There are many reasons to consider a pivot for your small business. Perhaps your products or services aren’t performing. Or, maybe your user base has shifted. Pivoting is no small task and it can be quite scary to start from scratch. We rounded up successful small business pivot examples to inspire you to leave what isn’t working behind.
Catherine (Cathy) Gomes started a fashion company in her home country of Bangladesh in 2017. Bangladesh is the second largest manufacturer of apparel in the world. Naturally, Cathy wanted to be a part of the industry. She named the company 700 Rivers in honor of the Bangladeshi waterways. Cathy hired 28 artisans, all of whom have escaped human trafficking. She paid them upfront for their work and provided them with on the job training. Admirably, she even provided mental health counseling.
However, Cathy’s inexperience with textiles was a hindrance to the success of 700 Rivers and therefore to her employees. As a solution, Cathy shifted her product to soap. Having a background as a chemical engineer, Cathy understands the new product at a much deeper level than fashion. As evidence, 700 Level produces all-natural soaps packed in paper boxes made from vegetable fiber. That means it’s entirely biodegradable. The soaps come in South Asian inspired scents like Orange Turmeric and Coconut Lavender.
Ultimately, pivoting from apparel to soap manufacturing allowed Cathy to support and enrich her home country while sustaining the environment. Win win!
Krittika (Krit) Khandelwal dreamed of introducing a sustainable product line. She set her sights on coconut jewelry. Krit started a company in Southeast Asia where she had a large network of family and friends. She began working with the local artisan community to turn coconut shells into jewelry. However, the scale of production and learning curve for both the artisans, and for Krit, were too high to make the business successful.
Krit was able to step back, assess, and pivot to paper products. The result is Soothi, her direct-to-consumer brand of sustainable journals and stationery. Soothi allows Krit to continue to work with artisans in developing countries. It also supports sustainability. Soothi donates portions of each purchase to organizations like One Tree Planted and Animal Aid Unlimited, a rescue hospital and sanctuary for street animals in Rajasthan, India.
In 2019, Jovante Ham started Melanoid Exchange. It started as an e-commerce marketplace for minority-owned businesses. This allowed consumers to support Black-owned businesses, all in one place. In 2020, Jovante’s wife, Darsha Carter joined Melanoid Exchange as COO. Darsha noticed that people and businesses were coming to the site but that traction was low. They realized that a lot of today’s business owners don’t have the foundational knowledge to maintain an e-commerce business. That was the push Jovante and Darsha needed to pivot.
Now, Melanoid Exchange is an education platform. It serves as a tool for new e-commerce business owners to learn while doing. The marketplace is being phased out to provide a simple e-commerce platform for business owners. This way, owners can practice building out a store where friends and family can beta test for functionality and design. The new enterprise is led by Mel X, the world’s first AI-powered business coach.
Last but not least in our roundup of small business pivot examples: Effie’s Paper.
Founder Kalyn Johnson Chandler is a master of the pivot. She started her career as a lawyer and practiced for ten years before starting a styling business. While she had a passion for styling and helping people look and feel good, the job that was physically exhausting and difficult to scale.
Interestingly, Kalyn had experience with stationery. Her grandmother worked for a greeting card company. Still, she didn’t consider it as a career option until she was planning her wedding. She had created a custom design and wound up managing the art directing and manufacturing.
Seeing a hole in the market for modern, personalized stationery, Kalyn started Effie’s Paper. (The business is named for her grandmother.) But the pivoting didn’t stop there. Personalized stationery was a start, but success is about scalability. Effie’s Paper needed to scale to meet their customers’ needs beyond paper products.
Enter, the “whatnot”. Kayln started stocking thoughtfully curated lifestyle accessories like coffee mugs, water bottles, and makeup bags. These items naturally complemented her stationary to further expand the business.