Find a Niche, Solve a Problem
First printed in Southern Utah Neighbors Magazine January 2016
I am amazed at how tightly the fabric of service, gratitude, and success are interwoven; rarely inseparable in my opinion. To illustrate this paradigm, I share my recent interview with GoZunder owners Nigel Gillingham and his son Michael Gillingham.
Nigel explained how the idea for an innovative toilet seat riser and the resulting company GoZunder evolved: “It began in 2002 when my wife, Carol, met with her physician and learned that hip replacement surgery would be imminent.”
Upon returning home new hip in stride, Carol recognized that she would face difficulty and obstacles in nearly all facets of her everyday life. Though recovery was certain and Carol was determined, physical and emotional challenges awaited. Standing from a seated position would initially be painful. Getting into and out of bed, maneuvering in and around furniture, appliances, and toilets would be unstable and slow at best.
To reduce the strain placed on her newly implanted hip joint, Carol was advised to obtain a seat riser for the standard-height toilet she normally used. “She tested three types of seat risers and approved of none” Nigel explained. “She experienced added stress utilizing the different risers. They wobbled, moved, and tipped. To her they seemed unsafe” he continued.
Carol then turned to the acquired problem-solving skills of her husband Nigel and son Michael who had substantial business experience in residential care. “She asked us to design her a better solution” Michael informed. “So we did.”
I first met Nigel and Michael at one of my LinkedIn trainings a short time later held at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in St George, Utah. The two of them listened intently, took notes, and asked great questions about social media networking and building a brand. It came as no surprise to me that they were developing a company.
A niche had been isolated. A problem was about to be solved.
Nigel and Michael began development by examining the faults of the three test products using the criteria laid out by Carol. “She desired a less medical appearance, a simple design easy to clean, and a firm mounting base” Nigel stated. A prototype was designed and compared to market offerings. Improvements were made and soon a superior esthetically pleasing model evolved. The GoZunder.
The rest is history, right? Not so fast. I asked Nigel what went wrong along the journey. “The initial seat riser design took place in Europe and learning to market the product in the U.S. became a huge undertaking for GoZunder” answered Nigel.
The Gillingham’s could find no fabricator to build the concept locally. “It was discovered that the fabrication mold would need to be manufactured in China. Thus, during our initial roll-out, we had limited direct contact which prohibited us from witnessing development and securing a reliable time frame for manufacturing” Nigel reported. Additionally, Nigel informed me that a monsoon would flood the factory delaying fabrication, a national holiday would prevent shipping, and a hurricane would force the ship to take harbor prematurely. An unforeseen strike at the Los Angeles port would leave the ship at sea and postpone delivery an additional week. Once upon U.S. soil, the containment was misplaced, misdirected to Salt Lake City, and after 9 months in the development journey arrived soundly in southern Utah.
This multitude of setbacks did not dissuade the Gillinghams. They remained resolute and proactive. I asked Nigel and Michael to give advice to anyone seeking to build a business. Here is a list of their suggestions:
- Seek out the insights provided at your local small business development center (Nigel and Michael were generous in their accolades for the help rendered by Jeff Mather and Lenora Nielsen of the SBDC and Ia Jimenez of Your Best You Coaching).
- Plan your project to a fine art.
- Do not be too proud to seek the advice you need.
- Realize that your ideas may not always be best.
- Attend motivational workshops. They give you the boost you need and ideas which help you find a true course.
- Hang in there when the going gets tough without being too stubborn to realize when all is lost.
GoZunder is a locally owned St George business marketing a product in which the Gillinghams believe. At the conclusion of my interview, Nigel pulled from a tube a thin plastic sheet wrapped in tissue paper. Upon the 3’x3’ sheet was the initial hand drawn layout of the first concept. “This is our first drawing. It was the third concept that we actually fabricated. We kept this initial drawing because it gave us the vision” Nigel reported.
Notice the fabric: Nigel and Michael first sought to serve Carol with her need. They were gracious in their accolades sourcing those who assisted them, and they now are experiencing success. Find a niche, solve a problem.
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