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A Priest, a Cowboy and a Socialite: Why Diversity is Good for Business

Written by Yuwanda Black on 18 December 2009.

A priest, a cowboy and a socialite opened a used bookstore and grossed more than half a million dollars the first year. "What?" you question. "How do these three even know each other. Never mind know each other well enough to go into business together."

In our invented enterprise, it is the diversity of the owners' background that expanded their customer base and fueled growth. If your current customer base is shrinking, overcrowded or just not supporting your business for whatever reason, maybe it's time to diversify. A diverse customer base can enhance your company in three significant ways: increased revenue, ongoing creativity and personal growth.

1. Increased Revenue: In our example, the owners learned of their mutual love of books and dream of opening a bookstore through casual conversation at a wedding. They quickly realized that the idea could be expanded beyond what either one could accomplish alone, providing a greater chance of success.

While doing research for, I discovered that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2050, the average U.S. resident will trace his or her descent to Africa, Asia, the Hispanic world, the Pacific Islands and the Middle East. To remain competitive, small businesses must be aware of the trends that inevitably follow diversity.

Because each owner brought his/her own interests and customer base to the enterprise, they stocked a wide variety of books that attracted customers from all spectrums of the community. If one kind of book was not selling particularly well, the business was sustained because it offered other types.
Through the promotion of theme nights, author readings and community happenings, the bookstore became the town's social commune.

2. Creativity: My mother used to say, "If you want something different, do something different." If you've tried to drum up business doing the same thing, and it's not working; try something new.

In our example, let's say the owners wanted to increase the donation of books. An effective and fun campaign would be to offer a discount to any reader who donated a book different from the genre in which they're buying.
This serves two purposes: 1) it encourages and rewards customer purchases and 2) it increases the donation of all types of books.

Another promotional idea is a campaign featuring readers who tried different types of books and liked them. Testimonials remain an advertising favorite because they are personalized. As these examples illustrate, a diverse customer base provides a wellspring of creativity. The trick for you as an entrepreneur is to cull the ideas that can be used to uniformly unite your customers.

3. Personal Growth: A diverse customer base is not only good for business, it's also good for you personally.

Diversity has to be embraced to flourish. This should be easy for entrepreneurs, because we are, by nature, mavericks. However, we are also human. And whether out of fear or complacency, we sometimes fail to take advantage of opportunities that diversity provides.

In order to compete in a global economy, it is vital that small business owners continually add to their competitive arsenal. This means moving outside of comfort zones (e.g., trying different books, foods and television programs, etc.) to enrich and expand our worlds.

Trying one new thing may not trigger a brainstorm. It's not meant to. The idea is to get used to doing things differently. Once you start to do this on a regular basis, it begins to affect the way you view life.

The bottom line is, you never know where your next great idea is going to come from. So, begin thinking of ways you can utilize diversity in your small business -- marketing ideas, hiring practices, community outreach, et cetera. Diversifying your choices in life increases the opportunity of making a special connection -- personally and professionally. is an online retailer of soft home furnishings with ethnic themes. Look for its sister site,, soon!

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