MiMe Gets Prime Space in ‘Small Shop Showdown’

NILES, Ohio – For almost all her life, Renee Malutic has worked for someone else. But as the winner of the Eastwood Mall’s Small Shop Showdown she’ll have a chance to be her own boss as the owner of MiMe.

“This is going to change my life because I get up and go to work for someone else every day,” she said. “I’m going to be coming to work for myself but it’s almost like every one of my life’s experiences so far has brought me right to this point where I’m able to grow and make my own business happen.”

MiMe creates miniaturized versions of customers, utilizing proprietary 3D printing technology. Customers will be able to see themselves recreated in several sizes, from three to eight inches tall. The full-color figurines, which range in price from $50 to $500,  can be used as keepsakes for friends and relatives, milestones to chart a child’s growth, toppers for wedding cakes or gifts for business events. 

Staff at the Cafaro Co. are always looking to reinvent and reinvest in their properties, said director of corporate communications, Joe Bell. In the creation of the contest, which drew about 20 applicants, it was important for the mall developer reach out to those who have their own ideas for a business, but were wary about renting a space for it and taking the next step. 

“One of the things our leaders always believed in is reinventing the mall and reinvesting in it and this is one way of doing it,” he said. “It’s an original idea to bring forward new and fresh retail concepts. That’s what keeps Eastwood Mall fresh.” 

Applicants talked over business plans with Cafaro staff, detailing how they would execute it, as well as how their products or services stand out from the competition.

“It was a difficult choice but we came up with this one,” Bell said. “It’s the next step in photography beyond 2D into 3D.”

As the winner of the Small Shop Showdown, MiMe will receive six months free rent in Eastwood’s central court, assistance with marketing and furnishings for the store. The shop will open for business July 22.

“Advertising and getting your name out there is the biggest jump start and kick for a company just starting out,” she said.

The particular six month time frame, between July and January, was chosen to allow foot traffic and sales to increase for the winner. 

“Holiday shopping season is the busiest time of year between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, but the second biggest is the back to school season which begins in late July,” he said. “She’ll be able to leverage tremendous traffic throughout the mall and it gives her a prime opportunity to expose her product to the public.” 

While Malutic has long wanted to own her own business, 3D printing wasn’t in the cards until recently, she said.

“I was introduced to additive manufacturing in my job five or six years ago,” Malutic said. “I have a friend who owns a 3D ColorJet printer who introduced this to me and we talked and said, ‘Well wouldn’t it be cool if we could print figurines.’ ”

Malutic noted that MiMe won’t be an e-commerce company because producing the figurines requires taking photographs of the subject. When a subject’s picture is taken, her system takes 200 pictures from every angle within one quarter of a second in the 3D photo booth. 

“We [then] send those photos through the proprietary software to create a 3D model out of the photograph,” she said. “From there, our graphic artist will touch it to make sure your not missing anything – thumb, pinky, finger. We print one inch roughly per hour but the printer has the capacity to print 21 MiMe’s at one time. That may be a six hour print. If we were to print one alone, it will take an hour and a half.”

Any pose can be done for the figurine as long as the person is standing within range of the camera inside of the photo booth, where there are directions on where and how to stand. More than $150,000 as been invested into the business at this point, Malutic said, and she also has plans to go global with her product. 

“The goal is to pursue affiliate photographers to offer MiMe’s and be able to give them designs for the mobile 3D photo booth and we can work out a percent of sales to that effect,” she said. “The goal is to acquire hopefully at least five photographers per year over the next five years and we’re not going to wait.” 

The community and customers in the general area are tech savvy, Malutic said. She thinks people will be interested in seeing the uniqueness of this and knowing that it’s another avenue of 3D printing. 

“You’re going to go through an experience. It’s not like coming in to pick a blouse off the shelf you like the most,” she said. “You come in and get this MiMe figurine and it’s actually you.”

Pictured: Cafaro Co. specialty leasing director Vince Gelonese and co-president Anthony Cafaro Jr. congratulated Small Shop Showdown winner Renee Malutic Tuesday morning.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.