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Just for You

Your startup can make customers smile if you let them design their own retail experiences.

This story appears in the March 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

The thrill of creating your own product, of being the only one in the world who has something--consumers love that sensation. With companies such as Cold Stone Creamery letting patrons choose a mix of flavors to suit any particular sweet tooth, people are primed for personalization. "We [as consumers] crave feeling special. We crave being able to get our creativity in our own product," says Wes Moss, author of Starting From Scratch:Secrets From 21 Ordinary People Who Made the Entrepreneurial Leap. "In any customization business, what an entrepreneur is really doing is empowering the consumer. You're embracing the consumer's creativity and helping it along."

You'll need tons of upfront preparation to launch a personalized business. Research whether there is a desire for your particular customized product or service. Moss suggests considering industries where there's somewhat of a luxury feel and offering products that customers are willing to splurge on. And manage the number of choices you give customers--a huge menu board with 150 options will overwhelm them. Says Moss, "Focus customers on several choices--[numbers like] 20, 10 or 3 are manageable." Then you can offer more options with ancillary add-ons.

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