Going green has gotten lucrative, with more vegetarian-run businesses focusing on products other than food.
These "vegepreneurs" are gaining momentum and market share with non-food businesses that include shoes and furniture. It's a business strategy that's reaching out beyond a niche market to embrace a wider consumer base.
Even the fast-food giant McDonald's is hopping on the bandwagon and plans to open its first vegetarian-only location next year in India. McDonald's said it's responding to local demand by opening the location, the BBC reports.
McDonald's response to the market is not unlike the vegepreneurs who bring their environmentally friendly products to consumers concerned about animal rights and the environment.
The potential to reach customers outside of their niche is huge. The nonprofit Vegetarian Resource Group said its data shows up to 40 percent of the United States is interested in vegetarians foods and a full third of the country's population says meat isn't included in their meals a significant amount of time.
In fact, consumers spent about $2.6 billion on soy food and drinks last year, according to Businessweek.
As small-business owners, you can pick up some strategies by looking at how these businesses reach out to their niche and beyond. Use these seven tips from the vegepreneurs to navigate your own niche market:
1. Do everything with passion.
To vegepreneurs, being environmentally conscious isn't just a way to do business. It's also a lifestyle.
For some businesses, being able to promote a vegan product is what drew them to start their business in the first place. MooShoes, the country's first vegan shoe store, opened in New York City in 2001 after sisters Sara and Erica Kubersky saw an opportunity to sell the product.
"We were never big shoe people," Erica Kubersky tells Businessweek. "I mean, we like shoes as much as the next girl, but it was more of a vegan push for us."
2. Embrace competition.
Instead of viewing competition as something that could possibly be negative and hurt business, vegepreneurs welcome competition because it increases the opportunities for networking and manufacturing.
3. Feed off your customer's motivation.
Vegan consumers are just as passionate about their lifestyle as the business owners.
As a small-business owner, you have to know your customer to effectively reach them with products they want to buy, says Jennifer Lawton, owner of Just Books Inc.
"If you don't know whom your niche is going to affect, then you will not have a very effective marketing campaign," she writes on Entrepreneurship.org.
4. Exploit networking opportunities.
Vegans are a tight-knit community and tend to support a quality vegan product or business. That customer base provides good networking opportunities for a business to expand its reach within the niche and outside to a wider audience as well.
5. Hold true to the core beliefs.
The same values vegans practice in their eating choices carry over to how they conduct business and manage employees. Those values resonate within the niche of vegan consumers and give them more reason to patronize those businesses.
6. Reach out.
Blogs and social media like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are good tools in addition to your traditional marketing plans. Through social media you can interact with customers and potential customers more so than through a traditional website.
7. Conduct research.
Thoroughly research and test the product before opening shop or adding it to your existing business. To thrive in a niche market, the product should be unique and serve the niche customers in a way no mainstream product would.
Read more about niche markets.
Linda is an award-winning journalist with more than more than 22 years' experience as a reporter, editor and blogger. Linda blogs via Contently.com.
Photo courtesy of MooShoes