If there’s a void in the market, you’ll find moms there
Some entrepreneurs have dreamed of owning a business since childhood and some get the itch later in life and decide to leave corporate life for running their own show.
Then, there’s the segment that has an epiphany when they realize the very specific thing they need can’t be found anywhere in the marketplace, say, computer mouses for left handers or bubble bath for people with sensitive skin. Many of the Top 200 Winners in the 2009 Leading Moms in Business competition got started just this way.
A prime example is Angelice Tyson, who launched her Baton Rouge, Louisiana, business to provide greeting cards for a unique group. You see, Gemini Greetings (ranked No. 33) doesn’t sell your everyday greeting cards for your everyday recipient.
“My identical twin boys were about 18 months old when they were invited to their first birthday party,” explains Tyson, 36. “Buying the gift was the easy part, but looking for a card with two boys saying ‘Happy Birthday from both of us’ was quite a challenge.” After doing some research, she found that 99 percent of the stores she visited didn’t carry cards like this, and there were equally slim pickings on the internet, too.
Tyson points out that according to the Greeting Card Association, there are an estimated 3,000 greeting card publishers in the U.S., selling more than $7 billion in greeting cards each year. Of these companies, most do not publish a specialized line of greetings for families with multiples, she says. “Anyone considering starting a business that they feel fills a void in the marketplace, first needs to research high and low to see if there really is nothing else like it out there.”
So Tyson set out to launch a line of greeting cards that could be both given by and given to twins, triplets and more. Gemini Greetings filled a void and created a niche in the greeting cards market to celebrate birthdays, annual holidays and others. It’s a perfect example of how moms combined with necessity are the real mothers of invention.
In The Numbers
Being a mother of twins who desired specialty cards, Tyson had already pinpointed a consumer need and audience. But something niche entrepreneurs like her have to consider is whether or not there are enough consumers out there like her. Are there really that many people with multiples looking for specialty cards? “Absolutely! Have you seen the birth rates for twins and multiples lately?” she says, referencing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which reports that there were 137,085 twin births and 6,118 triplet births in 2006.
With a clear consumer demographic, she dug deeper to determine if there was an actual need. As president of the Greater Baton Rouge Mothers of Twins Club, Tyson had access to both club members and online communities for moms of multiples to gauge interest and get feedback. “My marketing strategy was to focus on leaders of the online communities and other groups of moms and dads that gathered due to the fact that they had multiples,” she says. “If they knew Gemini Greetings existed and were easily accessible, they would be a hot item on shelves.”
Gemini Greetings debuted in 2008 with Valentine’s Day cards. It’s since released other holiday and greeting cards, such as Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving, as well as novelty gifts such as mugs and mouse pads. The products are sold on the website, in select boutiques and at zazzle.com/geminigreetings. Tyson is currently working with a major retailer and prospecting for others to make the most of the opportunity with her niche product line.
Getting to the Bottom of It
Adrienne Connolly’s business idea came to her much like Tyson’s, involving her kids and a need that could not be met.
After having her first child, she and her husband had everything they needed: crib, playpen, stroller, etc. So when they had their second child, all they needed were diapers, says Connolly. Unfortunately, her friends and family weren’t very receptive to the idea of gifting diapers. So, she went in search of a way to make gifting diapers fun and appealing.
Enter: Stinky Cakes (ranked No. 141). Connolly’s solution came last year, in the form of a cake—a cake made out of disposable diapers, that is. The multi-tiered cakes come adorned with ribbon and a variety of ornaments, including stuffed animals, pacifiers, onesies and bath products. They can be personalized or tailored to specific themes.
“I started Stinky Cakes because diapers are a practical gift all new moms and moms-to-be need,” says Connolly, 24. “As a mother myself, I was happy to receive diapers. So I already knew that other mothers would be happy to receive [them, too].” As long as people keep having babies, there will always be a need for diapers. “Even in tough economic times, moms need diapers,” she adds. The challenge, however, was spreading the word about her niche product and the concept of gifting diapers.
Connolly and her team at the Springfield, Massachusetts-based company hit the streets and the web for some grassroots marketing, such as handing out fliers and blogging online. Quickly, Stinky Cakes went from a market void to a viable niche business. Sales are currently online, but Connolly envisions Stinky Cakes having storefronts across the U.S. in the future, and she’d like to introduce more “mommy accessories,” such as baby clothes and diaper bags, into her product mix. Ultimately, she hopes to make her brand one of the premiere stops for all new moms and moms-to-be.
These are just a smattering of the many moms among the Top 200 Winners this year who’ve shown they know what consumers are looking for, and they’re not afraid to go after an opportunity, no matter how narrow the business niche. Because of a need of their own, they’ve been able to fill a void in the market. Whether greeting cards for twins or giftable diapers, moms make big opportunities out of small niches.