Sometimes, the best way to find your niche is to think small.
That’s what Entrepreneur University graduate Janis Blayne-Paul did when she started her business, Karmic Stone, a few years ago. The Lambertville-based entrepreneur and former architect once expressed herself by designing big buildings. Now, she carves precise illustrations into small, flat stones no longer or wider than 16 inches.
On these rough stones, Blayne-Paul etches a number of designs that reflect her customers’ interests, hobbies, or religious beliefs. Some feature yogic images like the “ohm” symbol; others depict Hindu deities or Hebrew good-luck charms. One of Blayne-Paul’s most popular stones features a lithe runner mid-stride.
Some customers come with special requests, Blayne-Paul said: “There are those people that see beyond a stone I’ve created and say, ‘Here’s something meaningful to me, can you capture it in stone?’ ” She welcomes custom orders.
A perfectionist, Blayne-Paul takes pains to ensure each stone meets her high standards, commonly spending 10 hours carving a single stone. This results in a visually stunning product, but it also poses a challenge: ensuring her compensation (profit after the cost of materials and promotion) approaches something like a living wage, she must charge prices from $38 for the smaller, 8-inch square stones to $138 for the larger, 16 by 16-inch pieces.
The stones are meticulous; no one who sees them would doubt their worth. But their prices, Blayne-Paul soon realized, tend to remove them from consideration among the impulse buyers at the vending events she frequents.
This was a frustrating realization, to be sure, but it prompted a constructive change in Karmic Stone’s sales strategy: now, when Blayne-Paul sets up tables at places like Whole Foods Market or the New Jersey Botanical Garden, her mission is to get to know potential customers, gauge their interest and build a relationship that will — she hopes — result in an eventual sale.
Blayne-Paul has learned that merely showing Karmic Stones to potential customers is insufficient to close a sale. She must also talk about the ways in which the stones are used.
Some customers have embedded the stones into kitchen backsplashes; others have used them as stepping-stones in gardens. One used a version of the “runner” stone to decorate the runners’ supply store she owns. To customers still unsure what to do with a Karmic Stone, Blayne-Paul mentions they make great gifts. The holiday-season order increase she notices each year seems to bear this out (customers can find Karmic Stones at Blayne-Paul’s website and on Overstock).
Blayne-Paul’s strategy change represents a renewed focus. Instead of trying to impress everyone who comes to a vending event, she concentrates on the handful of people who express an interest in Karmic Stone. She engages with them, determines what they need, and builds relationships. This results not only in sales, but in satisfied customers who love to spread the word about Karmic Stone.
Thinking small can yield big returns.