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Military spouse finds success in retail

From bows to arrows

Carmen Flores, owner of Bow and Arrow Children’s Boutique. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Carmen Flores, a military spouse and owner of Bow and Arrow Children's Boutique in the Capital Mall in Olympia, has come a long way from making and selling bows she made at home. Her mall business is a bright and cheerful boutique specializing in unique toys and clothing items for children.

"I started small, making bows and selling at events, fairs and as a vendor at the Base Exchange," Flores explained.  When she decided to open a store, she knew "Bow" would have to be in the name because that was how she started. "I choose the arrow because the store was going to have items for boys and girls, and it is a strong symbol," she said.

Acquiring and running a mall business can be a big challenge for new entrepreneurs.  

"I believe it takes passion, hard work and commitment to run a small business," Flores said. "It is important to have a business plan, working capital, and the appropriate state and federal licenses and insurance to start your business. Your local SBA office is a great resource as well as your local college. It is also important to research locations and analyze the current market in that area. Inquire with the mall leasing manager for more specific details on leasing requirements as each property manager is different."

Flores hired two part-time associates and a seasonal associate.

Many small businesses fail in their first few years, but Flores believes you can learn from your mistakes.

"I think the ultimate risk in entrepreneurship is failure," she said. "However, failure is not the end. I believe there will always be losses throughout your entrepreneurial journey, but it is how you recuperate, adjust and make appropriate changes that will help overcome your challenges."

Like many military spouses, Flores will face a possible PCS move in the future. Her advice is to "prepare early. Research and find the proper resources to help with the move. In the event of a PCS move, I would have enough time to plan what would be best for our family, whether that is hiring a manager or relocating the business," she said.

Flores offers the following guidance to military spouses who might be interested in starting their own business.

"I would advise to never give up and to keep working toward your dream, especially if what you are doing is something you are most passionate about. Be persistent even when others tell you no. Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Do not worry too much about what the other person is doing or what other people think of you because that is time taken away from how you can be innovating and moving forward. Be open to change and find creative ways to work through challenges. Be kind, honest, patient and show genuine interest in others. Write down your goals and take steps to reach your goals every day, even if they are small steps. Do not let a bad day or a tough week bring you down because sometimes the toughest situation is where most the important lesson is learned."

Bow and Arrow Children's Boutique, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, 625 Black Lake Blvd. SW #H-11, Olympia, 360.539.7433

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