Young Women Entrepreneurs Conduct Market Research

••• Getty Images | Alys Tomlinson | Cultura Collection

Entrepreneurs often operate on cultural frontiers where they introduce disruptive technology or challenge traditional stereotypes that hinder relevant marketing. Market research can - or should - play a substantial role in entrepreneurial start-ups. Often, money for market research is scarce in these new enterprises, a factor that drives some bare-bones, do-it-yourself market research

Let's take a look at the can-do attitude several young women entrepreneurs have exhibited as they went about conducting market research for their new ideas.

Nicole Shariat Farb, Former Banker and Founder Mail-Order Darby Smart Craft Kits

Farb adhered to conventional advice during the development of her new crafting e-marketplace called Darby Smart Crafts: she kept her old job while she conducted market research. Farb was not a crafter when she conceived of her business. In fact, she told Good Housekeeping's Rachel Bowie that her lack of crafting skills was a catalyst for concept refinement. Her attempt to replicate some thank-you notes she saw on Pinterest resulted in less than stellar results.

"They looked like a 4-year-old had made them." ~ Nicole Shariat Farb (Darby Smart Crafts)

The parking lot of Michaels craft stores became Farb's market research lab. She would stop Michaels customers to query what they thought of the idea of buying craft supplies online. Using the digital age version of cold calling (a technique familiar still to salespeople), Farb also cold e-mailed craft bloggers who were pinning their projects on Pinterest. The purpose of this market research was to figure out how to connect the craft bloggers' ideas with craft supplies. Farm's early market research exchanges with craft bloggers were the basis for the indie crafting projects that are produced into Darby Smart craft kits. 

Debbie Sterling, Professional Engineer and Inventor of GoldieBlox 

Being one of the few female mechanical engineering students in her university program, Debbie Sterling began thinking about why girls are not more interested in engineering and other science/technology/engineering/mathematics (STEM) careers. Sterling did some of her market research in the ​pink aisles of toy stores. The Stanford University graduate decided that she wanted to disrupt those pink aisles by creating construction toy products based on mechanical engineering concepts that were designed explicitly for girls.​

Sterling's market research with girls and their families underscored several tenets about how kids play and what they prefer in their toys. As a start-up entrepreneur, Steerling put her market research to great use in product design and marketing. Here are some of her market research findings of how kids engage with their toys: 

  1. Kids are attracted to those things to which they have been acculturated
  2. Kids like toys that encourage playing with the toys again and again
  3. Kids like situations that are funny or adventuresome
  4. Kids want to play what they see on TV

Erica Domesek, Freelance Prop Stylist and Founder of P.S. -- I Made This...

Helping a friend keep from splurging on a $600 necklace thrust Erica Domesek into conducting market research for the DIY crafting empire she eventually built. She told her friend,

"'That's silly. Come over and we'll make it.' So three of my friends came over one afternoon and we made necklaces out of feathers and beads." ~Erica Domesek (P.S. -- I Made This...)

Later, attending a fashion show, Domesek was complimented on a rope necklace she made with the same friends. The complement set the wheels turning in Domesek's mind, even though she just responded, that she didn't have a creative line, only a craft club. 

Domesek's network in fashion design and marketing were a substantial boost, giving her the connections to effectively promote her work and to do market research on the fly. 

"I understand people, I understand consumers. Part of this will always be a brand consultancy." 

As Domesek's business grew, she kept to certain standards. For one, no banner ads will ever appear on her website, which first launched on Tumblr

"The core of the business is style and design, and I never wanted to compromise. So much of this brand stems from my own identity and integrity, and I would never sacrifice that..."

Mariam Naficy, Former Beauty Supply Pioneer and Founder of the Design Marketplace: Minted

With the rise and fall of beauty supply behind her, Naficy was well-versed in online marketing when she got the idea for Minted. Traveling with her family during her growing up years, Naficy saw unique works of art made and personally sold by artists. Her market research occurred over many years as the concept of Minted percolated. Naficy's nascent idea was a platform for making indie art available to consumers online, but the concept expanded until Naficy wondered, 

"Could crowd-sourcing design build an e-commerce company that stayed in tune with its consumer audience forever?"

Each of these women entrepreneurs followed a different path to market research, and each built their success on the ability to have keen consumer insights derived from those inquiries.

Bowie, R. (2015, June). Crafting an Empire. Good Housekeeping. 
Sherman, L. (2012, November 5). Is DIY evangelist Erica Domesek the Millennial Martha? AdAge.
Lindenmayer, M. (2012, October 11). Inspiring Girls to Become Engineers: Meet Goldie Blox. Forbes. 
Mirikar, S. (2014, December 24). GoldieBlox tries to prove itself: This time without the Beastie Boys. Fashion & Style. The New York Times