By: Molly Fitzpatrick
We had the opportunity to learn more about Christena Reinhard, the amazing woman behind Union & Fifth – a non-profit, online, fundraising platform turning donated women’s designer duds into cash for charity. Check out our conversation below, and view the Union & Fifth website for more information.
What inspired you to create Union & Fifth?
I was fundraising for an organization and had a donor who wanted to do something unique – so we cleaned out her closet, sold the contents online, and raised $43,000 – we built a Mac computer lab from old sweaters and handbags for young adults who could really benefit.
How did Union & Fifth become what it is today? How has Union & Fifth evolved over the years?
We owe everything to having great people willing to help. From the donation to start and sustain our operations to incredibly talented people willing to come work for non-profit salaries, we have had incredible women clean out, sending bags, literally 10,15 20 bags of filled with designer clothes – when I say that we rely on the kindness of strangers, I’m not exaggerating.
Is there something you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
The list of what I wish I had known when we started is longer than what we knew – we knew fundraising and what was hiding in women’s closets – the rest we learned along the way – from the cost of customer acquisition to the realities of how much a website is really a living, breathing thing! I have learned that you learn the most from the mistakes – even when they are painful. And that if you ask for help, and you should ask everyone for help, most people want to help a good cause.
Describe your brand in three words.
Fashion as a Force (OK, that’s 4… )
At JCK we love the idea of using fashion as a force for good. Are there any charities that speak to you most/is there one charity you connect with most?
I have had some incredible experiences working with so many great organizations – from the high profile of working with Carrie Ann Inaba’s Animal Foundation to a program in Massachusetts called Achieve where the moms have embraced cleaning out their closets as a new norm, the organizations that choose to integrate a Union & Fifth campaign into their fundraising efforts with fervor all have one thing in common I have noticed- they have leadership willing to embrace innovation to best connect with their donor – and that is what I connect with the most.
What has been the biggest challenge/reward of your career?
Starting Union & Fifth has been the hardest and most rewarding thing have ever done – I get such a thrill when it comes time to send the checks to the charities!
What are the most stand-out/unique jewelry pieces you’ve seen for sale on Union & Fifth?
There was this amazing Yves Saint Laurent flower ring that I can’t believe I didn’t buy…. And the Bedat with the diamond bezel was pretty spectacular!
What is one item you’d be willing to splurge on? Have you ever splurged on any items listed on Union & Fifth?
Full disclosure I am a total shopper, I shop on Union & Fifth all the time, luckily that means I can donate too! I would totally splurge on an Alexander McQueen knuckle clutch – it is like jewelry.
What is one jewelry item you couldn’t live without?
I always wear a right-hand ring (in addition to my wedding rings of course) My favorite is by my friend Ashley Berman of Ashley Morgan Designs. It is a custom Rose cut pink tourmaline oval ring in white gold with intricate diamond pave detailing and a gold Florentine engraved cigar band in 18 karat yellow gold – it is everything she learned in jewelry school in one piece, it is as dramatic as they come, and I was lucky to receive it to mark my 40th birthday.
What is your favorite quote or personal mantra?
“Eyes on your own paper” seems to be serving me well these days … in other words, I have stopped comparing myself and Union & Fifth to what others are doing and we are just trying to be the best that we can be.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a business owner/entrepreneur?
ASK QUESTIONS, and then ask some more. Humility and kindness get you further than not.
How do you see your business evolving in the future? What about the industry as a whole?
We all hear that retail is dead, I am convinced that people who don’t shop are saying that. What I really think it means is that retail is evolving. I also think that e-com is not all that it is cracked up to be – it’s not the magic bullet. If it was why would Mod Cloth, Amazon, Warby Parker and the Real Real be putting up stores? Rather, I think that retail is evolving – customers don’t want to walk into a messy store, with apathetic service filled with things that weren’t worth going in there for in the first place. We are looking at ways that we can make both the donation and the buying experience easier for the customer and more cost effective for us.
In general, what is your go-to source for inspiration?
The non-profits that we support inspire me daily – we have the luxury of being a mission-driven organization and when we face a challenge, and we don’t know what to do, we ask ourselves “what is best for the charities”? The stories that these incredible organizations share with us make my job seem so easy.
What’s next for your company?
POP UPS! We are opening our first pop-up in the Bay Area this summer with our eyes on one on the east coast (fingers crossed) in the fall.
Christena Reinhard is the co-founder of Union & Fifth. Not one to color inside the lines, Christena graduated from Cambridge College after taking a circuitous route to college and went on to earn her MBA from University of San Francisco, “just to see if she could do it”. After traipsing through Corporate America with limited excitement, she discovered her business development skills could be applied to non-profit fundraising. Thus, began her love affair with fundraising and what she calls doing “sales for the good guys.” She finally found her niche. In 2012 she cleaned out a closet, sold the contents online, and raised $43,000 for charity inspiring Christena and her sister in law Pam Trefler to start Union & Fifth. Since launching online in 2014 she has since cleaned out the closets of celebrities, socialites and her poor unsuspecting friends – all in the name of supporting the incredible organizations that are working to make the world a little better. Christena Lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband of forever and their two Old English Sheepdogs, London & Zeppelin, who make frequent appearances on Union & Fifth’s social media.