Fashion Export: Capital Idea

Photograph by Kate Warren

Corrine Marr was sure of two things after her 2005 graduation from Miami University: She wanted to live in Washington, D.C., and she wanted her own clothing boutique. Seven years after taking a consulting job in the district (where she still works full-time), the Silverton-born 29-year-old launched her online shop, Carnelian Boutique.

To ready herself for the task, Marr reached out to the owners of Juniper, the Oxford, Ohio, clothing shop where she worked after college. “At Juniper, I had been exposed to all aspects of the business, from ordering stock to customer service to working the register.” She also received invaluable advice about working with designers and selecting merchandise. Opening online has allowed Marr to work up a following, test her brand, and ensure she is offering the products her customers want.“One of the things I heard while doing my research was that women wanted the boutique feel but at reasonable prices,” she says. So Marr builds her business with a curated stash of playful, on-trend tops, dresses, and accessories—all at friendly prices.“I absolutely want to open a physical store,”she says,“but it’s a bigger investment than I could do on my own and I wanted to start.”

Once upon a time, Marr would have built shopper anticipation by prepping a storefront for its grand opening. But the ability to open a boutique with a keystroke means honing new strategies to drive traffic to her site. There are tweets and Facebook posts to write, Pinterest boards to update, and pop-up shops to host. Marr also meets regularly with a group of beauty and style bloggers in D.C. She quickly found that life online is equal parts fun and trouble.“When technology is working,”Marr says,“you can’t say enough good about it. But when it’s not, make sure you have a great IT person on your speed dial.”

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