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Finding Your Niche

So you read my article in last month’s issue of Insights, you’ve identified your perfect niche, and you’re excited to make some positive changes to your business and your life. (If you didn’t, pause here, and log in to to read up on Part 1, then rejoin us when you’re inspired and ready!)

Finding Your Niche

Part 2: It’s Time to Get Motivated to Make Change Happen in Your Business

By Pamela Deats, Custom Built Awards

So you read my article in last month’s issue of Insights, you’ve identified your perfect niche, and you’re excited to make some positive changes to your business and your life. (If you didn’t, pause here, and log in to to read up on Part 1, then rejoin us when you’re inspired and ready!)

You’re officially ready to go!

But chances are you’re asking yourself an important question right now: Where do I even begin?

The good news is that finding your niche and wanting to make a change is half the battle. The not-so-good news is that now you’ve got to do the part that often seems the scariest: making it happen. But I’m here to tell you that with a few changes—and a bit of courage, motivation, and dedication—you can add more of what you love to your product lineup and make every day at work a little better for both you and your staff.

Find Your Equipment

Someone once told me that equipment is like underwear: nobody sees it, but you gotta’ have it. And that is never truer than when you’re trying to target your operations in a whole new way. Before you start buying up substrates and telling your customers about the exciting new offerings coming to your shop, you have to have the means to make it happen.

Analyze what other retailers are doing to the products you’d like to sell or concentrate more on; a good place to start is the Awards and Personalization Association’s Member2Member Forum, where retailers are sharing their work and questions every day.

Are people adding vibrant color to that product? Are they using acrylic? Is there a part of the product that you love, but can’t quite figure out how they made? And, most importantly, are these all things you can do in-house?

If the answer to that last question is no, then it’s time to start shopping. For many of us, the prospect of spending money—especially on a large, expensive piece of equipment—is a frightening one.

But when it comes to making that purchase for the good of your business, you can’t operate on “scared money.” You can’t be afraid to step out and purchase a piece of equipment or a full case of product when you need it. After all, these are the building blocks of your business.

If you are scared, your money is scared, and you will fail. Don’t set yourself up for failure from the get-go: Just shut your eyes and go for it!

If you know you need to do something to appeal to that niche, but you’re not quite sure what to do, invest in finding out. You can attend educational seminars about certain processes, visit local suppliers for hands-on demonstrations, and reach out to your fellow association members to learn more about your investment and how to make the best decision.

But the investment isn’t just financial; it also needs to be an investment of time. Take an afternoon off from selling to learn a new skill or research a new process. Sure, you might miss a phone call or fax about an order, but you can’t be afraid to invest just as much in your future earnings as you do in your current ones.

Find Your Customers

If having the tools to get the project done is the most important thing, then the second most important thing is ensuring that—after all that time and effort—there are customers who will buy what you’re trying to sell.

If your niche is an entirely new area to you, talk to your fellow association members who already work in this area about what you may be able to expect. You also can talk with members of your community to see what opportunities may already exist.

For example, if you’re looking to dive into sports products, talk to local schools and other groups that offer those activities to better understand future trends, current needs, and what expectations they have of their suppliers. If you want to work with local nonprofits, set a time to visit their office or a community meeting to learn more about what they do.

If you’re looking to expand on a product line you already offer, you can take advantage of the customer base you already have to see what the market looks like for future sales. Ask them what additional products they’d like to see, what special decorations they may prefer, and whether they have anyone in their network who might also be looking for those products.

And remember, people love to talk about the great deals they’ve found or the wonderful vendors they’ve worked with—and your customers are no different. Don’t hesitate to ask your customers for referrals, especially in the beginning when you’re still building up that new portion of your business.

Then, once you have a handle on who you’ll sell to, set up your shop to ensure that if any of these new potential customers come in, they immediately know that they’re in the right place. Position items related to your niche front and center, and ensure that when customers come in, you mention that display.

Find Your Motivation

Finding the right equipment and customers will get you pretty far, but the most important part of making any change is maintaining the motivation to make it happen. With our busy lives and even busier work schedules, it can be easy to keep kicking the can of change down the road as we wait for the exact right moment to move forward.

Think about what you do every day: You listen to what a client tells you, and you translate that into art. You look at a blank plaque and you can visualize every detail that will make it great.

Whether it’s engraving a trophy or creating something entirely new that you’ve never even seen before, you know what the right thing to do is. Because you have this industry in your blood.

You already know in your heart what the right decision is for your business; and just like with any other project or order, you need to make that decision happen!

When I first started in the awards and personalization industry, I only had about 144 sq ft to work with, but I knew that what I wanted most was to move my business into a big building that I could call my own.

So, with every order and every day, I concentrated on that goal. And, after many years, I accomplished it: I now have 26 employees and a beautiful building that we’ll be adding more space to shortly!

I didn’t reach that goal right away. In fact, it took me about 31 years to do it. But I knew where I was going.

Every move into a new building, every new employee hired, and every new product added to my lineup was a step forward.

And I treated every one of those steps forward as what they were: progress worth celebrating. After all, that’s what we do in this industry, isn’t it? We help others celebrate their accomplishments in a way no one else can.

A trophy may just be an object, but if you’ve ever seen an Olympian staring adoringly at their prize, you know that those medals are a lot more than just ribbon and gold; they’re the acknowledgment of ultimate success. How many times have you seen someone holding a plaque or trophy proudly? How many times have you done it yourself?

That’s what drives my love for this industry, and what drives all of us to dedicate so much of ourselves to our businesses—we have this in our blood.

So if you feel that motivation flagging or that fear of change creeping in, just remember: every step forward is a step closer, and that deserves acknowledgment. And the only way to reach a goal is to keep moving toward it, step by step.

Pamela Deats has shared her insights as a speaker at the International Awards & Personalization Expo. Custom Built Awards specializes in trophies, plaques, name badges, ribbons, medallions, and gifts for businesses, schools, organizations, sports leagues/teams, and churches. Based in Humble, TX, the shop custom builds every award to the customer’s order.

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