Known on social media as an influencer, blogger, and entrepreneur, Whitney Rife is most of all a classic fashionista. Whitney grew up in a small town in Virginia named Tazewell, which she loves dearly. It only has a few stoplights but is full of wonderful people. On the weekend, Whitney and her mom traveled to towns such as Charlotte, Winston Salem, and Johnson City to find cute outfits. Shopping sprees were and still are their tradition and are Whitney’s favorite memories of quality time with her mother. Whitney has always loved clothes and dressing up, which is why she always knew she wanted to own a boutique. It is no surprise that Whitney’s senior superlative was best dressed when she graduated from high school in 2009.
Although everyone in Whitney’s family is a die-hard Virginia Tech fan, she had other plans in mind for her college education. Whitney’s second home has always been the Grand Strand because this is where her family would vacation at their condo. At the time, Coastal Carolina University was a smaller school and Whitney wanted that kind of accountability and connection with her professors. Once she landed her dream job of working at the Foxy Lady, her parents knew there was no way she would go anywhere else for college. The Foxy Lady is where Whitney bought all of her prom dresses and is the boutique that inspired her the most while creating the business plan for her own boutique.
The last week of her college classes, Whitney convinced her CCU business professors to let her opt out of the standard finals, and instead implement her business plan. She said to them, “I am not a great test taker. Let me do this and show you that with everything you taught me, I will successfully open up my business.” And sure enough, they all said yes. The Retail Therapist opened online on May 1st, 2014. She missed walking at her graduation to debut her first pop-up boutique which took place at the Beaver Bar for bike week. She said, “The coolest part was that all of my professors came out to see my booth and that just goes to show how awesome small schools and small towns are. It made my grand opening experience so much better.”
Whitney graduated with a bachelor’s in management and a minor in marketing. She focused on entrepreneurship and small business organizations. During the summer after her graduation, Whitney opened up a big mobile boutique using a box truck full of beautiful clothes, fitting rooms, and mirrors. She traveled around taking it to events while her family was in the process of gutting an old auto parts store to make room for her perfect boutique. The Retail Therapist had its grand opening at the physical location in Tazwell, VA, on May 24th, 2015. Whitney’s office has leopard carpet which reminds her of Foxy Lady and her boutique continually strives to capture the hospitality she learned while working there.
Whitney explained, “When you walked into Foxy Lady, they always made you feel like a million dollars. That’s what the most important part of my store is, and all my employees know it. It doesn’t matter if someone has zero money, or if someone has saved up working in town to come in and get something special, or if someone makes all the money in the world and could shop every day. No matter who they are, they deserve to feel like a million bucks and should get the best treatment. My staff helps pick out the best styles for customers. They bring out the jewelry and anything extra that would make them feel amazing about themselves, even if they aren’t buying any of it. This is especially vital for young girls because you never know whose life you’re shaping when they walk through that door, I mean, that’s what happened to me at Foxy Lady.”
Whitney’s brother and mom are a huge help with the boutique, and they all go to market together. They can see the new styles a year in advance when shopping for her merchandise. This year, she says the little dickies (fake turtlenecks) are back in as well as anything oversized. Dock Martins, Shackets, tights, sweater dresses, and in the summer a lot of two-piece outfits will be trending. She is hoping the rumors of yellow purses do trend; she is all aboard for that.
Whitney says she is a colorful person, but only wears bright colors in the summer. She used to wear all sorts of colors. As she has gotten older, she has found that neutrals are more her style and likes to add just a pop of color through her accessories. Whitney’s favorite way to “dress-up” is with her handbags and shoes. The cowboy boot and rhinestone glam look is one of her most beloved styles. She does love jewelry but has moved further away from costume jewelry and is now more into classic and timeless pieces. Her favorite jewelry to accessorize with is statement earrings. She also loves to dress up her home for all holidays and misses hosting and entertaining while gathering with friends.
Whitney’s Instagram biography reads, “I hope you like clothes & believe in love, you’re going to see a lot of it here.” This could not be more true. On top of all of her love for clothes, accessories, products, and house décor, her biggest love is her family. Whitney first met her husband, Shawn, at the Murrells Inlet MarshWalk. They stayed friends for years and although she always admired him, she knew they were in different stages of life. She was still in college and Shawn had already graduated from Clemson University and had his own business and career. A year after she graduated, started her business, and moved back to Virginia, Whitney and her brother visited the beach for a friend’s wedding. Shawn was attending the same wedding, and they both happened to be single at the time. With Whitney’s go-getter attitude plus a little liquid courage, she asked Shawn to dance with her to Purple Rain. Whitney said, “We made plans to go to brunch the next morning and he stood me up. Luckily, he did have a great excuse and then made up for it with a motorcycle ride to the fair in Myrtle Beach, and the rest is history.”
Whitney officially moved back to the Grand Strand in 2017 and now lives with her husband and three-year-old son, Bo, in a beautiful waterfront home in Murrells Inlet. Every Friday, she and Shawn take a date night and phones are put away. On the weekends, she does not do try-ons or share ads. Her posts are lighthearted and all about Becker family fun, which mostly involves boat days. Whitney was never a huge romantic and did not even know if children were in her future. Now, she does not know how she could have ever felt that way because Bo is her favorite person and has brought a whole new beautiful meaning to her life. She says, “Bo is full of love and life and acts so much like me, God Bless my husband!” When she became pregnant, she knew she was not done inventing herself and still had plenty of goals, but she was surprised to discover how well she was able to still do it all.
According to social media, the word “followers” is the number of people who follow and keep up with someone’s everyday posts and stories. Whitney is not a fan of the word and says the new thing is to refer to them as “supporters.” She hopes those who do “support” her feel like they can still have all their dreams, while also being a wife and mother. Now, as a well-versed blogger and influencer, she has 353,000 that really do support her and know her.
Whitney explains, “My supporters know I love fast food and doughnuts, and they’ll know if I post something ingenuine. It’s really cool that they know me so well. I only accept ads that are products that I actually love or would purchase myself. I will ask my supporters what their favorite and least favorite thing is they have bought. I am always trying to learn, and it helps me reevaluate what works for people. For example, I try out face products for a month at a time and share my results. Everyone’s skin is different and it’s all a learning experience. Too many people in this industry try to fit the mold of their followers and are scared to say or do certain things even it’s true to them. It’s always been important for me to not be who I think they want me to be, but just be the real me. I don’t care much of what mean trolls have to say, because I know at the end of the day, I have been unapologetically, truly myself. Being real, honest, and relatable is what it’s all about.”
Whitney’s most treasured part of being an influencer is her ability to contribute unique experiences for her family. In March of 2020, she got her dream collaboration with Disney. They planned an all-inclusive two-week trip for her family and treated them like rock stars. It was the first trip for them to take as a family. Whitney said, “To be able to have all of my hard work pay off and be the reason this trip happened, it’s so rewarding. The fact that it’s provided more than just things, it was the moments we spent together. It was awesome to see Bo so excited and to see these benefits come to life. I honestly see benefits daily just because I really love my job but being able to incorporate my family into it makes my family feel so proud.”
Whitney says, “My biggest lesson of 2020 is to always stay true to who you are through crazy times. To learn to just roll with it because there are constant things that are uncontrollable and there’s nothing we can do other than keep on going. I was always very in control of everything, but when the pandemic happened, it was time for me to understand that it’s okay to not have it all together. Prior to COVID-19, I had plans to travel for two weeks each month. I would have spent all that time away from Bo and missed his year as a three-year-old. It was a blessing to learn how to slow down and be home with my family. To know that I don’t have to go do all these things to have a great year, or to be successful, or to be a great mom. It was a rude, but good awakening for people to understand that’s how life works. This year was so hard on so many. Somehow throughout all the crazy, I actually adored this year because it was real and raw. My family and my relationship with my husband grew and we learned how to make life work in a new way. We also learned how to help Bo through this stage of life. I felt like we’ve become better parents and partners. I just had to remind myself to slow down and recognize everything happens for a reason. I took time to enjoy these special moments.”
Whitney’s 2021 goals are to continue to work only with brands that she truly admires. She is hoping to have a personal Whitney Rife collection, and hopefully, a western cowgirl boot collection, which would be her absolute dream. She also wants to find a way to host an influencer retreat as they are all friends and chat via phone already. She strives to continue to be an honest and real mom, wife, and influencer. She left me with the quote: “I love being a light, or a big sister, or just being a resource for anyone and everyone who needs it. I am just living my real life in real-time with real products.”
To see Whitney’s product reviews and fashion blog, check out @WhitneyRife on Instagram.
To shop with Whitney, visit her online boutique at www.shopretailtherapist.com