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Horse Mats To Yoga Mats

Written by CMG News Contributor, Doug Carleton

In an economy that is wreaking havoc on so many small businesses many are searching for ways to keep their businesses alive or growing. Often this might consist of altering a product or repackaging, offering a different size, or selling it as something that could also be used for ….

In a tractor supply store in Northern Virginia that sells all kinds of products for work or pleasure outdoors, such as gardening for example, people are buying horse mats for yoga routines. Steel tanks for watering livestock (minus the livestock) are being transformed into swimming pools. In some cities, small retail stores that have been struggling are converting part of their stores to micro-fulfillment centers for e-commerce. With so much being purchased online it sometimes is worth it to a company to have a location where they can keep a limited amount of product that can be shipped and arrive at a customer’s house in a couple of hours rather than a couple of days, or just used as pick-up locations.

Product changes or other modifications

The price of cocoa used in making candy products has gone through the roof in the past decade. What to do? Raise prices to cover the increased cost? Or insert air (or other ingredients) as filler - to use less cocoa - to help to keep the price the same. One example – chocolate, has sometimes been “infused” with air or other ingredients leading to labels such as “healthier,” fewer calories,” “guilt-free.”

Haagen Dazs, because of the cost of the premium ingredients that go into their ice cream, shrunk the size of their pint containers from 16 ounces to 14 ounces, keeping the prices the same. Pretty much no one noticed because they never studied the label closely enough to have a “Wait a minute! A pint is not 14 ounces” moment. All they cared about was the ice cream.

“New and Improved”

New and improved can sometimes be a risky strategy. One of the greatest new and improved strategies that failed occurred in 1985 when Coca Cola introduced the new and improved “New Coke.” Among Coke fans it almost started World War III. New Coke lasted less than three months before Classic Coke was brought back. So much for new and improved. But they were smart enough to see the error of their ways and started adding Classic Coke in different flavors with different sweeteners thus creating new products for their line without risking their core brand.

A lesson that might be drawn from all this is that there may be a way or ways to alter, change, re-create, re-brand, or do other things to your product or service that will continue to keep customers buying. If manufacturers can adulterate chocolate – which carries so many health, spiritual, mental, and other benefits that are essential to civilization, what can you do to your offerings?


This blog entry is a slightly edited excerpt from Doug Carleton's 'The Daily Life Of A Small Business Owner' series. Doug is a mentor with SCORE, Startup Virginia, and Lighthouse Labs, and has 25+ years of experience in small business finance including 12 years in SBA lending. To contact Doug directly, please email him at

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