Sultana’s Gifts & Apparel

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Dr. Gina Z. Morrison and Mr. William Morrison of Forty Fort are owners of one of the area’s most popular gift boutiques, Sultana’s Gifts & Apparel.  Dr. and Mr. Morrison have been clients of the SBDC since 2012 after a First Step Session sparked their interest in starting their own business.

Having been a professor at Wilkes University in the Education Department and often taking students to Malaysia for work experiences, Dr. and Mr. Morrison decided that the Wilkes-Barre area could use a specialized gift boutique that featured beautiful handmade items from Malaysia and other Asian countries.

After realizing they were in need of more assistance with opening their business, Dr. and Mr. Morrison decided to seek assistance from the Wilkes University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in 2013. They were approved for a $30,000 loan from PennStar Bank and the business was opened shortly thereafter in Kingston. The SBDC continued providing assistance throughout the business’ first months, helping the clients determine how to import products into the United States, while also helping to host a grand opening and ribbon cutting event to publicize the new business.

In 2014, the SBDC continued to assist the clients: this time focusing on growth. In late 2014, the clients came to the SBDC reporting that sales have been consistently down compared to the previous year. The SBDC was able to point out areas of weakness which included lack of marketing, slow inventory turnover, and pricing issues. The clients were not marketing much and were not taking advantage of social media. They had a Facebook page for the business but did not use it much and lacked presence in other social media platforms such as Instagram. The clients were also advertising in the local newspaper which did not reach their target market and therefore, did not provide for many results with bringing in customers to the store. The SBDC advised them to advertise with their target market in mind and also concentrate on social media, and so with the help of SBDC consultants, they created an Instagram account. Issues with slow inventory turnover were also addressed, as the inventory in the store did not turnover as often as it should, causing a lack of new product offerings available to customers. Similarly, while reviewing the pricing of products located throughout the store, it was determined that many products were priced very low. The SBDC was able to point out such areas of weakness to the clients - things that they had not observed before - and instruct them how to fix them.

Dr. and Mr. Morrison currently employ three full-time employees, were able to address all issues, and experienced a stronger than normal Christmas season. Their store was even voted “Best Boutique” and “Best Unique Gifts” in the 2014 Diamond City Best Readers’ Poll. They consider the assistance from the SBDC to be invaluable and note that without assistance they would not have been able to open their business and also would not have been able to grow the business into the “Best Boutique” in the Wilkes-Barre area.