Sneaky Researchers, Inc.

I’ve recently reached the market analysis portion of my business plan and it’s a bit of a doozey — mostly because we’re trying to choose between three different cities. The bits detailing our products from our customer’s perspective, our ideal market and my personal favorite, general marketing strategies to prove pie is essentially a food group, are fairly easy and straightforward to write. I’m lucky to have spent the last three years learning the answers to those questions firsthand from real life, Teeny Pies customers. 

But, it started to get a little tricksy when I realized I needed some very specific information about the competition in three different cities … none of which I live in yet!

Of course, some of those necessary numbers were found with borrowed library cards and a quick call to a couple of rockstar research librarians. I had no idea that it was in their job description to be a huge help to people trying to start a business. Libraries are the best. I’ve also been able to garner a lot of information from online reviews, because people love to internet. All this, plus a few online databases, have helped to paint a fairly clear picture of the competition but there have also been a few holes simply because a lot of the businesses that I’m looking to compare myself to have been smaller and privately owned, making those numbers a little harder to come by.

All of my “How to Write a Business Plan” manuals have suggested subterfuge, i.e. spying by pretending to be a customer, which I am all for. I love checking out the vibe of a place while hoping to catch a glimpse of what helps make it successful, and subtly writing down how much everything costs. Eventually, when we visit our three perspective cities, we will get to check out these bakeries firsthand and I’m definitely going to wear a wig and speak in an accent. I’m a killer spy. But, our city visits are a little further down the road and I’m writing the plan right now.

So, I’ve been thinking… what if, in addition to starting my own pie shop, I also started a consulting business that specifically helped other small businesses with this issue. Sneaky Researchers, Inc. A consulting business dedicated to scoping out the competition through thorough and inventive retail reconnaissance. What a mission statement!

The small business owner or entrepreneur would give us the names of their top three key competitors they were planning on using in their business plan and we would go do the subtle snooping; surreptitiously snapping pics of menu boards or craft coffee offerings, quietly counting customers on a busy, brunchy Saturday, and of course taste testing all of the doughnuts on the menu. My rather loud and suspiciously casual, “So, how much do you think they make annually?”, may need some work but I definitely think we’re on the right track with the wigs. 

Sounds excellent, right?! I think it’s gonna be my money maker while I fundraise for my pie shop. In the meantime, who wants to pop into the newly opened Humble Pie in Colorado and tell me how much their pies cost?

Sneaky Researchers, Inc. 

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this post brought to you by borrowed library cards

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