How We Built a Small Business Around a Single Item

I learned a crucial business lesson from my first business partner. Keeping it simple can make you rich. We owned a few booths at a successful flea market. And all we sold was one type of children's outfit. But we offered the outfit in a rainbow of fabrics and colors, fit for both boys and girls, ages 1 through 12.

Why We Did It

In all my small business ventures I came up against the problem of inventory vs. variety. Should I offer my customers as many products as possible, so they don't go to my competitor instead? Or should I limit myself to fewer things but create a feeling of plenty in my store? In our flea market we both gambled that our $5 children's set would prove so irresistible that clients would keep coming back to buy the same product over and over again.

Simple Product

The key to our success was the simplicity and versatility of the product. Our outfit was a unisex pants set with elastic waistband and approximate sizing (S, M, L, XL). The same pattern in a range of fabrics not only offered a line for boys and girls but for more formal or daily wear. We did not expand the business to offering the same outfit in adult sizes, as this would have forced us to split our business model in half and, with it, our resources.

Bulk Manufacturing Savings

Working with local seamstresses, we manufactured our own clothing line. Because we stuck to a single pattern, we could place bulk orders and keep our costs down. We had no preference when it came to the fabric pattern, because we had no need to keep producing the identical outfits overtime. This allowed us to buy closeout fabrics and save further.

Easy Product to Sell

Our children's set was priced at $5 regardless of the size. Parents could dress an infant or middle school child for the same price. The clothes could then be handed down between siblings. Unisex fabrics could be shared between girls and boys. And the approximate sizing made it easy for grandparents or friends to buy our outfits, even if they weren't entirely sure of the size.

Appealing Display

Because our outfits came in so many colors, our booths always looked bright and inviting. Once a customer stopped, he was likely to be tempted to buy between two or three outfits. And the great variety offered the customer inviting alternatives even when the print he wanted was no longer available in the size he needed.


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