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Brief Cases: Finding your niche

Take a walk through the King’s Place Mall and you’ll see many things: stores, a kiosk and a food court.

At some point you may notice a pleasant smell wafting from one of the stores. And it’s not a candle or perfume shop, either. It’s the Shamporium, where Ruth McLellan runs the place smoothly with a combination of hard work and expertise.

McLellan opened the Shamporium back in 1997. She said it’s been interesting working in the soap business, a field where people don’t always know what’s right for them.

“A big part of running the store is educating my customers on what’s good for their skin and for the environment,” McLellan said. “Sometimes it’s an adjustment for them, but the right kind of product is good for your skin and your pocketbook.”

McLellan was inspired to open the Shamporium after having her own struggles finding the right soap products. She wanted to provide close, easy access to the products people need for their skin problems.

“I’ve always struggled with skin sensitivities and respiratory issues from the environment,” McLellan said. “And if it was hard for me to find products that worked or me, then everyone else with skin sensitivities was having a hard time as well. It’s easier to find those kinds of things now.”

There were a few things to consider when deciding to open up the soap shop, one of them being the location.

“I like the approach people have down here,” McLellan said. “People down here aren’t just hanging out at the mall . . . they have jobs, and that’s where business truly is.”

However, there have been a few stores that have closed in Kings Place recently and there is a lot of empty space.

“Vacant stores are a downside, since every vacant store is one less that’s bringing people in. And I also lose the flexibility of my hours,” McLellan said “But I have a lot more security in here, and hey, I don’t have to shovel snow.”

As far as costs, McLellan had to find the money to get started, but it wasn’t too hard for her.

“Being a more mature person, I had a good relationship with a bank,” McLellan said. “I went to then, and got a loan. I didn’t have a whole lot of problems in that area.”

Getting start-up money was easy; the soap business has become extremely competitive. With hundreds of companies both big and independent, it can be hard to stand out. McLellan has figured out her edge, in the form of both convenience and expertise, not to mention a superior product.

“I have more of a captive market here, being in the mall,” McLellan said. “And for a lot of people today convenience is big. They’re always on the move, and they’ll get things where it’s easy, which is where my location comes in.”

McLellan has come a long way since 1997, becoming not only a store owner, but also very knowledgeable in her chosen field.

“The best advice I can give is to find your niche,” McLellan said. “Figure out who your customers are, and then provide your service accordingly.”

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