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A Slice of the Upper Crust

Service providers find a niche offering convenience and class.

Moving was once all the same--you tossed your stuff into cardboard boxes, paid burly guys to move it, and if you had breakables, hoped for the best. Ron Merrill, however, is changing all that with C&M Moving and Storage. Using what he calls "white-glove movers," his Houston-based company offers specialty moving services to customers with prized artwork and ultra-chic furniture. With interior designers in charge of handling and moving their clients' expensive d├ęcor, Merrill's company has turned the once-standard moving process into a high-end, resort-style experience.

"Luxury consumers are not lacking in material goods, and they also frequently look [for] what I call 'luxury experiences,'" notes Pam Danziger, founder of Unity Marketing, a Stevens, Pennsylvania-based marketing company specializing in the luxury demographic. That means when it comes to the same services that the average Joe might use--from food delivery to manicures to staffing services--some consumers are willing to pay first-class all the way.

But don't simply slap a tux on your delivery guy or charge more for your average food and call it luxury--Danziger notes that these consumers are highly value-conscious. If you're going to charge more for your services, they better be worth more. Merrill, for instance, offers clients an interactive CD-ROM to help them plan their move down to the smallest antique table. C&M also does refinishing and cleaning, and even installs draperies and art. Since starting in 1999, "we've always been thinking of new [services] we can [offer]," Merrill says. And the 39-year-old considers his well-trained employees the key to the whole white-glove experience--he has retained much of his staff for over five years.

How can you get the word out? Boost your business with word-of-mouth marketing and a great website full of descriptions of just how specialized your service is, says Danziger. Remember, you're usually targeting specific neighborhoods, so be sure there's a market for your high-end service, and spread the word to those pockets of affluent consumers. You may even try to market your services in tiers--an inexpensive basic service, a midlevel offering and a high-class option. And, says Danziger, "Be the best of the best--that's the vision that has to propel you."

Also keep in mind that you can make almost any service upscale. A few examples we found: Cake2Go, a Los Angeles-area upscale dessert delivery service; Celebrities Staffing Services, a Los Angeles and New York City service that provides nannies, bodyguards, chefs, etc. to celebrities; Groovin' Gourmets , a Richmond, Virginia, caterer that delivers gourmet meals to vacationers; Nail Taxi, an Alexandria, Virginia, mobile nail boutique providing in-home manicures, pedicures and even parties for pampered clients; and Park Place Car Condo, a South Florida-based storing service facility for top-of-the-line cars, complete with air-conditioned units, on-site detailing, and pickup and delivery.

"People who have money typically have it because they're very busy and very hardworking. The more you can take the stress out of their lives, the more they'll [use your service]," says Merrill, whose company expects to gross $2 million in 2006. "Find something that nobody wants to do for themselves, and do it well."

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This article was originally published in the September 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: A Slice of the Upper Crust.

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