EP16 – How a College Grad Turned a 17 Year Old Van Into a Mobile Boutique

Listen to the Episode Below (45 minutes, 20 seconds)

Laura graduated from school with a fashion merchandising degree and really enjoyed her experience in retail; however, she was conflicted about what to do after school because she was not happy with the fashion industry and it’s corruption and use of sweat shops.

Laura knew that she wanted to start a fair trade sourced business and to sell it in a cool boutique shop.  After she created her business plan for her physical store, she realized that she didn’t have the funds to open up a physical store.

However, after her friend sent her info on mobile stores, she knew that it was the next best option, so she hired a consultant that had a mobile store to help her get started.

That’s when she bought her UPS-style truck, wrapped it with her logo and set off to start selling out of her mobile boutique.

In this podcast you’ll learn:

  1. How to start and operate a shop out of a truck
  2. How and why she sources fair trade sustainable products
  3. Where she finds influential bloggers to write about her store



Tin Lizzy
Laura Layton from ShopTinLizzy.com

Let’s dive into the details…


  • Mata Traders – fair trade clothing for women (http://www.matatraders.com/)


  • Graduated from college with a fashion merchandising degree
  • Worked for fair trade companies
  • Tin Lizzy was the first shot at owning a business


Turning a van into a mobile boutique

  • Paid $5,800 for the truck and wrapped with the logo and information was $2,000
  • Converted a UPS-style truck into a mobile boutique
  • 65 square feet, has wood floors, framed with walls, shelves and a dressing room
  • Drive around the DC, Baltimore area and go to different markets, festivals and street fairs
  • Permits to operate out of the street and needs a different one for different areas and cities
    • Requires an application, vehicle information, sometimes pictures, copy of driver’s license
    • Permit ranges between $75 to $500 per year
  • Private party service to sell at pre-arranged parties and fundraisers



  • Learned about fair trade and the corruption in the fashion industry and didn’t want to perpetuate the problem
  • Sells all fair trade, sustainably and locally sourced clothing and accessories
  • Wanted to sell fair trade inventory in a boutique environment
  • Buys from organizations that work directly with artisans in impoverished regions
    • Ensures artisans are paid a fair living wage
  • Customers are excited by fair trade and appreciate the hand-made products



  • Take the wholesale price, double it and add a dollar for shipping
  • If an item hasn’t sold in 45 days, mark it down to get rid of it (goal is to maximize retail space)


From planning to execution

  • Wrote a business plan and sent it around to friends and family
  • Going from planning to action: “the time will never be perfect to start” so don’t wait for the perfect moment
  • Sharing the business plan with people helped Laura take action


Biggest impact on traffic and sales

  • Being featured on blogs drives a lot of traffic and sales
  • Found bloggers through Instagram and bloggers also reach out to her