While studying business administration and psychology, Reading, Pa., resident Marsha Rhoden, 24, is adding one more thing to her plate: owning a business.
Rhoden opened Solemate, a women's footwear business, at 108 S. Fifth St., near the Reading Public Library, on Nov. 5.
Business and shoes, she said, are her passions.
"I was tired of describing it as a dream," Rhoden said of the business opening, "I wanted to actually live it out."
Rhoden, originally from Jamaica, is working on her two-year degree at Reading Area Community College. She said she hopes to transfer and complete her bachelor's degree in business in the near future.
Startup capital for the business came from her own savings, Rhoden said.
Some of her day-to-day business tasks include purchasing the shoes, keeping the books and stocking shelves. Rhoden is the sole employee in the business for now.
Her working business model is to have one price point: Shoes are priced at $24.25. With a variety of styles from combat boots to flats to platform heels, Rhoden said her tastes show in the inventory. But as she gets more customers, she said she will cater to her customers and sales.
Rhoden said she had a hard time deciding on location for her business and in fact signed a lease elsewhere before moving in to the Fifth Street location.
Inside the business, she wanted the shoes to speak for themselves. Rhoden said she decorated the store in white and black, with even her store's sign following the color scheme, so the shoes would stand out against their background. In the boutique, shoes sit on white shelves. The setting lends itself to a personal and customer service-oriented shopping experience.
Before opening, Rhoden said, she did her research. She went to area shows to see what shoe designers had to offer and pick up look books. She also did research for the location, understanding that it was in the Callowhill Historic District and that it was zoned for commercial use.
She said she appreciates the pedestrian traffic that the Fifth Street location provides.
Solemate also has a website in development. Rhoden said she is working on it herself.
"I always try to do something myself first," she said.
She would like to outfit it for e-commerce so customers can shop from Solemate online.
Rhoden said her goal is brand recognition.
"I want to make this Solemate the one people think of when they see that name," she said, acknowledging that there are other businesses with variations of the name.
Rhoden is working with Kutztown University's Small Business Development Center to get her business off the ground.
"We are optimistic that she is going to be successful with running her business," said Mark Rentschler, strategic planning and technology consultant. "We are going to do everything we can to help her be successful."
SBDC is helping Rhoden with her business plan and financial projections.
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