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Small businesses: Focus on one market

By Roger Pierce

How does a small business compete effectively against big business? It all comes down to one word: focus.

"One of the greatest strengths of a small business is its ability to specialize in a niche market," claims Wayne Mittlestead, owner of Dueling Grounds.
Wayne Mittlestead opened Dueling Grounds on Dundas St. W. this year with market focus on the young males who make up the bulk of the collectible game clientele.

A specialty retail store selling collectible card games, Mittlestead opened Dueling Grounds earlier this year with plenty of market focus. "Our primary market is males ages 12 to 19 who enjoy playing collectible games, such as Dungeons & Dragons."

Instead of just selling the games, miniatures and accessories, Dueling Grounds, located at 2222 Dundas St. W. (, provides space for customers to play. An avid gamer himself for the last 10 years, Mittlestead focuses on interactivity. "We don't just sell to our customers, we're involved with them," he says.

Before opening his store, Mittlestead built up the Dueling Grounds name by running a number of large gaming tournaments. He created a website to announce each tournament and to post results of past events. When he was ready to open his store doors, Dueling Grounds already had customers and considerable word-of-mouth promotion.

"Other gaming stores I investigated were dirty or didn't have space to play," he recalls. "Knowing I could do better, we built a store that offers interactive events, tournaments and demonstrations for the games we sell in a clean and friendly space," Mittlestead says.

Many new small business owners worry that one market niche won't generate enough revenue, choosing a "wide and shallow" customer strategy over "narrow and deep."

"You have to believe in what you're doing and dig deep into your niche market," advises Mittlestead. "You'll be rewarded with strong personal relationships and customer loyalty."

With long-term plans to develop a national franchise, Mittlestead is happy with his success to date. "After only four months we're already rivaling established stores. We'll build our business by continuing to focus on being the best in our niche."

-- Entrepreneurship expert Roger Pierce trains people on how to start a small business in the Up & Running Biz Launch Program.

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