Ask Norm: How Can A Start-Up Compete Against the Big Guys?
Our year-old start-up is a monthly nail-polish subscription service that donates 30 percent of its profits to charity. Our competitors are very large nail-polish companies that have an extensive network of brick-and-mortar outlets and huge advertising budgets. They can ship globally. We don't know how to. They have ways to achieve international brand recognition. We can't begin to match it. How can we compete?
-George Cuevas, SquareHue, Miami
When you have limited resources, you need to be extracareful to use them wisely. SquareHue is a collaborative venture of three couples--six individuals--all of whom have full-time jobs. So they have limited time and money. They shouldn't waste either one figuring out how to sell internationally, which raises issues they don't need to think about now.That's actually the only problem with having competition from much larger companies: It sometimes leads you to focus on the wrong things.
In talking to George Cuevas, it was clear that he and his five partners are in business primarily to raise money for charity. They are all members of a church that four of them work for. So I urged them to focus on the advantages they have but aren't currently using.
For example, they had helped stage a church conference for 8,000 people focused on charitable giving. Maybe they can do the same thing with other churches around the country and use the events to raise brand awareness. They can also look for alliances with other businesses that have a charitable focus. I suggested they map out a plan, with specific goals, for the next year or two, and focus on taking advantage of their unique strengths.
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