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Small Biz Adviser:
I want to open a small business selling bath and body products,
such as natural soaps, unique-looking soaps, aromatherapy products,
lingerie, accessories and educational products for women and men.
Where do I start? I tried the Internet but I can't come up with
the data I need, like market research, etc.
I don't see an enormous amount of bath and body
specialty stores on the Net, except for two big national brands.
Please help me! Where should I begin? I don't much collateral to
finance the business just a dream and goals, please help me make
these dreams and goals become a reality. Could this happen?
Yours is a typical obstacle encountered by startups -- finding
relevant market research data. In my business, which specialized
in business planning for startups, the market research element
is most daunting. Fortunately, in only one case we were forced to
purchase the data. In another case, the type of business venture
was so new that market data did not exist. On all other occasions
we were able to identify sufficient, readily available and free
sources of relevant data on which to make substantive financial
projections and envision the level of operations required to successfully
operate the venture at projected market shares garnered.
To begin, it is important to define the geographic
target market in which you intend to compete. Always, it is easier
to find national data trends than local competitors' performance
by market share, financial performance and successful product lines.
But there are steps you can take.
to types of business enterprises tend to survey their membership
on various types of performance related to marketing and sales.
The data are them compiled and shared with the membership. Many
will not share the data with you until becoming an association member.
It can be a good idea to join a lot of associations -- you get the
data, plus the new relationships and an enhanced image for your
company through those relationship.
undeniably offer an excellent, alternative source of data. The Internet
can be an overwhelming source of data. However, it depends on the
type of data you want, and the source of that online data. I am
very careful to note the source. If the Web site does not list the
source of its data and claims, and the representatives of that Web
site are not known to be reputable, I will not consider the content.
Often, a company will make claims merely to enhance its image and
provoke purchasing its products and services.
The Bureau of the Census'
economic data gives a wealth of information on businesses at national,
state and county levels. Online you can secure the 1992
and 1997 results. They are issued every 5 years. For the data
prior to 1992. you can go to most any good library for paper copies.
Though often ignored, the local Yellow
Pages for the past three or four years provide a valuable
look into the growth trends of local markets. Many libraries will
keep back issues of the Yellow Pages. Go to the relevant section
and note the following:
- Increase and decline in the number of businesses.
- Locations of the businesses.
- Who is and isn't placing large ads in the
- Any other trends, such as the inclusion of
Web site addresses and e-mail addresses, from one year to the
should never be ignored. Many startups will post themselves in
the neighborhoods of their competitors for two to three weeks to
- Types of customers by age, gender and any
other noteworthy characteristics.
- When customers most often visit the store
by day of the week and time of the day.
- Where customers come from like nearby neighborhoods
and other businesses in the area, or from outside the area, by
bus, car or other mode of transportation.
Cheryl, your options are many. But above all,
remember this -- try to find a way of standing out from the competition,
be it sales, customer service and/or product. But know the ways
of success. Copy the ways of successful competitors and avoid the
ways of those who fail.
I wish you well.
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