When Whitney Rife Becker started her boutique, The Retail Therapist, she had one goal in mind — to cater to the women who work hard all week just to buy one dress.
But her dream has taken her to levels she didn’t expect. The Murrells Inlet local has over 90,000 Instagram followers and also runs a blog where she talks about her husband, son and life.
Rife, originally from Tazewell, Virginia, opened The Retail Therapist as an online boutique during her senior year at Coastal Carolina University. Originally working out of her parents’ garage to package clothes, Rife, who goes by her maiden name on Instagram, built the company up, opening a brick-and-mortar store in North Tazewell on May 28, 2015.
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In 2014, Rife was enrolled in CCU’s business program. During her senior year, Rife proposed the unconventional idea of opening and running a boutique in place of taking final exams to her professors.
During the 2014 Bike Week, Rife set up shop in front of the Beaver Bar with the help of her parents and brother, a decision that caused her to not be able to walk at her college graduation.
Building a makeshift fitting room made out of PVC pipe, Rife and her family stayed at the booth from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. the entire week.
A year later, Rife opened her boutique in Virginia. Now, she manages 14 employees with the help of her brother. She recently added Beach Therapy, a tanning salon, and a monogramming option to her services.
Now, Rife sells dresses, shoes, accessories and more. All of the items are under $100, with the highest ranging into the low $70.
Instagram and blogging
As a junior in college, Rife was introduced to the blogging world by a close friend.
At the time, Rife had been Instagramming her daily outfits. She spent most of her time working at Foxy Lady, a local store, and other small clothing stores.
Rife decided to buy the domain name Whitney Rife and start blogging on whitneyrife.com. She hired a web designer who still helps with maintaining the website and for creating business cards.
“Then it didn’t cost a lot of money because I already had the clothes,” Rife said. “Now, you can shop the post. You’ve got to keep current with the times. It costs a lot of money now.”
Shop the post is creating a post that links to big-name retailers, meaning bloggers have to spend money on the clothes in order to create the post. According to Rife, bloggers can spend close to $100 on a sweater and only gain four followers.
But Rife has switched her focus to Instagram, where she posts outfits created from her boutique, and sponsored posts, where businesses pay Instagrammers to use and promote their products.
“I only work with brands who I feel comfortable with,” Rife said. “A lot of us turn down a lot of work too. It just means we don’t feel comfortable with that product.”
Rife’s Instagram is filled with posts of her modeling clothes from The Retail Therapist and pictures with her husband, Shawn Becker, and soon-to-be 1-year-old son Bo. She also posts selfies taken in the “selfie room.”
The room, which is right off of her office, is decorated with a fluffy, light pink ottoman, a white plant and a mirror. The point is to create a brand, like the red Target symbol, that people recognize.
When she’s taking a selfie, Rife said, it takes her about eight different tries to take one she likes.
Some of the pictures are her posing with different items or outside of her house. Rife said she has her husband or Bo’s babysitter take the shots, usually just on her phone. With these, she posts the first one taken.
But her Instagram story, which can show videos and photos, displays more of her real life.
On there, Rife posts pictures of herself without makeup, videos of her son and other day-to-day activities like going to the DMV.
“It’s a place I’m proud of,” Rife said. “You’ll see a lot of my life. You’ll see me being a mom on there, you’ll see a lot of everything on there.”
And for Rife, that’s the goal of her Instagram — to show the ups and downs of motherhood and everyday life.
Shawn, Bo and the family life
Rife originally met her husband in college, but they didn’t start dating until they reconnected at a wedding.
“I came out of the bathroom and my heart literally stopped,” Rife said. “I literally knew we were meant to be together.”
Rife and Becker tied the knot in April 2018. The couple had found out they were pregnant with Bo in 2017.
Being pregnant before marriage was something Rife was originally reluctant to reveal to her followers.
Ultimately, though, she realized how important it is to show her followers what she is going through in important stages of her life.
Coming from a small town, Rife believes it’s important to show via Instagram that she is just like anyone else.
“I wanted to be that person who says if you’re scared, that’s okay,” Rife said. “I try to be relatable to people. I don’t eat all this healthy food ... I guess because I keep it real.”
Recently, Rife has shared videos of Bo taking steps for one of the first times and moments of him laughing at something Rife or Becker said or did. Photos with her husband often appear as they enjoy life in the inlet, taking part in Bike Week and spending time with friends.
Being able to show those positive aspects on her Instagram has allowed Rife to connect with people through the social media site and out in the community.
“Moments like that is when I get really excited,” Rife said.