If you're competing with a pack of companies in an overcrowded market, discovering an overlooked niche is like getting a breath of fresh air. Ed Fitzsimmons Jr., president of Yellowbird Motorlines, knows this for a fact.

In 1994, Fitzsimmons was driving along the road near his company's headquarters in New Bedford, Mass. He looked out the car window and saw cranberries--acres and acres of them. While New England produces a whopping one billion pounds of cranberries annually, just a handful of trucking companies serves this burgeoning market. Many aren't willing to go the extra mile to serve a seasonal market because it seems so difficult. It requires hiring temporary drivers, securing extra equipment, and having a dispatcher on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Fitzsimmons found, however, that it's worth the investment, because these farmers are willing to pay a premium to have their valuable, time-sensitive, and perishable freight delivered promptly.

Fitzsimmons calls on the cranberry farmers during the spring and begins planning for their fall harvest needs eight weeks before the projected harvest date. He grew the family-owned business to $8 million in sales in 1997 and has secured other seasonal work to even out his schedule: blueberries in summer and lumber in winter.

Copyright © 1998 G+J USA Publishing