Carving a Niche in Women's Health

Article excerpt

For owner Tracey Wills, The Women's Health Boutique has become much more than just a good business opportunity. It provides an outlet to assist women who are either dealing with life-threatening illnesses or daily health issues.

"We want women to know that we are here, not only to provide the products they will need, but more importantly, we're here to help them through their experience," she says. "Whether it's the difficulty of facing invasive cancer treatment or sharing in the joy of maternity -- we generally care about our customers and what they are going through."

According to Wills, one of the primary goals of the store is to capture their customers as they enter into maternity, and from then on, work with them on providing for their health needs through the rest of their life. As a result, the boutique carries a wide range of products -- from compression therapy items for women experiencing lymphedema, edema, varicose veins and other vascular or orthopedic conditions, to a complete line of pre- and post-natal maternity items, hard-to-fit bras, contingence management products, wigs and turbans, as well as an extensive line of personal care items. The center of her business is pre- and post-breast surgery speciality items, and bras designed for women who have undergone mastectomy, lumpectomy or augmentation. "While we are expanding into other types of product lines, we still plan to continue on our breast line of products," explains Wills. "That is our core business and we don't want to be distracted from that." Wills opened the store in September. "We have been very successful with our numbers being 35 percent over our original estimates," she notes. The Women's Health Boutique is Wills' second business endeavor, following her presidency of Canadian Valley Medical Solutions, a durable medical equipment company providing in-home and nursing home IV infusion and pharmacy services. Wills decided to buy into the Women's Health Boutique franchise out of a desire to diversify from her medical equipment company. "I wanted to move into a business that is strictly tied into Medicare and insurance," she explains. "When I started looking at the Women's Health Boutique, I realized it would be a good business opportunity." Vicki Dortch Jones and Seleta Dortch Lovell launched the concept six years ago in Houston out of a commitment to their mother. In 1996, the two sisters formed an association with Bud Hatfield, known for his Kwik-Kopy franchise chain, and became the only franchise focused exclusively on women's health. There are now 25 locations scattered all over the country. Even though the Women's Health Boutique is part of a franchise, Wills has taken some liberties with the store's concept to make it unique. The most drastic difference comes in its location at Northpark Mall in northwest Oklahoma City. Occupying 3,000 square feet, Wills' shop is the largest and only boutique situated in a shopping mall. …

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