Focus your business on real trends, not fads

Most of the entrepreneurs have a dream of making money capitalizing on a fad. But the reality is, after the craze, most found themselves with a warehouse full of stock products.

As an entrepreneur, you should choose where to focus your efforts and resources. To be more than a flash in the pan, your business should address specific customer problems, offer solutions and latch on to trends that unfold over years and decades, not months.

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Here are five ways to tell if your business aligns with a lasting trend:

1. You solve a problem

The annals of entrepreneurship are rife with solutions in search of a problem. It should be the other way around.

For example, Choi says, online shoe retailers solve a problem of selection and convenience by offering customers wide variety and home delivery. But a monthly subscription service that ships high-fashion shoes with a celebrity's stamp of approval? That's a tougher case, he says.

"Do you really need advice from [a celebrity] on what kind of shoe you want to wear?" asks Choi, who directs the Fred Kiesner Center for Entrepreneurship at Loyola Marymount University.

2. You have a strategy to find customers

Customer acquisition is no small task. But as a start, a New York entrepreneur who runs an online-marketing firm and mentors startups advises, your business should address the demands of more mainstream customers and make it easy for them to add your product or service to their current routine.

3. You tap into big underlying trends

High-end, exotic and rare tea varieties are a small but growing segment, the Tea Association of the U.S.A. says. Meanwhile, Americans are increasingly shopping online, analytics firm comScore notes.

Ritchie, whose business is based near Vancouver, British Columbia, doesn't think about the big market trends every day. Still, they form a foundation for his strategy: to make high-end tea easier to try for those who don't already drink it.

"I like tea, and I like the opportunity in this space," he says.

4. You think long and broad, not short and narrow

Fads happen over months or a few years and typically are characterized by the intense interest of a relatively small group in a narrow set of products. Trends build over years or decades, unfold across different industries and affect broad swaths of people.

5. You see competition as a good sign

Conventional wisdom holds that it's best to be the first mover in a market, but the lack of serious competition can be a red flag, Foxton says.

If others have determined that a trend is worth investment, it can validate your idea. At the very least, a successful similar product may be a sign that your idea is more than a fad.

"You can't imagine a new use case that doesn't exist unless you're Steve Jobs," Foxton tells entrepreneurs , "and you're not Steve Jobs."

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