Question to ask yourself: What area is lacking?
Former merchandising executive Susan Feldman noticed that while there were fabulous home furnishing stores selling unique and desirable pieces in Los Angeles, she found the online shopping experience to be incredibly frustrating. Susan identified what she calls "the white space" or the opportunity to present fabulous home products online. From that idea One Kings Lane was created.
STEP 2: KNOW WHO YOU'RE SELLING TO
Question to ask yourself: Who is my customer and what do they need?
Once you've identified who your customer is, only then should you pick items or services that cater to their needs. Having that singular focus and vision ensures that you stay on point. Alison and Susan knew from the very beginning that their customer was a female with sophisticated tastes. From there, they were able to not only create the design and aesthetic of the site but also provide the items to offer for sale and the entire shopping experience.
STEP 3: GO WITH YOUR GUT
Question to ask yourself: Do I really believe in this company or this product?
One Kings Lane was founded in the middle of a recession, which to many seemed like a far from the ideal time to launch an online shopping website! Despite the naysayers, Susan and Alison felt confident in their product and decided to forge ahead when many were too afraid to jump in. That belief and intuition has guided most of their decisions.
STEP 4: EXPAND YOUR BUSINESS WITHOUT LOSING YOUR ESSENCE
Question to ask yourself: What makes sense today?
Alison remembers starting the business with the attitude of taking it one day at a time and testing items to see what made sense for their customers. By alleviating the pressure of building a mega corporation both she and Susan were able to jump right in and stay focused on doing things right in a very organic manner.
When it was time to expand the business, both women kept that singular focus and only added additional categories to the website that felt like a natural expansion of what their customer was looking for. In this way they were able to grow without diluting their market position or brand.
Both Alison and Susan agree that launching the business fast and being the first to market was one of the keys to their success. They remember being told by their husbands that the first to market often succeeds, the second and third frequently survive, but the rest of the companies fight it out for smaller slices of the market.
If you have a great idea, especially one that hasn't been done before, make sure that you work hard to launch as soon as possible.
STEP 5: FIND YOUR A- TEAM
Question to ask yourself: Are my partners and employees as passionate about this business as I am?
Both Alison and Susan worked long, crazy hours, especially in the beginning. However, because they both were as driven and excited to succeed as each other there was never resentment over who worked longer or harder as is often the case with partnerships. When the business grew, they ensured that everyone they hired was equally motivated. Susan says it's crucial to find "mad, passionate, inspired and smart" people to help you bring your dream to life. With only a small team they were able to make a big splash.
Never forget that strong players build strong brands.