Business Growth – Creating Community – Janice Bell, Arome Hood River

Marketing, training, and creating a customer community. These are some of my favorite take a-ways from my interview with Janice. What nuggets of wisdom will you find to apply to your business?

Side Note: I’ve watched Janice since she opened (no, not stalker like!!) and have been so impressed with her marketing and business savvy. She has a firm foundational belief in providing an excellent customer experience, and brings the community into her store with events that are fun, informative, and get people connected to Arome. She’s someone to copy for sure!

Janice Bell – Owner – Arome Hood River

How long have you owned your business?

I’ve opened Arome two years ago.

My background and work before Arome is as a water resources engineer.

(What exactly is that?)
I work with cities on planning and design for their storm water and drinking water utilities.

I also spent a few years working in stream restoration – out in the field instead of in an office!

Opening this store seems a bit of a shift from your prior work.

I come from a long line of engineers; my father, grandfather, his father, and my uncle. My parents emphasized science and math, but I’ve always had this creative side and was interested in trying something different and on my own.

My husband and I thought of many different ideas that were “not good”. But we kept thinking!

I asked a question:

What’s missing from Hood River? We came up with Arome!

How many employees do you have? How do you do training?

I have 2-5 employees, depending on the season.

I wrote an Operations Manual last spring. It’s taken a lot of editing! I have now hired a manager and she and I trade off with on-boarding and training new employees.

For two weeks now, a new hire will have someone working alongside them in the store. We have a lot of products to learn so training takes a long time.

I look for strengths and interests in each employee. Based on these strengths and interests, I give projects to them in the store. One of our employees has even come up with new tea latte ideas for us. Their contributions make them feel valued and enrich our store and the customer’s experience.

My manager and I meet each Tuesday for a business meeting.

What incentives or activities do you do with employees?

  • Employees receive a store discount.
  • The pay is well above minimum wage (which has helped greatly with turnover), and we’re very intentional about thanking them for working and being here.
  • We have an annual Christmas party where we get together out of work and just socialize and connect.
  • This year we want to add a summer rafting trip!

What are some things you feel are the best things you’ve done for your business?

  1. Focus on Customer Service. This has been extremely helpful.
  2. Ask the customers what they want. This helps me fill a need or niche. We are always asking ourselves what’s missing form the store and then work to incorporate that into the store. Asking customers helps with sales (because now they have a local place to purchase what they want), and helps create a feeling of community with our customers. They feel involved and incorporated into the store – which is what we want!
  3. Developing experiential shopping. At Arome we offer tastings of our tea, olive oils, vinegar, and spices, and try to create demonstrations of interest to our customers as often as we can. All of our employees also cook and use our products and can help with suggestions on how to use the items we sell.

If hindsight were 20/20, what would you have done differently, earlier?

I would have hired a manager much earlier. I found her through a friend who owns a business downtown here in Hood River who recommended the person I currently have as a manager. She was also a customer of ours! I would say about half of the people I have hired since my business began were already customers, which makes training so much easier.

What are the most recent or the most impactful books/podcasts/etc. for you?

Click on the hyperlinks below to purchase books –
easy peasy!

Podcasts: Bigger Pockets & Freakonomics

Books: Why We Buy by Paco Underhill

Hug Your Customers (I just ordered)

I’ve heard good things about the book Shoe Dog but haven’t read it yet. It’s about Nike’s journey.

Do you admire a local business owner? Shoot me an email with their name!
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