It’s a fact that any start-up, no matter how much or little backing they have, are going to need a killer idea to succeed. After all, look at any of the biggest success stories of recent years – from Uber to Airbnb – and they’ve all got one thing in common. They came along, looked at the market and identified a clear niche just waiting for the perfect service to fill it.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be a service, it can be a product as well. Plus just having a neat idea won’t cut it. It’s also a question of having a great strategy. Good, distinctive branding and a website that’s brilliantly coded and easy to use are also all “must haves”. If this all sounds like a tough ask, it is. But it’s not impossible, as these six examples prove. Use them as inspiration, learn from their innovations and approach, and hopefully you’ll find your own niche product or service.
Techniche Europe is mainly a manufacturer of work clothing designed to be used in extremes of temperature. But some bright spark in their product development team came up with the idea of bringing out a range of products for cats and dogs to keep them warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer too. So as well as being a leading name in industrial clothing with a wide potential market, at a stroke they also opened up a completely different client base consisting of the owners of the UK’s 16 million domestic pets.
Car insurance always used to seem like a pretty boring and staid product without much to choose between the different companies providing it. Then along came Sheila’s Wheels, the first-ever insurance company just for women. The logic was brilliant – statistically, women drivers are safer so their premiums should be lower. The branding was spot-on from the word go featuring camp “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”-style scenes in the TV ads which got immediate recognition. From this solid base, they’ve gone on to add home and travel insurance too.
Another product that has been squarely aimed at the female market is Fabulous Bingo. Many online gaming sites tend to be pretty masculine in style and tone or gender neutral at best but Fabulous Bingo goes all out to serve a female customer base. There are themed games designed to appeal as well as a wide selection of slots with titles like “A Night Out” and “The Glass Slipper”. There’s also a strong sense of community which captures the social essence that made the old bingo halls such a popular meeting place but in a tech-savvy, 21st century way.
One of the most prominent food trends in recent years has been for South American foods. While the Mediterranean diet’s grabbed all the headlines for healthy eating, traditional South American superfoods like quinoa and fruits like lucuma have been overlooked but are now reaching people’s attention. But there aren’t many shops that stock the more unusual items – opening up the market for a business like La Bodeguita. Offering a mail order service and stocking many products that they can claim to be next to impossible to find anywhere else in the UK, they’re on to a winner.
Cycling for Softies
Something else that’s seen quite an explosion in recent years in the UK is cycling. It probably all started when Sir Bradley Wiggins had his fantastic year in 2012 winning the Tour de France and an Olympic gold medal. But not everyone who likes cycling has a lot of stamina, and Cycling For Softies are there to cater for them. They’ve realised that there’s a big market for people who want a cycling holiday without all the hassle of fixing punctures, carrying heavy bags and having to find somewhere new to stay every night. The company promises to provide the benefits and pleasures of cycling without the hassle.
Dirty Rotten Flowers
“Only in America” they say – and when you look at Dirty Rotten Flowers you’ll see just what they mean. The people behind it have come up with the idea of bouquets to send to the rat who’s dumped you or, more generally, anyone who’s got on the wrong side of you for whatever reason. So when they receive the gift box they’ll open it to find some mangled half-dead blooms as well as a suitably cutting message. A perfect example of looking at an established business – online florists – and turning it on its head.
Written by Flora Grant