Leading up to the founding of LexION Capital, I looked around and saw a slew of services designed to help people deal with their money. Now there are even more sites, platforms, and apps that revolve around budgeting or money management. What was (and is!) conspicuously missing was a high-level, fiduciary investing option geared toward the kind of hardworking families who have been overlooked by Wall Street--families run by women, by same-sex couples, or by partners who are simply equals. As a society, we are so far beyond being represented by only the gray-haired white man in every big bank commercial and brochure, and I felt it was well past time for Wall Street to catch up to Main Street. And with that, we knew exactly where our niche was.

Start by asking the right questions

Finding your niche is, in part, finding a new potential audience, a group who likely lacks a voice, platform, or good visible leadership. If you can tap into this demographic, you have just hit on an entire market whose needs have yet to be recognized and addressed.

Ask: What group needs a voice? Where does this group live? Where do they go? What do they think about?

Most of all, what do they still need--and why don't they have it yet? If you can answer this by way of a business plan that solves that problem, you have found a potential niche.

I was disgusted by the big bank marketing materials that constantly showed women coming into wealth by becoming widows or as clueless divorcees. I wanted to create an alternative: a firm that recognizes women as savvy and proactive, and serves those who want to take control of their wealth.

Make sure to find a movement, not a fad

To find your niche you must be able to distinguish an opportunity for innovation and sustainable growth from something that is simply a trend, short-lived and of-the-moment. A trend may create huge growth very quickly, but it characteristically sputters out just as fast. A fad is not a potential niche.

However, sometimes trends can provide clues that point to a niche--or several--waiting to be filled. Some of these things may look like a rising trend at first glance, but they actually have much more staying power.

The right "trend" to tap is one that has the disruptive potential to actually change industries in a major way. Voil: any number of potential niches, and therefore business opportunities. These are the trends that don't just fade when a new fad emerges, but continue expanding into larger, lasting movements.

We have to look no further than the proliferation of farm-to-table, artisanal products and eateries to see this. From the locally-made products lining major grocery store shelves to every staple under the sun--think NYC hot dog stands--getting a gourmet makeover, the locavore/slow-food trend is now a full-fledged social force.

To distinguish whether your business idea fits a movement or a fad, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is it radical? A movement is a true disruptor. It can create structural change in the industry that changes the way we live.
  1. Does it have depth? A movement is more than a fresh idea or an innovative product. It goes beyond merely re-packaging or re-purposing to re-inventing.
  1. Is it adaptable? A movement presents huge opportunity to be applied within and across industries.

If you answered yes to any of the above, you've tapped into a movement--and a key to unlock your potential niche.

Published on: Oct 30, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.