So you make stuff to sell. If you remember my previous post on The Longer Long Tail by Chris Anderson, to the extent that you can digitize what you have to sell, you can delay or postpone creation of it until the buyer uses it.
Here are 3 websites that demonstrate the range of postponement options available.
At one extreme end you've got iStockphoto - as the artist you handle photo, audio, video, or illustration creation, the buyer buys that only and creates a product from it - advertisement/brochure/mug etc. There is no fulfillment or product shipment beyond the image download.
At the other extreme end you've got Etsy - as the artist you handle creating the object, the listing, and fulfillment. Etsy manages search, listings, and payment. The buyer enjoys the product as sold in it's final form. Kristen over at MyMeanbean sells handcrafted beans or bags on Etsy. Here's her photo of one of her small beans.
In the middle you've got Cafe Press, a print-on-demand service. As the artist, you handle image creation, you decide wha product you want it on and you create the listing. CafePress produces the product, from t-shirts to greeting cards to books, ships the product and handles billing and payment.
Steve Blank, professor at Berkeley, Stanford and Columbia, offers his book, The Four Steps to Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win via CafePress. He's got a great blog too.
In supply chain language, these fulfillment models lower costs to the creator and barriers to entry to creators. Two basic problems remain - 1. how to match the niche creator to those who want that 2. how to encourage buyers out into the niches by assuring them of the quality and desireableness. More on that another time.