Story By: Susan Lee
Photos By: Nelson LaPorte
It’s not easy to find the perfect fit. Whether it’s a little sundress or a cotton top, when it’s a good fit you just know it. For Pooler resident Amy Lee Westervelt, it was a longtime quest to find the life that fit her just right. It wasn’t easy, but she now has the life she envisioned for herself: a wonderful family and a thriving business as a retailer for the LuLaRoe fashion brand.
Amy Lee grew up on the South Shore of Boston in Pembroke, Mass. She graduated from Bridgewater State University with a degree in communication studies. After a stint as a wedding planner, she went back to school and received her degree in elementary education. She soon discovered that finding work as a teacher was more difficult than she expected. “There was so much bureaucracy involved in getting a classroom position and a lot of it comes down to knowing the right people,” said Amy Lee. She eventually took a position as assistant to the president of an educational consulting firm.
It was around that time that, in April of 2011, she gave up trying to meet the right single man in Boston and began to look farther South. “I had always been interested in Savannah, so when I was on a dating site I just typed in the city’s zip code.” And there she saw the photo of William, a father with five children. His profile said he loves his kids and that if you have kids, he’ll love them too.
It wasn’t long before Amy Lee made the trip to Savannah. The city and her new boyfriend were everything she had expected and much more. William was an Army Ranger and in May 2011, just after they met in person for the first time, he was sent to Afghanistan. “We had a long-distance love affair, this whirlwind romance that just looking back on makes me lose my breath,” recalled Amy Lee. “I would send him so many gifts in the mail, it was almost ridiculous. Books, games, candy. At his mail call, he would always get a bag full of presents.”
William was assigned to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah at the time and while he was in Afghanistan, he was notified that he was accepted into the Army’s officers commissioning program. He returned to Savannah and the couple was married that November in 2011 at the home of Amy Lee’s parents in Boston. William started his studies at Armstrong University two months later. In December 2013, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and received his commission.
After completing his officers’ training course, William received his next assignment: Fairbanks, Alaska. Three hours away from the Arctic Circle and as cold as 60 degrees below zero. Not exactly paradise. The couple began to consider their options.
“We probably could’ve transferred to another base, but we were both really wanting a different lifestyle for our family,” said Amy Lee. “It wasn’t conducive to the way we wanted to live our lives. We both had this vision of being together all the time. We’re best friends and we went through so much to be together. With him working and being away from us 8 hours every day, we realized we didn’t want to be apart that much.
We also didn’t want our human existence to be defined by jobs that we had to keep to sustain our lifestyle. We wanted more than that.” By now, Amy Lee and William had two young children in addition to William’s five.
“I had started to realize that, although the path I was on in the military was an honorable one and I was part of a brotherhood, it wasn’t necessarily what I want my legacy to be,” said William. “I had dreams of raising our children, owning land, helping people. So if she had a plan where I was out of the army and our family could thrive, I was all for it.”
Finding an alternative to their military life and William’s income took some time and research, but the answer ultimately landed almost on their doorstep. It came to them when Amy Lee had a yard sale.
“A girl came up to the sale and she had on this gorgeous skirt, so I complimented her,” said Amy Lee. “She thanked me and told me that she sells them. So she walked me to the back of her truck and she had all of these storage totes filled with maxi skirts and leggings. Then she invited me to her house to see all of the clothes.” The young woman, Dawn Davis, was an independent retailer for LuLaRoe and it didn’t take long for Amy Lee to see the possibilities for her family.
At first she partnered with a friend, Erin Hause, and the two scraped together the money to get started. In just three days, they had completely sold out of their entire inventory. “We were the first ones in the company to sell online,” recalls Amy Lee. “We would post images at midnight, and people would be on there right away, ready to buy.
The business grew and and in no time she was able to venture out on her own. Now her partner is William, who believed in Amy Lee and the business so strongly that he left the Army in 2016 with an honorable discharge to join her as operations manager. He jokes that he’s “employed by gratitude and glamour”.
“I started out doing the photography and the shipping as well as set up and breakdown for shows and events,” said William. “Now I’m also focusing on the marketing aspects and technical support. We’re trying to shift the business from mostly online sales and a Facebook presence to more of a local business.”
Amy Lee and William moved back to the Savannah area and settled in Pooler. They enjoy all the time they get to spend with each other and with their children: (from oldest to youngest) Autumn, Xavier, Scott, Emma, Amelia, Alannah, William and Evainne. Plus one more little Westervelt due July 10th.
When asked what advice she has for other women who are thinking about starting a business, Amy Lee said she is always inspired by “The Secret,” the best-selling self-help film and book based on the law of attraction and positive thinking.
“I would tell them that you have to first decide exactly what you want and why you want it,” she said. “Then you should decide that you want this more than you don’t. I didn’t have a choice. It was either do it or stay in Alaska. And then when you know what you want, grab on to it and dig in your heels.”