Niching is something that I've been fighting for almost a year now.
I knew from the beginning that we should be niching down. In prayer, I knew that God was calling us towards a specific purpose with our business. However, I fought it so hard, thinking, "this isn't realistic", or "I want to make a lot of money, and our niche doesn't make a lot". Yeah, that sounds kind of messed up--kind of greedy, doesn't it?
Please know my heart, though. Regardless of being a business owner, my job as a husband and father is to provide. To decide to niche down would be taking a risk: that I might not make enough to feed my children. However, it wasn't until after we had done a lot of work for different industries, grew our social media presence, and even hired staff that we realized that we were going on the wrong path. What exactly happened?
2020 was a rollercoaster ride.
In September, we felt we made a break, working with an environmental nonprofit. They had a large budget, and we felt that we finally "made it". Fast forward six months, and we suddenly felt lost. COVID-19 came to be, and we found ourselves losing our American clients, struggling to get clients, and in the meantime try to survive with our family, much like everyone else. In 2020, we went through several ups and downs, feasts and famines, and good times and bad. To be truthful, we felt that there were more bad times, then good. We went through periods where House Creative started making money, only for the next month ending up broke. We went through periods where I worked extremely hard on a few projects, only to then run out of work because I didn't have a chance to do any sales and marketing. The last thing on my mind was to niche down.
So what is our niche?
In July, I took a chance and signed up for a few classes hosted on The Futur, If anyone has ever heard of Chris Do, he is a major advocate towards niching. Over time, seeds were planted in my heart towards niching, but I resisted. All my life, I have always been a jack of all trades, which is why branding and marketing is a field that I truly feel at home in. We even named our company House because of this concept: a house is made up of unrelated rooms that each serve their purpose. Niching seemed counterintuitive to our own company philosophy. In December, I finally was able to get a spot on the Futur's Business Bootcamp program, an exclusive curriculum and coaching program where Chris Do works closely with a handful of fellow design leaders in different industries and helps them get their business thriving further. At this time, we had staff, we were slowly growing clientele, but there was still that stagnant wall we couldn't really get past.
Finally, in January, we received COVID-19 funding that was seen as "an out" by our company's board (which I call a "brand trust", coined after Pixar's brain trust"). Unanimously, it was voted that this is our chance to refocus, and rethink what we needed to do. We were bleeding money, going through ups and downs, and seeing no end in sight to the struggle. As a CEO, it was put on me to lay off all of our staff, and "start over". We didn't know necessarily what that would look like, but it gave me enough of a slap in the face to know it's time to focus on our company calling--the one that I've fought for so long. Our calling is to work directly with churches and ministries--providing expert branding and digital outreach (marketing) for them. We want to grow the North American church by equipping them to enter the digital world.
Niching is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my business career. However, I know that this is where we need to be.
Let me be clear, I don't think that a company necessarily needs to niche.
I have many peers who decided not to niche, and are extremely successful and happy. For example, fellow brand strategist and ministry-leader Sean Tambagahan decided to not niche his company. However, his agency breathes Christ, and emulates Jesus. His passion is for the church as much as it is for branding, and he does business as a mission and evangelism front. If you're a Christian entrepreneur, I strongly advise that you listen to his podcast, "Conflicted", which is something that I almost religiously have listened to every episode he puts out.
As a business leader, and reading the people in our company, I knew that working with churches was something that we were perfectly positioned to niche down to. First of all, most of us are either in ministry, or were in ministry. Most of the freelancers and third party companies we work with and subcontract to are also christian entrepreneurs. And--the biggest "duh" moment that helped me realize this was our calling was when I found myself cold calling seventy-five churches in January, and having nothing but great conversations with pastors and ministry leaders. When I transitioned later that week and cold-called business owners, it was a totally different feel. My passion just wasn't there.
So what does this mean?
First of all, we won't refuse commercial work, necessarily. However, we have put ourselves in the position to be able to decline the work, and stay focused. We still have secular clients, and still feel invested in their work, but we won't be taking on any more commercial work that we don't feel personally invested in. Instead, we want to focus our efforts on advancing the church and equip cutting-edge Christian ministries.
We ask for prayer and support!
Seriously! We can't do this without you all. We're looking forward to moving into a more refined business identity, and the amount of ministry it will allow us to do.
If you are planning on niching, here are some tips.
I'm happy to release another more detailed post on niching, if the demand is there, but in the meantime, I'll throw out some really quick tips on niching down.
First, it's important to recognize what niche you feel most excited about. It does neither you or those you work with any justice if you're not doing the things you are passionate about. If niching down is something that you're looking at doing, think about what that would be--what industry/activity excites you the most?
Second, realize that niching doesn't necessarily mean only focusing on a particular industry (such as law firms or grocery stores), it could also mean focusing on making clay jewelry, like our friend Joy Creations, who has seen amazing success throughout North America from a small village in central Saskatchewan.
Third and lastly, it's okay to not know yet. As a leader of our fledgling company, I knew it was important that I was 100% sure we wanted to go down this route. We had staff, a board, and clients already. Our final pivot point was when our brand trust decided it was time to go lean and let go of our staff, and restart as COVID restrictions loosened up, and the economy recovers.
If you're in the creative world, and you're looking for ways to niche down like us, or you have other professional business obstacles that you want to learn how to overcome, we found The Futur to be a great resource for us. Furthermore, if you own a Christian small business or organization, please feel free to reach out to us. We truly enjoy having no-strings-attached conversations, and are here to serve.