Rule Number One: Start With One Product.
Whatever you intend to sell or make – focus on one product, may it be something so simple as t-shirt, and become excellent in making it. Then, variations are ok – throw a few sizes, colours.
If possible, try to find a niche and redefine the standards of such product. Nobody will get excited about yet another store selling mass produced lighters. Same as your nearest off-licence.
This rule also applies beyond retail or physical products. Same goes for your skills, software product. You name it. Only once you/your business becomes known for THIS ONE THING, get your hands/head onto something new. Ideally, something which seems unrelated to the first. And then you have your competitive polymath advantage. Most creative breakthroughs and commercial successes come via making atypical combinations of skills.
But first, for the sake of your sanity – focus on ONE (trust me, I derailed and ended up in the Confusion forest for far too long).
There are many successful business stories which started with one or a very limited number of products. The whole genius of kickstarter turns around this concept too.
In Oishya case, we’ve started with Japanese kitchen knives. We were selling variations of the same thing – Japanese kitchen knives. Only after some time we’ve introduced complementary goods – sharpening stones. We were on 1st pages on Google for many highly competitive keywords because our message was so straightforward and at the same time – unique. The girls with Japanese knives was a catchy phrase and it landed us many interviews and even an invitation to the national TV breakfast show.
But we couldn’t scale with knives only. Due to external factors we had no impact on, we had to diversify and expand our offering. Plus, we never wanted to be a knife shop. Nothing wrong with being one, but we think Japan has a lot more to offer and we love Japanese way (well, most of it) of looking at life, closeness with nature and peacefulness.
Things got tough when we started introducing not-so-related products such as magnetic racks, cover cushions and other homeware. And even – apparel with kimono fabrics. Sounds like a deadly chaotic mixture – I know. But we see the common element to it – Japanese art.
We want to mix East with West and promote the beauty of Japanese minimalism and culture.
Now we’re having a hard time by redefining the story. I know we’ll get there. But it’s a painful, slow full of trial-and-error process.
If you have a clearly defined mission (why you’re doing what you’re doing), you’re already half way there.