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Turning love of fashion into a portable career

Military spouse blogs about the Pacific Northwest while modeling her clothes

Olivia Harrell models an outfit from her store, Liv and Rory, now open in Puyallup. Photo provided by Olivia Harrell

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Air Force Spouse Olivia Harrell, owner of Liv and Rory, has always loved fashion, but dreams of being a visual merchandiser or buyer for a retail store did not fit in with the frequent moves of military life. Like many military spouses, she found a solution by opening her own business.

"Owning my own boutique means I can be both," Harrel explained. "When I opened in November, I knew we would be moving soon so I kept my boutique online with a plan to open a storefront after we PCSed."

In addition to fashion, Harrell loves to write. Adding a blog to her boutique website was a natural fit. In her blog posts, she shares day trips in the areas surrounding Joint Base Lewis-McChord with bright photos of herself wearing the clothes she sells. It gives shoppers an idea on how to wear and style her clothing.

Prior to moving to Washington, she would host Sip and Shop events in her home. "My number one goal for our time here in Washington is to open my store front. I won't spill the beans yet, but fingers crossed, I'm in negotiations on a space right now! Once open, I will have monthly Sip and Shop events which will offer special discounts and activities. I'm also debating kids' activities to offer during the summertime," she said. Liv and Rory Boutique opened June 15 in downtown Puyallup.

She takes inspiration for the styles she selects in a variety of places. "I feel like I have a pretty good sense of fashion, so a lot of times I choose things I like. I also frequently visit shops and browse fashions online to get a sense of the styles and trends that are going on right now."

Owning a business is challenging, especially with frequent moves to different areas of the country where regulations vary. "Each state is different so it requires a bit of research. Some states require you to file in your state and city, and others just require one or the other. It can be confusing, but pretty much every state has a phone number help line to make online registration and filing easier. Taxes are actually pretty easy; the system I use to run my boutique calculates taxes for me and I file them with the state."

One unexpected challenge is how she is perceived as a military spouse. "I do feel like a lot of people don't take me seriously. They write me off as someone that's going to be gone in a few years, so I'm not worth their time. A particular leasing company would not even consider me for space because I was military and needed a military clause in the lease. They wanted me to sign a 10-year lease and that just wasn't plausible for us. Luckily, the company I'm working with now has been very gracious and considerate of us being a military family."

Her words of wisdom to military spouses contemplating opening their own business are: "As a military spouse it makes perfect sense to work from home or own your own business. It's a struggle to plan around deployments and trainings, especially if you have kids. I would say to strive for your dreams and go for it! Plan to be able to take the business with you wherever you go and know that you're building a network of friends that will support you all over the globe."

Liv and Rory Boutique, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday; noon to 5 p.m., Sunday (May-August), 116 S. Meridian St., Puyallup, 863.701.6509,

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