Why is it Important to Find Your Business Niche?

Finding a unique niche can be one of the hardest things to do when starting a business, but it can also be the most rewarding. Here are three tips we learned from Cadence client, Robert Brawner, to get you started.


For more than 30 years, Robert Brawner has been doing what he dreamed of while a student at the University of Georgia: working to protect and enhance the environment.  

The funny thing is, environmental remediation professions–and even his field of study–weren’t formally defined back then. But great businesses often start with a need that hasn’t been met. 

Whether you’re in an emerging field or an established industry, identifying a good niche holds unique potential for your company. It can be one of the hardest things to do when starting a business, but also the most rewarding. And, a niche can bring focus to your venture and give it a competitive advantage. 

In season five, episode six of Cadence Bank’s In Good Companies podcast, Robert shared his entrepreneurial journey, which started with a simple desire to work outside. The ultimate result was forming a niche-driven consultancy, One Consulting Group, whose expertise is essential to developing brownfield urban land like Atlanta’s BeltLine

Robert Brawner

A passionate nature lover, Robert Brawner formed a niche-driven consultancy, One Consulting Group, whose expertise is essential to developing brownfield urban land like Atlanta’s BeltLine.


Robert’s story reveals three top tips for helping you find your company’s niche.

First, start with an interest that drives you. 

“Midway through college in the mid-‘90s, I realized I wanted to work in the environmental field, and it was really from a love of being outdoors and hiking and camping,” he said. 

After earning degrees in anthropology and biology to get a background in environmental science, he headed West and found a series of temp jobs in Oregon as a laborer, placing landfill liners under pads of land that were once gas stations.  

Free time was spent at the University of Oregon library reading trade publications and educating himself on what the environmental industry looked like and the types of positions that created value. He also admits to calling firms he found in the Portland phone book, pretending to be a newspaper reporter and asking executives “...a million questions about the industry they wouldn’t have otherwise answered for some guy looking for a job,” Robert quipped.

So, the first key to finding a niche is learning all you can about your field of interest. That could mean speaking to seasoned professionals or getting practical experience. The more specialized your knowledge, the better placed you are to jump on the next opportunity. 

Next, check out the blue waters of the ocean.

“I’d become pretty well versed in technical specifications while I was hanging out in the library,” Robert remarked, “and I also read books that gave me a framework for things. One was the Blue Ocean Strategy by Renee Maugorgne and W. Chan Kim. That book lays out a strategy for red and blue oceans, where red oceans are where everybody’s competing for the same thing. They’re churning up and are disruptive. I’m always looking out there for the blue ocean, where I’m the first person to be in the water and where people or businesses have a real need for someone who's problem-solving and creating new solutions.” 

Robert’s journey shows that even if you’ve been in your field for a few years, ask yourself: “Where should I go next?” “How could I use my skill set in other industries?” Look for the “blue corners of the ocean” because those are areas that aren’t yet saturated and can support new services, products and ideas. 

No matter where your dive into the blue takes you, keep in mind what makes your venture unique. Your niche will bring you further than you can see. 

Always develop strong networks along the way and keep looking to the future. 

Robert’s journey took him back to Atlanta, where he became a partner in an industrial remediation firm, helping it grow from one employee to a team of 65. After a few years, he left on good terms to form a boutique firm, One Consulting Group. However, within two years, the 2008 financial crisis hit, and property development deals collapsed because the lending market froze.

“There was a six-month period where nine of our top 10 clients either disappeared or were on the verge of insolvency,” he remembers. “I was taking phone calls like, ‘Man, we don't have the money to pay your invoice right now.’ There were weeks when the phone didn't ring, and you didn't get a significant or consequential email that would lead to business. It got scary.”

So, Robert went fishing–and back to the library. He learned about new safety and environmental regulations future development projects would face. He also contacted a college friend who owned a public works contracting firm that just happened to have successfully bid to develop Atlanta’s BeltLine project. And the rest, as they say, is history.

“We went from doing a lot of private-side projects to working on the municipal public side. The experience pointed me in the direction of where private development is going to go,” concluded Robert. “I'm now looking for projects in other cities where there's great public-private partnerships creating [adaptive reuse] projects that need some environmental cleanup.”

Remember, crises will happen, and downturns occur in every professional sector. When business is shaky, reach out to your network. Also, look out for new regulations and processes. 

After the storm, keep looking to the future and find your blue ocean. A good business niche will keep on giving, year after year.


This article is provided as a free service to you and is for general informational purposes only. Cadence Bank makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the content in the article. The article is not intended to provide legal, accounting or tax advice and should not be relied upon for such purposes.

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