Business

Niche businesses have big potential

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Starting a business is never easy, but some local entrepreneurs have found success starting niche businesses.

From customized crutches to hot jalapenos, their products might serve a small market but they have the potential for big profits. Here's a look at some Valley-owned businesses you probably never knew existed.

Cookie Tanney, 29, grew up working in her dad's Fresno County metal shop. But she never imagined she'd be carving out her own niche, with her business "Pretty Hurt".

"And then I had a friend who broke his ankle," Tanney said. "And I thought, you know, if people are going to be looking at you. Let's give em something to look at."

From a Downtown Fresno loft, "Pretty Hurt" sells customized crutches, canes, arm slings and apparel for injured customers all over the world. From zebra print, to bottle openers, and the best-selling skull and crossbones design, extreme sports athletes and everyday people go to prettyhurt.com to design their own.

"I get to be artistic, I get to creative, and I get to help people," Tanney said. "I get to work with metal at the same time. So it's the perfect combination."

Kathryn Dipalma pinpointed a need during her day job.

"Because I'm a birth doula, I would watch women struggle with the huge hospital gowns offered," Dipalma said. "It's open in the back for an epidural if they need that. We have snaps which come down for easy access breastfeeding."

So when Kathryn's own daughter Kristy Dixon approached her due date, the idea for Birthday Suit Maternity was, well, born.

Dixon said, "For any other special occasion women pick out something special to wear, so I thought you know I'm going to make myself something cute to wear."

Only a year into their home-based business, the women are making a profit off their line of unique birth dresses. They're launching a new website and say an online presence is key.

"We easily ship out 20-30 gowns a month," Dipalma said. "All over the world."

Debi Franklin said, "Took me 14 recipes to get it right."

Like the others, Debi Franklin of Deb's Gourmet is passionate about her product: Sweet Smoky Jalapeno Peppers.

Franklin said, "To me, it's almost as necessary as tabasco in your refrigerator."

She came up with her own winning recipe that customers claim is: "highly addictive."

Franklin explained, "It's sharing something I love from my kitchen, sharing it with others for their kitchen."

She launched her business at last year's first annual Fresno Food Expo and is now in over 128 different locations throughout the state.

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