Going to Market? Go to Charleston and Greenville first.

July 26, 2023

A gut feeling. A fortune teller. A magic 8 ball. If only there was a way to know if your business will succeed? Having worked with startups and rapid growth companies in different countries, I know there’s no sure-fire way to know. 

But there are ways to put your concept to the test, learning and iterating to give your fledgling idea the best chance of success. 

The soft-launch city 

Nothing removes those rose-tinted founder glasses like the general public. 

Focus groups have a role to play, but nothing gives you the same honest, unfiltered insight as a soft launch. Will real people spend their real hard-earned dollars on your idea? 

Choosing one city and creating a test location or pop-up service is a great way to do this. But it has to be the right place. 

All roads lead to Charleston and Greenville

Here in South Carolina, it’s a tale of two cities. Charleston is very much the test bed of choice for food concepts, fast-casual dining and fast-moving products. Greenville is quickly becoming a test bed for new tech. But why?

Charleston’s big pull factor

Not just on Conde Nast’s Best Small City in the US list for 11 of the past 12 years and full of character and charm. It has a strong mix of people and preferences – the young, the more refined, wealth, people starting out and lots of visitors. 

Attracting more than 7 million tourists each year, the fact that Charleston is a tourist destination makes it the perfect test bed. One city, global reach. Mass appeal insight with single-city investment – win win. 

Greenville a new hotspot

Often running slightly under the radar, Greenville, SC is fastly becoming a tech and app hub, with investment from South Carolina, Next Innovation Greenville, Startup GVL, as well as other privately funded initiatives. The city offers a growing hotspot of people, an influx of young talent and a network of great funding, investors and mentors. 

With perhaps a little less bureaucracy and red tape than its other city counterparts, Greenville has a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-stuck-in mentality, which is why more and more startups are setting up shop here. 

Usually though, when you try out a business concept in one city, there’s no guarantee that its success or failure would hold true in others – you’ve only tested it with one audience. For Charleston and Greenville, even though you’re only in one place, you’re testing the reaction of people from across the US and the world. 

Survival of the fittest 

Charleston’s popularity and surging footfall make it fiercely competitive. And that’s a good thing. Greenville’s entrepreneurial scene and do or die mentality, means it’s survival of the fittest. 

If you want to be sure you’ve got a strong concept, test it against the best. Test it in the most crowded marketplace and figure out how to make it not just survive, but stand out. 

The kudos

Succeeding in Charleston and Greenville carries with it more than just proof you can tough it out, it’s a seal of approval. If the Charleston crowd loves you, you can use that halo effect in your strategy. 

Greenville offers a great launch pad. Use it to regionally test your technology and springboard to Charlotte, Charleston, Atlanta, Savannah. That halo can then drive demand as you enter new cities and markets. Brands that can capitalize on their success with messaging around “coming straight from” can convert a win from one city into multi-city success.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Indaco for dinner, or it could be O-ku. Did you know they’ve come to Greenville straight from Charleston? 

If we can help your brand get off the ground then get in touch dani@wearebodhiandco.com 

Author Headshot

Dani Wilkinson

Dani has a passion for making brands sparkle. From Dyson vacuum cleaners to Pies, she built brands from the ground up and has a strong perspective from both high-level, to actual practicalities and how to get something done.

Say Hello. Let's talk.

Email us to set up a chat, jump on a video call or pop by and see us.