Mighty Mouse

Your store may not be a big, city-slicker business, but even a small-town shop can still get customers through its doors.
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This story appears in the July 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Q: I have a clothing store and hair salon business in a very small town. How can I get people to come through my doors and shop here? It seems that people would rather shop somewhere else, like in a big city, instead of saying they bought something from a small town.

Name withheld

A: We live in a small community of less than 2,000 people, so we see firsthand how people in businesses like yours get people in the door and make sales. As with big-city retail, location can be important. Being next to the town coffee shop means you'll be seen. But even without street traffic, small-town merchants can still get business.

Clothing stores can prosper in small towns by selling unique items that can't be bought elsewhere-for instance, clothing from local American Indian tribes. To get your wares noticed, hang them from a balcony or on the street, and even consider selling them in other shops, offering merchants a commission on any of your products that they sell. A store with enough space can also host events such as book signings, poetry readings and workshops sponsored by local organizations. What about service businesses? In our town, the local massage therapist gives away free massage coupons for realtors to give to home purchasers. She also provides gift certificates for every community contest and drawing. Because people who get a massage often become repeat customers, she is essentially sampling what she offers.

Paul and Sarah Edwards' latest book is Why Aren't You Your Own Boss? Leaping Over the Obstacles That Stand Between You and Your Dream. Send them your start-up questions at www.workingfromhome.com or in care of Entrepreneur.

Edition: July 2017

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