Young entrepreneur shows us how to run an online business

Mark Berriman has just been named as a “Young Business Person of the Year” for his Viverdi company based in South Tyneside. Working in two distinct areas – pet supplies and gift drinks – the company is set to bring in £2.6m this year, with growth predicted to £20m within five years.

The company is entirely Internet-based and it provides further proof that you can make serious money online relatively easily. His pet supermarket is the leading web site of its kind in a £3.5billion marketplace. But that market was being served poorly online.

This is a key component of the success of Viverdi. Mark analysed a market, found where there was a gap and then worked out how to fill it. Far too many online businesses are “me-too” companies – offering the same as everyone else and then hoping that they can pull of better search engine marketing tricks. You don’t need to worry about those issues if you are finding a hole in the market and filling that.

Take a look at the Pet Supermarket web site and you will see it is not the most brilliant design; I’m guessing it won’t win design awards. Again, many online business owners start with the idea of designing a great site, rather than concentrating on plugging a hole in the market.

So, if you want to make sure your online business is effective, firstly find a gap in the market then work out how to fill it. Don’t worry about things like SEO or web site design – it’s fairly clear you can do very well indeed without concentrating on these factors. Old advice, I know, but you’d be surprised how many “marketing consultants” come to me asking for advice on how to make their web site improve their business. They won’t achieve what they want unless they change their business ideas and focus on gaps in the markets.

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