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Staying ahead of the trends is fun and good for business, says boutique owner

The first 'Mid-Week Mugging' of 2018 features Sarah Harrison, owner of Coriander in downtown Guelph

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said, “The only thing constant in life is change.”

Guelph entrepreneur, Sarah Harrison has seen lots of change since she opened her women’s clothing and gift boutique, Coriander, 18 years ago and change is what keeps it interesting and exciting for her.

“One of my strengths is that I am sort of a futurist,” said Harrison. “Actually, it is a weakness as well because I live six months or longer out in my brain. I am already thinking about this summer and how it is all going to go and we just got through Christmas.”

She is setting off Friday on her annual tour of the New Year, fashion trade-show circuit.

“I am going down for the New York shows and from there I’m on to Atlanta and after Atlanta there is a whole series in Toronto at the end of January,” she said. “Going out and sourcing products is so much fun and I am looking forward to going into this new season and seeing what is new and what’s happening.”

Staying ahead of the trends hasn’t just been fun for Harrison. It’s been good for her business.

She got her start in the clothing and fashion industry working with her father importing products from Indonesia, Africa and Eastern Europe. She opened Coriander downtown on Wyndham Street in 2000 and expanded the shop in 2011. In the summer of 2014 she opened a second location in Collingwood.

“We have our own privately branded clothing now so we have our own label on a lot of things and I am going back and forth to LA four or five times a year to get that done,” said Harrison. “I built this business so I can travel. That’s really what it is and it took a lot of work to get here.”

Being small and independent has allowed her to indulge her creative instincts, explore new product lines and respond quickly to the ebb and flow of the market.

“The analogy is that the department stores, the chain stores and to some degree the online stores are like these big ships and it takes them a long time to change course and adjust to a trend or a change in the market place,” she said. “It’s all about adaptability. It’s this idea of being small and local – this little ship that can change course tomorrow.”

There are a few constants that have allowed to her to successfully navigate the seas of change.

“The team here is really important,” said Harrison. “If there is something I contribute to the world it is that I run a business that provides jobs. We have great customers and there is a lot of support in this community. “

That support has helped her in the past to overcome challenges and stay positive in a constantly changing and often volatile retail market.

“I can see the future is changing for retail as well but you can’t sit here and complain about it,” said Harrison. “You have to look at it as an opportunity. At my stage in the business, you do things because they keep you interested. My goal isn’t to say, ‘I want to make a gazillion dollars and grow, grow, grow’. I actually want to enjoy my life and have a life beyond here.”