In 1989, Brian Scudamore started his business with $700 and a pickup truck. Today, the Vancouver, B.C.-based junk removal company 1-800-GOT JUNK? has 190 franchises in three countries and annual sales of $89 million. One of the secrets of his company’s success is its ability to position itself as offering customers a way to clean up their homes, simplify their lives and get a fresh start.
And while experts say sticking to your vision can be a great strategy, the recession has challenged many small business owners to reinvent their companies or go under.
Entrepreneurs of all sizes are finding strategies to capitalize on Americans’ desire for products and services that improve their quality of life in one way or another — that help them continue to pursue the American Dream during tough times. [Related: Businesses Strategize to Capitalize on the American Dream ]
Here are some anecdotes from small business owners who’ve gotten particularly creative:
No regrets: Jodi Turner Hume was time strategist and executive coach whose services started to feel non-essential for many potential clients. Last year, she rebranded her company, called In the Business of Life, as providing “Death Bed Regret Management.” That seemed to change clients’ perspective. Before, most clients thought of her business as a tool to organize their work lives. Now, her focus is on helping clients strive for work-life balance — ensuring they don’t have any of those “Deathbed Regrets.” As a result, her business has grown by 35 percent this year.
Living two dreams: Metro Flats NYC was already in the business of helping travelers find apartments to sublet for short periods of time while travelling in New York. When the recession hit, it improved business by tapping into the market of second homeowners who were suddenly having trouble paying for their occasionally occupied city flats by connecting them with travelers who were willing to pay to use their apartments, therefore defraying the cost of owning a second home and giving Metro Flats a new source of apartments to rent.
Nanny needs: Lawyer Bob King had a California law firm that helped clients navigate the legal issues involved in hiring nannies. Seeing a bigger need for this kind of service, King rebranded the company as Legally Nanny, which provides families with legal and tax advice for employing all types of domestic employees, elder caregivers, personal chefs and personal assistants. It now helps nanny and homecare agencies with their legal work, too. Last year was the company's best year in the seven years of its existence.
Dining in: Maria Kopsidas, owner of Cookology, a recreational cooking school in Sterling, Va., was an executive and mother constantly on the run and trying to figure out how to put a nutritious meal on the table. She wondered what other people were doing to solve this problem. She decided to put her passion for cooking to work and positioned her cooking school as a more reasonably-priced alternative to dining out. She is making a profit and looking to expand.
Father-son time: Pastime Management Group, a California-based sports marketing agency, saw its clients’ revenues plummet as professional baseball game ticket sales dropped off when the recession hit. The company is working with two professional baseball teams to launch Father-Son special events that focus on the family outing aspect of going to the game. The price of the ticket will include admission for father and son (or daughter), hot dogs, sodas, and special recognition on the scoreboard during the game. The promo will be marketed in stadium, via social media, email and on the teams’ websites.