Keep on truckin': This freewheeling fashion boutique offers a new way to shop

It only seems fitting that someone named Mercedes Bell would open a boutique on wheels—and that's exactly what Bell did when she launched Lavora's Mobile Boutique earlier this year.

An emerging style entrepreneur, Bell had already been running her online boutique for over one year when she debuted the roving fashion truck in late July 2017. In the months since, the truck has made appearances at events like Glenville Community Festival, Soul of Buckeye, Battle of the Bands at Shaw High School, and the recent pop-up shop at Spaces.

"There are so many online boutiques that it's hard to attract a following," says Bell. "I always felt it would be easier to have a physical location, but I couldn't afford a brick-and-mortar [shop]. Now when people ask if I have a store, I say [the truck] is my store."

Bell initially got the idea to take her style show on the road while going through the AVIATRA Accelerators Explore Cohort (then Bad Girl Ventures) in 2016. A classmate who ran a mobile paint repair business suggested Bell consider the model after Bell lamented the costs involved with a physical storefront. With $10,000 in savings, Bell was able to not only launch her website, but purchase the trailer and amass inventory.

"I did some research and learned there were a few [mobile boutiques] in Ohio, as well as warmer states like Georgia and California," says Bell, who earned an MBA degree from South University last year. "Cleveland felt like the right city for this type of innovative idea."

Bell describes the clothing as "contemporary casualwear" most suitable for nightlife or special events, and her target audience consists of women between the ages of 21 and 40 years old. The inside of the truck resembles a "real" boutique—replete with chandelier, fitting room, and clothing displays.

Right now, Lavora's Boutique is Bell's side hustle, as she has a full-time job with Cleveland Metropolitan School District as an executive assistant. Her goals for 2018 include booking more events and birthday parties with the truck, growing her online sales, and eventually going full-time with the business. Bell recently participated in the AVIATRA Accelerators "Flight Night" pitch contest, which she says was a great source of exposure.

Bell points to other local mobile boutiques like the Wandering Wardrobe and Bomb Boutique as evidence of a growing trend. "It's nothing like how food trucks grew so fast, but it's catching on," says Bell. "The times are changing as far as [brick-and-mortar] stores closing, and I think mobile boutiques will really take off and start shopping this way because it is different."

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As a Cleveland native and enthusiast, Jen Jones Donatelli is thrilled to take on the managing editor role at FreshWater. As a full-time freelance writer and editor for more than a decade, Jen has contributed to publications including Redbook, Budget Travel, GOOD, Playboy, Thrillist, Cleveland Magazine, Los Angeles Confidential, San Francisco, Ohio Today, and many more. She is also a contributing editor for Destination Cleveland and a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
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