May 20, 2021
Tarrah Bouts knew what path she needed to take to start her career – and it included getting her associate’s degree from Shawnee State University. A 2004 alumna with a degree in Business Administration focused on Entrepreneurship, Bouts set off with a goal to start her own business. Now she is the owner of Amelia Gray Skincare & Cosmetics in Portsmouth, Ohio, and has continued to grow and expand her business with the skillsets she built a foundation for in her undergraduate career.
Graduating from Clay High School, Bouts was offered a scholarship to attend SSU. Originally thinking her career would take her into healthcare, she quickly realized her true passion was in entrepreneurship.
“I find a lot of people coming to me now and the thing I hear a lot is ‘I want to be my own boss and I want to pave my own path,’” she said. “I think, to some degree, all entrepreneurs have that quality, but for me it was more about the thought of making that name for yourself or being able to give back to your community in some way.”
Working for a small local business makeup counter throughout high school and all of her college career, Bouts recognized it was an industry that was underrepresented in the area. Once she obtained her associate’s degree, she enrolled into a beauty school focusing specifically in the aesthetics program. She graduated from her program and then started working in a salon at her own booth.
“You know, it went college degree, beauty school, licensure, certification, and then I started working for myself right away because that was the only true career option at that time – to work for yourself and wear every single hat,” she said. “I felt lucky because I had that college background that gave me a head start.”
After working in a salon environment for ten years and building a lot of clientele relationships, she knew she wanted to move forward and do something else in her career.
“Having little kids at home, it all kind of became too much and I knew the next thing would be a burnout if I didn’t get a handle on what was going on,” she said. “That was when Amelia Gray was born – it’s actually named after my daughter Amelia and my son Grayson.”
Going on six years in business, Bouts continues to grow her company every day by offering new services, bringing in new professionals, and growing the community she serves.
We started in an 820-square foot location with four staff members and were open only four days a week,” she said. “Now, we’re in a 2,400 square-foot location and during our four years in this space we’ve added massage therapy, grown our aesthetics department, added lash and brow artists, started the county’s first blowout bar, and we’re offering full-scale salons services as well. We now employ twenty individuals and we’re open seven days a week.”
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when many businesses were first shutdown, she decided to lend her services another way to help with the state’s reopening plan for salons and spas after requesting a spot on the governor’s advisory board.
“It made me proud to not only represent our area, but to share my opinion and have it heard and validated,” she said. “It made me feel super confident and even calm about reopening because back then we didn’t know a lot about COVID-19. It was a great experience, and I was happy to be a part of that.”
Bouts still continues to share her experiences with her alma mater, speaking with Business Administration classes on campus to tell her story.
“The one piece of advice I give everyone goes back to the question of ‘why?’” she said. “Look for the hole in the market – where is something missing? You don’t have to have every detail figured out. You don’t have to have everything planned. You don’t have to have every budgetary number in place, but you have to have an idea and know what people want. You have to know how to speak to those people and that’s the key to success in entrepreneurship.”
Bouts is married to Shawnee State alumnus Ryan Bouts and the pair share two children Grayson and Amelia.
This spotlight is part of an ongoing series by the SSU Alumni Association in celebration of the university’s 35 Years milestone. To learn more about alumni making a difference in their careers, visit shawneestatealumni.com for more features.