Spotlight On… Amora Wellness & Gifts with Owner Jill Koskiniemi

Amora Wellness & Gifts, U.P. wellness publication, holistic well-being in MI's Upper Peninsula

Tell us about Amora Wellness & Gifts.
Amora Wellness & Gifts offers natural solutions for health, beauty, home, and more. We’re in Laurium, about a block from Aspirus hospital.

I saw a need in myself and others for natural options, and some people just had no idea what was out there. So I wanted to open up a place that had that, so they could know there are natural options for cleaning, face care, body care, and for those who knew about these options, but they just weren’t readily available to them.

When did you start this business?
Nov. of 2016. It’s already grown and expanded. I was pulled in this direction for so long, and finally just had to take the leap, start small, find out what people were looking for in the natural realm, and try to provide that.

I wanted the space itself to feel healing and relaxing too, so very relaxed music, scents, and salt lamps are going, which I feel contribute to a more relaxing shopping environment than what we’re all used to at the big box stores.

How did you choose the name “Amora” for it?
It was a name I saw on a reality TV show, Alaskan Bushpeople, about a family living in the wild. There was a character called Ami, and they used her full name when she went to the doctor once–Amora. I thought, “Wow, that name is really nice!” And it doesn’t have connotations to anything, aside from love, and what could be more healing than love? Because my whole focus is natural health and healing, I thought, “Perfect.”

What is your background?
I don’t have a medical background, but I’ve always been interested in retail. I’m a shopper, always looking for new products. Eventually, as people around me started to deal with different health issues, I would be searching. I had this knowing there was something in nature that could probably help this person or issue.

I got a degree in business administration at MI Tech. Right out of college, I worked at Bath & Bodyworks. Eventually, I realized, “Wow, you can smell that as soon as you enter the mall. Is that really natural?!”

For a while, I sold Avon, which taught me some of the entrepreneurial aspects of learning how to run a business and what it takes.

I went into home and auto insurance for eighteen years and worked my way up to management, which helped me get more familiar with managing an operation.

All of it coalesced into a path for me. In the meantime, I took a lot of trainings in alternative healing and energy work. I’ve always had a fascination with the more natural, alternative, and energy-based medicine.

Owning a business like Amora was a seed that germinated awhile for me. A similar business was just going out of business–it was doing well, but the owner needed to get out of it for personal reasons. I would have liked to have bought it, but the timing wasn’t right for me and my husband.

When I got to that point where I was ready to write the business plan and resume to apply for a loan, I realized having some retail, natural health, and management aspects all came together to give me a good background to help me manage all the aspects of this business. Of course you’re always learning as you go. I kept getting this nudge to do this. I felt like if I don’t do this now, am I going to look back when I’m eighty and go “Why didn’t I try it?” So I took the leap and dove in.

Have there been any surprises for you?
I was surprised how well received it was once people found out about it. Part of me knew people are ready and they’re looking for options because they’re sick of being told this product now can causes cancer, or you can take this pill, but it’s going to have side effects. I intuitively felt that was something people were ready to move on from. I thought it would take longer to build up the business but it seemed I hit the ground running. I think part of that was pure luck. I happened to open around the holidays, and it happened the salt lamp craze was hitting at that time. I was aware of their health benefits and had had one for many years and always planned to carry them, because they are health-related and can be a good gift too. People were finding us because we had them in the window and everyone was looking for them that year.

The synchronicities are kind of interesting. You trust your intuitive nudges and the universe provides another step, or shows up in ways you didn’t expect. I didn’t think salt lamps were going to be the big thing. I think it helped get the word out that Amora is here.

What do you enjoy most about owning and operating Amora Wellness & Gifts?
Helping people find solutions for the issues they’re dealing with. Having someone purchase something and come back to tell me, “Hey, that supplement’s really helping me,” or “I didn’t know you could buy natural cleaning supplies, and it worked for me.“ People are getting back in touch with natural options and enjoying it, and getting results with it. That’s really rewarding for me. It’s also been great getting to meet people.

I continue to learn. There are so many supplements out there. All this ancient wisdom from herbal traditions is coming back now it seems because people are ready for it. People still ask for things I’ve never even heard of yet. So I start learning about them. I’m continuously learning and don’t expect to ever stop. There’s always something new and interesting, but also old in some ways– many of these herbs have been used for thousands for years and we’re just rediscovering their power and their effectiveness. So it’s really been awesome finding out about these things, and connecting with people, and helping them on their healing journey.

What’s most challenging about owning and operating Amora?
Because I want to help everyone, and I want to serve people in this natural realm, when I can’t get something they’re looking for. Although I have some large vendors, sometimes someone’s looking for something I don’t have access to yet.

Sometimes people look for things that don’t fall in the natural category, and there’s that challenge of walking the line between what people want and what I feel good about offering. I’ve been researching and trying to be healthier for many years, so I’m an avid label reader. I’m always looking at ingredients and asking, “Are they necessary? Are they detrimental? Sometimes I have to be honest and say “That’s not something I can offer; it doesn’t fall under the mission of providing natural solutions for people.”

What future plans and/or goals do you have in mind for Amora?
We recently got a cooler, so we offer healthy drinks now, and also snacks. Often people end up reaching for chips and candy bars that aren’t really so healthy to help them get through their day, and there are options out there that actually are nourishing to your health, so we’re expanding that a little bit.

I’m really passionate about educating people on natural options. Right now, it’s about the product offerings, but eventually we may offer more workshops. I brought in a speaker on herbalism last spring. I’d also like to help people learn about eating cleaner, without genetically modified foods. I feel a lot of people have heard of this, but don’t really know what it means. I feel there are some health concerns and things we need to be aware of because we’re voting with our dollars. Anything you’re buying, you’re telling these companies you want more of it. So if we’re not paying attention, we may inadvertently send the message that we want more of this stuff that isn’t nourishing and maybe could be harmful to our health.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
We do offer some natural gifts—natural candles and incense, smudge sticks, jewelry handmade in Ishpeming, and other local gifts. In winter, we have some nice organic wool socks. If you want something in the natural realm, and I can get it from my vendors, I’m happy to order it for you.

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2019-2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. All rights reserved.

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