The State:

Gwen Rawls spent 24 years working for UPS. Now, she is stepping out on her own – combining her “passion for fashion” with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Rawls will open an Italian shoe boutique in mid-August at Trenholm Plaza in Forest Acres.

The Conway native said she has traveled often to Europe and always has been inspired by the fashions there. “I wanted to bring that to Columbia,” she said.

Rawls said she always has wanted to start a business and shoes seemed like a natural fit.

“Oftentimes, when I was planning an outfit, it would start with my shoes,” she said. “I’ve always viewed the shoes as my foundation.”

Rawls got serious about starting her own business a couple of years ago, traveling to Milan in March to meet with designers and develop her own collection. That trip confirmed what she already had set in motion. “I knew, ‘Yes, this is what I want to do, and I am going to do it,’ ” she said.