A Q&A With Christena Reinhard, President and Founder, Union & Fifth
Melissa Campanelli: Tell me about your role at Union & Fifth. What do you do every day, and who do you oversee?
Christena Reinhard: I founded Union & Fifth, a nonprofit fundraising platform that raises money for charity by reselling donated designer women’s clothes. We've recently been asked to do some consumer social responsibility (CSR) consulting with brands, and have since launched a consulting arm as well. I feel like most days I'm in meetings or on the phone — and I know other WIRLC members feel this way too. My focus on a daily basis is how best to engage brands, retailers and donors with charities doing awesome work with a few really great “outfit of the days” thrown in.
MC: Describe your leadership style.
CR: I hire really awesome people who know what they're doing and let them do their best work. My background in sales and fundraising makes me understand how much people dislike being micromanaged, so I try to avoid that for the sake of everyone’s sanity. I make a point of finding people that may not be perfect on paper but who just need a shot, give them the space and support to do well, and then stand back. I once had an employee tell me that I'm the toughest boss and the nicest boss. I believe in honest, thoughtful feedback. So I guess you could say I'm high support, high expectations.
MC: To whom do you turn for inspiration in your career?
CR: I'm so lucky to have the opportunity to be inspired by fabulous nonprofits doing important work every day. It's tough to not be inspired by their kindness, diligence and scrappiness. I've also found that there's so much talent leading nonprofits, and have curated an awesome group of female executive directors with whom I can commiserate and by whom I'm inspired
MC: What's the best advice you've ever received? Why was it so important?
CR: That the only things I will regret are the things I've never tried. I once read that men will do something if they have 60 percent of the requirements, and women wait until they have 80 percent. That really stuck with me. I figured that if I'm up against someone who may not be any better than I am but who is braver than I am, what do I have to lose? I also like, “put on some lipstick and show up,” which is basically the same thing.
MC: Can you share a productivity tip you swear by?
CR: Can I answer “coffee”? Long story short — my husband is an Ironman triathalete. He used to have a two-hour commute to work every day, and yet he made time to get his training in. The lesson there is that you have time for things that you make time for, and those are the things you deem important enough to make the time for. I calendar everything. If it isn’t in my calendar, it isn’t going to happen. Included in that is my fitness. I do my best work when I feel good, and that includes working out. So whether it's a run with my dogs or time with a TRX coach, it goes in my calendar so I make time.
MC: What retail trends are you tracking for 2018?
CR: I don’t believe retail is dead or dying. I believe that crappy retail does need to go away. Apathetic sales people and piles of jumbled product aren’t enticing to anyone.
I'm watching the evolution of how online brands are engaging brick-and-mortar. I was recently in Boston and visited the M.Gemi try-on boutique. Solving the cost of inventory while addressing the customer experience in new and creative ways is really interesting.
But of course, my love for philanthropy wins out, and I can't wait to see retailers engage their employees and customers with meaningful philanthropy and CSR work. Tech giant Salesforce.com has proven that it matters what you do in the world, and retail needs to step up. Eileen Fisher has proven that sustainability is possible and important. A well-thought out approach to sustainability and philanthropy as an engagement tool for customers is becoming more important every day — just ask the millennial and Gen Z customers that retailers are trying to attract.
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