By Gary Haber York Daily Record, Pa.
Get to know your target customer, their likes, dislikes and buying habits.
That was part of the advice women's clothing boutique owner Hilary Arthur shared with an audience of more than 100 small-business owners Thursday at a meeting organized by Susquehanna SCORE, a group whose volunteers advise business owners or those looking to start a business.
Arthur, the owner of Arthur & Daughters, was part of a panel of owners of York businesses -- dubbed "the Downtown divas" -- that included Caroline Morris, owner of Kimman's Co., and Mandy Arnold, president of Gavin Advertising.
Morris, who opened her shop in September 2004, said her business has been able to post double-digit growth each year. But even after 11 years, running a successful business still takes a lot of hard work.
"The cautionary tale is it never gets any easier," Morris said. "You may have a great staff, but it's your name on the door."
Gavin's Mandy Arnold talked about how important a thriving downtown York is to her business. A vibrant downtown, with restaurants and retail shops, is key to helping attract employees from Baltimore, Lancaster and other cities, Arnold said.
She opened the firm in 2011 and is about to hire her 18th employee, she said.
When Arthur opened her boutique in 2013, about 80 percent of her sales came from selling designer consignment items. She carried just two lines of new, made-in-the-USA clothes. These days, Arthur's shop carries 12 such lines, including her York-made Arthur & Daughters' private label line, which she launched in September 2014.
Sophie Stargazer Boutique in Lancaster will soon start carrying Arthur & Daughters' private-label line, the first location other than Arthur's York boutique to carry it. Arthur said she's looking to get other retailers, including those in Maryland, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York to carry her line.
Thursday's breakfast also highlighted two York County business owners who went through SCORE's mentoring program -- Tamara Coleman Sweets, owner of Nu Natural Organics in Manchester Township, and Sheri Karan, owner of Blind Spot Nutbutters in Spring Garden Township.
In other news, Susquehanna SCORE President Julie Poland will become SCORE's district director for eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware effective Oct. 1. Poland will continue to work from York.
Mike Bingham, an entrepreneur, business consultant and SCORE mentor, will succeed Poland as Susquehanna SCORE president.