Understand the market before looking for the gap

Young entrepreneurs and business students are constantly drilled about how they must “Find that gap in the market”. From there, they’d like have us believe, the business practically builds itself.

I urge all budding business professionals to try a more backwards approach.

An entrepreneur I very much admire, Ashley Faull, put it very eloquently: “Make sure there’s a gap in the market, but also make sure there’s a market in the gap”.

Growing up during the demise and eventual fall of the Soviet Union revealed many gaps and opportunities.

Although people embraced this new open market for goods and services that were previously virtually impossible to attain, the public conscience also took a number of years to fully distance itself from a system that for decades was so manifest.

I wanted to start something that would bring success, and therefore needed to strike the right balance – something that was from the “outside” but also resonated with Lithuanian norms and traditions.

For most children growing up, myself included, most clothes were produced in the USSR or made at home using the basic material, nylon, wool and cotton. I knew there would be a market for more exotic textiles.

And so, thanks to a lot of research and some very chance encounters, I, at the fearless age of 16, found myself travelling to the United Arab Emirates and importing silk cloth into Lithuania.

I never had the intention of ever producing brightly-coloured, silk-based clothing – that gap in the market would have gone horribly wrong in early 90s’ Lithuania. But I knew that families and clothing designers would love to work with this new material and I would fill this gap by adding marvellous colours onto a once monotone catwalk.

Remember, finding a gap in the market is the easy bit. To make a business in that space one needs to understand the market by first researching traditions, trends and purchasing habits. And please remember, it’s your customers tastes that count and not yours – some of those silks I imported were stunning but would clash with my tweed!