If you want to break into a cultural niche, leave your sledgehammer at home--bring your ballet slippers instead.
"You can't just take your product somewhere and try to force it on everyone," says Chip Hearn, COO and owner of Peppers, a Dewey Beach, Delaware-based hot sauce company that generates approximately $1.2 million in annual sales via the Internet, catalogs, retail stores and a restaurant.
Hearn learned the hard way not to make any market assumptions. At a recent international food expo, he wanted to gain entry points in major island groups such as the Bahamas. Inspired by the abundance of dishes made with fresh fruit, he developed a new fruit-based sauce. The buyers at the fair hated it but told him they liked hot sauces. He whipped out one of his several hundred existing sauces and promptly found a brand-new market. Says Hearn, "You've got to be prepared to adapt, to think on your feet, and to try to find the best angle to make the sale."