The secret to a successful niche business is realizing that it isn’t about you. It’s about the customer.” —Glenda Ervin, vice president of marketing for Lehman’s
Here are six examples of how enterprising solopreneurs identified needs, created fabulous niches, and built thriving businesses.
1. The Need: Nonelectrical tools and appliances
The Business: Lehman’s
Lehman’s is an Ohio company that began in 1955 by selling nonelectrical tools and appliances to the local Amish community. Today Lehman’s is an internationally known company.
From their Web site: “Lehman’s ships old-fashioned, non-electric merchandise all over the world through our catalogs and website. Our diverse customer base includes missionaries and doctors working in developing countries; homesteaders and environmentalists living in remote areas; people with unreliable electricity living on islands and mountains; second home owners, hunters, fishers and cabin dwellers; the “chronically nostalgic,” and even Hollywood set designers looking for historically accurate period pieces.”
2. The Need: A convenient way for parents to buy diapers
The Business: Diapers.com
Quidsi is a New Jersey retailer that delivers diapers and baby products under the name diapers.com. Amazon recently paid $545 million to acquire Quidsi.
Founded in Montclair, New Jersey, by Marc Lore and Vinit Bharara, Diapers.com is the largest online baby care specialty site in the United States. As dads themselves, Love and Bharara were tired of midnight runs for diapers, frustrated searches for the right diaper size, wasted time waiting in store lines. The men looked for online diaper sources, found none, and decided to launch Diapers.com.
3. The Need: A no-hassle way to send care packages to inmates
The Business: SendAPackage.com
Did you know it’s difficult to send care packages to inmates? Beyond the hassle of assembling a package and then schlepping to the post office or UPS, there are dozens of rules that govern what inmates are allowed to receive.
Enter Chris Barrett’s Send A Package, the one-stop shop for sending care packages to family and friends located in the New York State prison system. All of Send A Package’s products have been pre-approved by the New York State Department of Corrections, eliminating the guesswork of determining which items inmates may receive.
4. The Need: Personal- and business-development services
The Business: The Introvert Entrepreneur
Using personal traits to identify potential niches is brilliant, and it illustrates that the number of potential niches is equal to the number of stars in the sky. Beth Buelow’s The Introvert Entrepreneur, based in Tacoma, Washington, is one of those businesses that made me say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
From the Web site: The Introvert Entrepreneur is a personal and professional development company that provides services for introverts and those who live/work/play with them. Our goal is to create empowered, productive environments where introverts can flourish. The key to that is understanding and appreciating what it means to be an “innie” in an “outtie” world.
5. The Need: Custom Web analytics
The Business: Mixpanel
Social-media companies, online gaming companies, and application-development companies needed a way to move past page views and measure user engagement and interaction. Two Arizona State students developed a solution and in 2009 launched Mixpanel, whose slogan is “Actions speak louder than page views.”
6. The Pain: Business travel
The Business: Anybots
Trevor Blackwell, founding partner in seed-stage venture funding firm Y Combinator, has created QB, a “personal avatar,” a robot you send into the office as your proxy. QB was developed by Anybots, Blackwell’s Mountain View, California robotics company.
“The big manifesto we have written on our whiteboard is, ‘Make business travel obsolete,'” Blackwell told Entrepreneur.com. “It’s the No. 1 thing businesspeople grumble about. It wastes resources [and] time.”