Nab Your Niche
Finding a niche is important in any industry, but it's especially so in the $169 billion home-remodeling market. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), 1.35 million new single-family homes are projected to be built in the United States in 2003. "Remodeling is at record proportions," says the NAHB's Donna Reichle.
To capitalize on all that building and remodeling, Brian Workman and Paul Rodgers, both in their late 30s, found their niche by launching Blind Corners & Curves LLC, which specializes in making custom window coverings for oddly shaped windows. "Being in a niche is everything," says Workman. "Find something that you specialize in that sets you apart." Founded in 1999, their Denver business now has sales exceeding $1 million.
Reichle also points out another trend: consumers buying homes with more square footage and smaller backyards. Mark Humble of Living Tapestries LLC in Northglenn, Colorado, has capitalized on this trend with a line of vertical space-saving planters. The self-contained structures resemble lattice-work fences and accommodate vertical gardens.
Homes with higher ceilings, larger walls and open floor plans are also rising in popularity, and Donna Quinn has found success tapping into that niche. Her company, Tall Walls Inc. in Yardley, Pennsylvania, designs and sells décor specially designed for homes with larger-sized walls.
Michael Strong, a member of NAHB and founder and vice president of Brothers Strong Inc., a remodeling company in Houston, says outfitting homes with networks is a niche that's becoming broader and broader. Capitalizing on this trend is Rick Akins, president of FirstPoint Residential Communications Inc. in Wheaton, Illinois. Akins has found his niche installing networking components for computers and security and home-entertainment systems.
The aging baby boomer population, wanting to grow old in their own homes, is sparking another trend, the need for accessible design. Cynthia Leibrock, founder of Easy Access to Health LLC in Livermore, Colorado, designs home interiors that are accessible for all age groups--although she targets baby boomers. She installs items like reinforced shower walls that can be outfitted with safety bars and designs rooms and door frames to accommodate hospital beds and wheelchairs. Making homes more livable, comfortable and even safer has created the need for businesses like Dujardin Design Associates Inc. in Greenwich, Connecticut. Founder Trudy Dujardin designs homes and offices with a focus on environmental friendliness. Dujardin is especially concerned about the problem of mold in homes. She helps her clients design with materials that prevent such environmental health hazards.
Consumers who can't afford a total remodel can look to interior arrangement to make old things new. Interior arranging is the art of redesigning the interior of a home using items a home-owner already has. Lisa Billings, president of the Interior Arrangement and Design Association (IADA), says the interior arrangement niche is growing-her organization has tripled in size since 2000. And while 30 percent of IADA members have added interior arrangement to their interior design businesses, a full 70 percent have built businesses solely based on interior arranging.
Whatever niche you choose, remember: Home is where the heart is. And if you're smart, it can be where the profit is, too.