Diana Pemberton-Sikes

Article Summary:

Ideas on how to find a niche business opportunity.

Niche Business Opportunity: Mining a Niche for Gold

One of the fastest ways to make money is by tapping an under-mined business niche. Some of the biggest success stories in history come from people who went looking for an answer to a problem, and when they couldn't find one, created the solution themselves. Were they the first people to have the problem? No. But they were the first to do something about it. And by providing a solution, they made money...and history.

Here are a few of their tales:

California: January, 1848.
Nuggets of gold are found lying on the ground at Sutters' Mill, near Sacramento. By September, newspaper reports of California's goldfields yielding nuggets "collected at random and without any trouble" begin to tantalize readers all along the east coast. When President Polk confirms the information in his December message to Congress, the news sweeps the nation like wild fire: "There's gold in them thair hills!" It's California or bust.

Thousands of men leave their wives and families behind with promises to return quickly with "pockets full of gold." How could you NOT get rich, they surmised, when all you had to do was pick it up off the ground?

But it wasn't quite that easy. By the time they reached the west coast, the "easy pickings" were all gone. If they wanted it, they were going to have to work for it-by digging it out of the ground. It was hard, back-breaking work. They had picks and shovels and pans and dynamite to help them in their quest. What they DIDN'T have was a sturdy pair of pants that could withstand the demands of the job.

Several of them appealed to one of their favorite dry goods' dealers in San Francisco, a young German immigrant by the name of Levi Strauss. At first, Levi tried making pants from tent canvas. Unhappy with the results, he tried a heavy cotton imported from France: denim. They immediately caught on. When a local tailor asked Levi to reinforce the pockets of these denim pants, Levi came up with a plan to strengthen all the stress points-with metal rivets. It was an instant success. Levi and the tailor, Jacob Davis, filed for a patent on the idea, and "waist overalls" (a.k.a. blue jeans) were born.

Illinois, 1846.
A young Scottish immigrant named Allan Pinkerton--who's both a policeman and the son of a policeman--discovers and helps to apprehend a gang of counterfeiters. He is promoted to deputy sheriff as a result. Four years later, he joins the Chicago police force as a detective and quickly distinguishes himself with his sleuthing ability. He's so clever as solving crimes, in fact, that people begin to ask for him by name. In 1852, he seizes the opportunity and leaves the police department to form his own company: the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

He's the world's first private investigator.

He became famous his first year in business by solving a serious of train robberies. In early 1861, he uncovered a plot to assassinate then President-Elect Lincoln on the train to his inauguration, and insisted on guarding the President himself. As a result, he was named head of the newly-formed Secret Service. In later years, he expanded the agency to other cities, and wrote ten books about his experiences as a detective.

Perhaps his most enduring contribution to everyday life came, oddly enough, from the Pinkerton logo, which included an eye with the words "we never sleep" printed below it. Today we just say "private eye".

Chicago, 1939.
21 year-old John H. Johnson becomes editor of his company's in-house magazine. Collecting articles culled from national publications, Johnson realizes he's struck gold. In his own words, "Black gold."

As the grandson of slaves, Johnson was born into poverty in Arkansas at a time when the most he could aspire to was menial labor. But his mother, Gertrude, wanted more. A young widow, she saved her meager earnings as a cook and washerwoman for years until she could afford to move her family to Chicago. There, Johnson was exposed to something he never knew existed: middle class blacks. He attended an all black high school during the day and poured over self-improvement books at night.

A chance encounter with a community leader lead to a job at Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company-the most prominent black owned business in the North. Surrounded by well-dressed professionals, in a company whose entire customer base and staff were black, Johnson was inspired. He advanced quickly and was open to opportunity when it presented itself in the stories he was clipping: articles of interest to the black community. It was obvious to Johnson (but no one else) that Black America needed a magazine of its own.

His first effort, "Negro Digest" was published in November 1942. It took a serious look at racial issues and featured articles from prominent black and white writers. Within eight months, he had a circulation of 50,000. Readership soared to 100,000 in October 1943 when one of his regular contributor columns, "If I was a Negro" was penned by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Completely alone in his belief that Black America was a profitable market, Johnson had no competition and literally raked in the cash. Within a few years, he was looking for other ways to mine to the magazine vein and found it in an entertainment format. Launched in November 1945 and selling out its first day on the stands, "Ebony" was an instant success.

The stories are as great as they are numerous. These were normal, every day people who decided to do more with the knowledge they already possessed. They weren't perfect and they made mistakes along the way.

But they did what so many others fail to do: they saw an opportunity and took a chance. In short, they did SOMETHING.

Often when people seek additional ways to make money, they look far beyond themselves for the answer. They spend months - years even - trying to find THE vehicle that will transport them to their dreams. And all the while, they ignore the opportunities that exist right under their nose.

Levi Strauss could simply have told the miners that he didn't have anything like what they wanted, and sent them on their way. Allan Pinkerton could have spent his whole life as a popular Chicago cop. And John H. Johnson could have spent his entire career working his way up the ranks of the most prominent black owned business in the North. But none of them took the path of least resistance. They mined their niches and changed their lives, and in doing so, changed ours well as ours.

So what niche can you mine? Think about your job, your hobbies, and your other interests. What problems have you encountered? What challenges have you faced? What dead ends have you met that you simply turned around at went the other way? Re-think the situation again and prospect it for possibilities.

You never know when you might strike gold!

Diana Pemberton-Sikes has been helping entrepreneurs turn their EXISTING knowledge, skills, and interests into cash since 1999. To learn how you can turn your "passions into profits", visit her online and subscribe to her FREE ezine at niftybusinessideas.com. Diana is also and author of "Wardrobe Magic," an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. For more information, visit her website, Fashion For Real Women.com.

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