by Lizl Naude, founder of Lily Loompa
One would think that the longer you are in business, the less you need to learn, but in fact, quite the opposite is true. None of us can ever say we know it all!
A few months ago I was part of the NEXT19 trade show at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa. The event was well-attended and on closing day I welcomed a wonderful couple to my stand. The husband gave me some history on the building we were standing in. He said he and his wife bought their first Waterfront apartment in the same building 16 years prior and it used to be called “The Showhouse”. He proceeded to give me some delightful detail about that time.
I, in turn, engaged and told them about my business and story, and it seemed they really enjoyed it. Since the trade show was earmarked for retail buyers, we had to choose one product line that was commercially viable and easy to ship and I chose our Toona Can. He played around with a few of them and as I relayed the backstory, he looked at me intently. He commended me on a great product and surprised me when he said the following: “I love the product, but won’t be buying today! But what I do want to buy are your teeth! They’re so white!”
“WHAT?” Was my first reaction. “I don’t sell teeth”, I thought. He went on to comment on how white they were. This is not uncommon for me to hear…people regularly compliment me on my white-looking teeth. I just didn’t expect someone to ever offer to buy them! Now we went on cracking jokes about my teeth, which was a bit awkward a first. After a while they left and for a brief moment I stood and replayed the event in my mind.
I considered my business and wondered if my offering was enough to please my target market. He was not a buyer or a retailer but a potential customer and my offering was great, but not what he was looking for at the time. I thought about how I could have landed this business. I even chuckled silently: “Maybe I should have sold him my teeth!”
I had some thoughts about the dynamics of diversifying in my business:
Know who you are selling to and develop products and services that they want and need! I have sometimes cried crocodile tears about people not buying my product, only to realize later that I was selling to the wrong crowd!
Create products that are in-line with your value system. In my case, I upcycle waste into usable products. Thus my product line should be cohesive to that value.
Stay in your lane. Stick to your industry and become an expert in your field. Don’t be tempted to sell products and services that are outside of your expertise.
Always make sure your offering gives value to your clients. Don’t just develop products to make quick money.
If not done strategically, diversifying can create many complications in business. Too many products and varieties can be time-consuming and difficult to manufacture and this leads to slow growth.
Start small. Have products that move fast and are easy to produce.
Although clients and friends of the business may want to help, they sometimes make suggestions for products that sound very exciting, but may not be realistic for you to produce. I have learned the hard way to first digest before I just start producing anything.
As creatives, we are sometimes tempted to design and create new products every season to keep up with the trends. A seasoned businessman once corrected me about this. He told me to KEEP IT SIMPLE! He told me to:
Produce in a simple and affordable manner
Rather make small upgrades to existing products and sell, than produce a bunch of near perfect products that sit on the shelf. Product development takes time and in business, time is money!
Keep marketing clever and effective
Sell quickly to the right market
As I navigate through these exciting and sometimes turbulent times of growing a business, I am constantly learning to evolve and reinvent. I have burned my fingers many times before and although diversifying is needed in my business, I will apply wisdom and strategy to implement.
Lizl Naude is the founder of Lilly Loompa in South Africa, a company that creates beautiful and usable products made with recycled material. Lilly Loompa's “Rubbish Range” is the result of Lizl's craving to deliver pieces that are completely "green". Lizl is a self-taught designer and initially started designing and making furniture because she couldn’t afford to buy new pieces to furnish her home. She started to scout and source for budget material and quickly realised that most people discard of very usable materials. The company manufactures a variety of products, from storage holders, lamps, to dinner table accessories, among others. All materials are carefully sourced from waste and sustainably reimagined as beautiful, yet purposeful products. Eco-friendly, handcrafted and 100% South African, each Lilly Loompa piece, once trash, is now a meaningful piece of treasure.
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