly for wholesale brokers--primarily cargo and UPS--when they were oversold. Our profits were reinvested to add more planes, more pilots and, eventually, more markets.

"Once I began targeting retail customers, I quickly established a growing clientele in the entertainment business," Prero recalls. "It would have been easy to focus solely on that market, but it would have eliminated the other 40 percent of my business that is now made up of other markets."

Unexpected changes often shoot holes through the best of market plans. Changing market conditions (a big discounter moves into your territory) or disappearing markets (remember eight-track tapes?) may require drastic redirection of your business. Or, as in the case of Lesley B. Fay, a simple change of heart may lead to an entirely unplanned market direction.

Fay worked as a caterer, pastry chef and restaurateur before realizing her true passion--developing a unique line of gourmet foods. But she credits the lessons of her past pursuits for the success of Lesley B. Fay Fine Foods of Sonoma in Sonoma, California. Although her successful restaurant provided the perfect testing ground for her products, Fay found it impossible to devote sufficient time to both markets. Narrowing her focus to concentrate on her gourmet condiment line, she now devotes all her time to developing new products, sales and distribution of her wholesale food line. Sales have more than doubled since Fay sold her restaurant and retail store.

Taking time to identify your market before your business is launched is time well-spent--time that will improve the likelihood of scoring a business bull's-eye.

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This article was originally published in the March 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Ready, Aim, Market.

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