I never pictured myself being a business owner. No thanks, not for me.
In fact I distinctly remember passionately proclaiming, “There’s no way in hell I’d ever want to run my own business!”
Yet here I am 10+ years later, cringing at the thought of ever having to work for someone again. (Wacky bosses, creative expression, and the freedom to do whatever the hell you want, when you want to, will do that to a person.)
I really ran with that entrepreneurial thing, creating not just one, but two different businesses and recognizable brands (with multiple iterations).
The most important thing I learned about business came from an unexpected source: fashion school.
I wouldn’t have built even one successful business or brand if I hadn’t had it drilled into my subconscious for the 4 years of my fashion design degree:
“You need a niche market.”
If there’s one thing I remember from fashion school, it’s hearing this over and over and over from every single one of my professors.
For a 20-year-old aspiring designer, this was incredibly annoying, and let me assure you that 99% of us cringed and rolled eyes, thinking, “Okay, whatever, I’ll humour you, but I’m never going to use this,” whenever we heard it.
“Knowing your niche market” or your “ideal client” was a real-world business lesson I didn’t fully realize until a couple years after graduating, when I started my first business and had to get really specific about the type of people I wanted to attract, how they’d benefit from what I offered, and where I’d find them.
Luckily (though it felt painstaking at the time), the last year of my fashion degree brought me face to face with some pretty harsh realities:
Either you successfully find, define, understand, and design products for a specific niche market (with documented proof that these people exist IN REAL LIFE and that you’re solving a problem they actually face) by the middle of the first semester, or fail the entire year. No joke. And for the record, not everyone made it through.
While I couldn’t see it at the time, this set the foundation for my future success as an entrepreneur.
In that final year of fashion school I learned how to:
- Uncover unmet needs in a market, and how I could solve them differently than anyone else
- Seek out, identify and empathize with my ideal customers, their most pressing pain points, and what they say, do, think, and feel about them
- Clearly and confidently communicate the value of my solutions/products/services in a way that resonates with those people
- Visually and verbally blend aspects of my personality, my point of view, and my style into a cohesive brand.
I know, it doesn’t sound sexy and stylish. (I mean come on, it’s known as “identifying your niche market and positioning your brand…) But boring business jargon aside, it’s the foundation any entrepreneur MUST have to stand out in any industry.
These days, it’s not enough have a pretty logo and a nice website, with a page of your services, a little blurb about you and your credentials, and a few blog posts. (I mean it never really was, but it’s especially relevant now that it’s easier than ever to start an online business, and everyone’s doing it.) “Build it and they will come” is an utter and complete lie.
And hey, maybe I’ve just described your business. No shame there – you’ve gotta start somewhere and better now than never. And maybe you’re getting some clients or selling some products and feel like, “Whatever, it’s fine. At least my business is running and I’m making money.”
But I want to ask you this: what about the business and life you dream of having?
(You know, the really dreamy oh-man-that-would-be-so-freakin-awesome life?)
Making more than enough money to travel regularly or splurge on that designer bag. Having the freedom to spend as much time with your family as you want or taking the afternoon off to read in the sun. Buying all organic groceries without worry about the cost, and having the influence to really make a BIG impact with your vision, mission, and message.
I know you’ve got what it takes to turn those kinds of dreams into reality.
But I’ve got to be honest, those dreams are pretty hard to achieve without intentionally clarifying, owning, and communicating the unique value of what you offer to the people you want to serve. In other words, knowing your niche (like, what they’re eating for breakfast knowing) and positioning your brand to stand out from every other business doing what you do.
So I want you to take a minute and ask yourself a few questions:
- What kind of business and life do I dream of having?
- What are the top 3 problems, frustrations, or pain points my business solves, and for who?
- Am I clearly communicating my unique value? (Do I KNOW what my unique, differentiating value is?)
- Does my brand stand out?
Are you on the right track?
Because I’m genuinely obsessed with all this, and I really want to know where you’re at – share your thoughts and answers in my free virtual clubhouse – Fulfilled & Free Collective.
It’s a brand new private hangout for creative entrepreneurs who want more personalized support, connection, feedback & tips around branding, business, and the ups and downs of life as an entrepreneur.
PS. In a few days I’ll be making a big announcement about what’s coming next from Digital Darlings Creative! It’s something I’ve been working on in semi-secret for the last year, and if this post resonated with you, I think you’re really going to love it…
Drop your name and email below and you’ll be the first to know!