Identifying and taking advantage of a gap in the market

How many times have you had an idea or seen an opportunity and then dismissed it with phrases like “it probably wouldn’t work” or “someone else is probably doing it”? If you see an opportunity, a gap in the market, it can be a brilliant start to a successful business. It’s more than just an idea, it meets a need and that’s a solid start.

Once upon a time, I would never have seen myself as a business owner, but last month, I opened the door to a children’s swimming school with a fellow mum and I’m so glad we managed to get ourselves passed the initial fear and wariness to get ourselves to where we are today; completely booked out, loving what we do and considering opening a second location.

We saw a massive market gap. There just weren’t enough swim schools in our area to meet the needs of the growing population – and we were caught up in the issue. So, how do you go from seeing a market gap or having that initial business idea to throwing open the doors of your new business? We share five critical elements that were part of our journey:

  1. Don’t ignore that feeling. When you see an unmet opportunity, you get that tingly feeling. Something inside you knows the idea has potential. It also usually means it’s something you’re excited by, passionate about, and probably personally invested in/affected by – and that’s the seed of a great business.
  2. Turn off the negative voices. One day I was having coffee with my friend and now business partner, Jessica, and we were bemoaning the fact that we still hadn’t managed to get our kids into swimming lessons. I said, what if we started our own school? – surely the demand is there as so many other parents would be in the same boat. If we had let the doubt and negativity win, it wouldn’t have gone any further. This doesn’t mean you blindly jump in without doing the research or making sure the idea is viable – but at least give the concept a chance to grow, don’t just stamp it out based on your own fears and doubts.
  3. Confirm the gap. With both Jessica and I personally affected by the lack of swim schools in the area, we were feeling fairly confident that the problem was real – but to be sure, we hit the phones, sparked up conversations at childcare/kinder drop-offs and through the amazing network of mums we have met since our move to the Surf Coast. Do some research to confirm your gut feeling, speak to potential customers and give yourself confidence that you’re onto something and it’s worth your time and effort to keep going.
  4. Just start putting one foot in front of the other. We had no idea where to start and if we thought about it too much. But we reminded ourselves that we were clever people and we knew our target market (because we were our target market!). Over a few more coffees, we figured out what we had to do first and just started putting one foot in front of the other. Slowly the idea started to take shape. It was a lot of work but because we were so excited and passionate about it, we found the energy to keep going.
  5. Get a sounding board. I would have found it difficult to go through the process without a business partner to brainstorm and bounce ideas with, share tasks and make decisions. Not everyone will go into a new venture with a business partner, but I think there is value in having a few intelligent, trusted people you know you can talk to about issues along the way.