Business Tips from Reinventing the Entrepreneur

A series of Business Tips from the book:Reinventing the Entrepreneur
Reinventing the Entrepreneur: Turning Your Dream Business into a Reality
By MaryEllen Tribby

If you’re really excited and passionate about something, running your business will be a breeze. … When you marry your passion and your purpose, the profits will follow.
— MaryEllen Tribby

MaryEllen Tribby runs a very successful business called Working Moms Only (you might want to sign up for her newsletter!). In her book, Reinventing the Entrepreneur, she describes the process of starting and maintaining a business based on her business model.

Although this book was published in 2013, the business model MaryEllen suggested is similar to the one I used when I first started my ‘Selling to Gift Shops’ business in 2009.

The year I transitioned my business from full time traveling sales rep to writer, blogger and business consultant, I had just been diagnosed with my food allergy issues. If you read my business story, you will remember I was suffering from brain fog and dementia issues. My passion was still entrenched in the wholesale/retail business, but I could no longer keep up with the constant travel and everything associated with it.

My husband, Malcolm, convinced me that I still had plenty of knowledge to share with the world about what I did and how I did it. It was tough going at first as Malcolm needed to refresh my memory on certain areas, but with his help, I wrote my first eguide: The Complete eGuide for Selling to Gift Shops. The rest, as they say, is history.

Despite the set backs, I married my passion with my purpose …. just like MaryEllen suggests in her book!


Markets versus Topics: A market is who you are selling to, which is a community of like-minded people. A topic is what you are delivering, which is the subject matter of your content.
— MaryEllen Tribby

Finding your target market is one of the basic first steps when you decide to start your own business. You will find it much easier and effective to market to a specific group of folks or a niche market.

In our Tastes of Idaho business, our market is folks who love Idaho and Idaho specific products. We often get orders from Idaho-loving folks who have moved to other states or residents that want to give a regional gift to their friends and family.

On the other hand, our ‘topic’ or products are made by Idaho companies and consist of huckleberry gourmet foods, various sauces and dressings, candy, personal care items and other Idaho related gift items.

Of course, each market and topic will be different depending on your specific business.


Determining Market Size: If the market is too big, you’ll spread your energy trying to reach too many people. If the market is too small, it won’t be profitable.
— MaryEllen Tribby

After working with professional crafters and producers for many years, I find that most try to market to ‘everyone’. I tend to spend time explaining that they need to focus their attention to one or two segments of the buying population to target.

Back to my Tastes of Idaho scenario. When we first starting talking and developing the business, we knew that just promoting gourmet foods was too broad of a market with many, many product options. There was no way we could justify a business based on a market that general.

So we came up with Idaho-based gourmet foods and gifts. Many of these producers we already knew and did business with, so it was fairly easy to start the business. Although we sold mostly gourmet foods, we decided not to limit the business to just food and included Idaho gift items as well because we felt just Idaho gourmet foods alone was a bit too narrow.

Our first marketing attempt with this niche focus was to rent a holiday kiosk in the local mall. We bought over $10,000 worth of products (OMG!), set up the booth and sold, sold, sold …. We were wildly successful (as a matter of fact, we did so well that after the second year in the mall, the mall administration told us not to come back because the local inline stores were complaining that we were taking their sales and customers away from them!).

Had we tried to offer just any unfocused line of gourmet and gift products (as the stores that did not want us back), we would not have been as successful!


Your Subscriber Avatar: A subscriber avatar defines the customer who embodies the most common characteristics of the market you’re targeting. In other words, who is your who?
— MaryEllen Tribby

Developing your idea customer, or avatar, is a fun process as you start out first by naming him or her. Silly as this sounds, it is easier to write copy, create a product or address an issue if you can direct your efforts to a specific person by name.

Here are traits to decide upon for your avatar:

1. What is their sex? Male or female?
2. What are their ages?
3. Where do they live?
4. What is their annual salary?

So, where do you find this information? First, start with the customers you already have. Who are they and how do they fit into the four questions above.

Another way, one that I used, is to email a survey to your current customers. Most online survey software is free and can feature a number of questions that you craft for your market.

Searching for the product you offer on Google can also reveal interesting information about buyers of similar products.

Once you gather all the information, find a picture of your ideal customer, print it and display it near your work area.


Competitive Analysis: Competitive analysis is about knowing your competition.
— MaryEllen Tribby

You can learn a tremendous amount of information from your competitors. But where do you find them? Do a Google search on your main target market!

When I first started working in most of my markets, I had very little competition. Although, that sounds like a good thing, often finding competitors lets you know right up front that there is a market for your products or services.

When you do your research, look for direct competitors and indirect competitors. A direct competitor is someone who is selling the same type of product to the same market as you. Whereas, an indirect competitor is someone who is selling to the same market as you, but is selling a different product or service. These folks are great to work out a cross promotion campaign between your company and theirs.

Once you find your competition, subscribe to their newsletters to find out how they market, how they are making money, and which products have worked for them.

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