In her popular Netflix show, Marie Kondo made a small fortune teaching people how to tidy up their homes. The petite and soft-spoken business badass has at least 5 books, 3 television shows, 6 service and trademarks in the United States, and a small army of "KonMari" trained consultants to tidy your home. There are 13 licensed organizers in Virginia in case you were curious.
But what does this have to do with YOUR small business?
If you've been anti-Netflix for 2+ years, Marie Kondo is the chief visionary officer of a global empire based on home organization. She started out making extra money organizing other students' dorms. That evolved into something that was uniquely hers - a method for tidying up your home known as "KonMari". A method that she has enshrined in the minds of millions.
Its precisely that enshrined method that has made her tidy empire. She created something so unique to her business, protected it, then made even more money off of it.
But its not unique to global empires like hers. Every creative small business owner can do the same by following these 3 simple steps.
1. Create YOUR thing
The first small business lesson here is to create something unique and original that you own. Create a process, a system, a specific vibe that YOU and only YOU are known for. This not only protects you from competition, but actually eliminates it. Who can have a competitive advantage over you when you are the only business that does what you do?
Think about your friends and the way you would describe them to a total stranger. There's at least 1 or 2 things that make that friend uniquely them. If you could bottle it, what would it be?
Now figure out the same thing for your business.
2. Enshrine your unique thing in writing or on video and protect it.
As small business owners, we need to be diligent about getting our intellectual property (IP) out of our heads and onto paper (or video). This does a few things.
First your clients, your team members, your vendors get a consistently awesome experience cuz everyone knows exactly what needs to be done and how.
Second, you've begun creating a way that you can hire team members to replace you as an employee in your business. Photographers don't need to edit photos once they have a process for editing. Florists don't need to shop for flowers once they have clear standards or lined up vendors with quality control provisions. Coaches don't need to manage their Facebook group once they lay out the rules and hand them over to someone. It can start small and build into what your business's unique method is. Marie surely didn't start with her categories. They evolved as she allowed her business to evolve.
Third, it empowers your small business to grow while you spend more time doing what's important to YOU and less time on the stuff that isn't actually moving your needle forward.
Last but not least, it creates the proof you need to be able to protect what's so unique about your business. We will talk about that in the next step.
3. Protect YOUR thing
The KonMari Method is trademarked in countless countries. Marie Kondo's books are protected by copyright. Even the phrase 'Spark Joy' is protected so Marie can put it on all sorts of products and sell them if she wanted to.
Marie Kondo took the idea of organizing your home and made it into a method and a brand, protected by laws and contracts around the world.
Even if your dreams are more humble, creating a brand that you can build on gives you options to take over the world if you want and the power to rule your corner of the world today.
4. If you want, build the empire by copying yourself (and getting paid for it)
Marie Kondo probably won't come clean your home. But she can teach someone else how to do it and you can hire them. She can write a book that you can follow. She can film a TV series that explains things in a different medium for folks who process info differently and then reach into a whole new market.
You can do the same thing. And charge for every single one of them.
Some folks write books. Some create training programs. Some create more locations. Some hire more people to help their vision come to life.
But you don't have to screw folks over to make money. You can create opportunities for folks to pay for access to your training, certify them and let them work as independent consultants. There doesn't need to be multilevel marketing centralized buy in nonsense. You can license a franchise location.
Regardless of what path you choose to expand, you'll want to protect your books and programs with intellectual property registrations and regular enforcement to maintain a strong brand. You'll want contracts that make it clear to everyone what is protected and what the consequences are if they steal your intellectual property or don't protect it how they should . You'll want to protect your methods, customer lists, and strategy documents with confidentiality agreements.
They say you should begin as you mean to finish or to start with the end in mind. That seems like poor advice because plans and life change. Small businesses pivot faster than a couch in an apartment hallway in a fictional AF apartment in NYC with friends.
Marie Kondo began like most small business owners do, a side hustle to see if they were any good. But she evolved her business into an empire. She gave herself options by using her business to create an asset no one could ever take from her. In creating a brand with a marketable and legally protectable experience, every creative business owner can build their own mini empire.
**Disclaimer: This is only general information, not legal advice specific to your situation and does not create a client-attorney relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer in your area.