My family has always been in the business of consignment whether they were aware of it or not.
Rewind to a time when everyone in this photo was alive. 1994. Life was simpler, tech wasn’t cool, wearing used clothes meant you were poor and everyone thought they’d make millions on their Beanie Baby collection.
Just a few months after this picture was taken we would lose my great-grandma and two years later my Grandma would also suddenly pass. My mom and I are here today & carry the used-goods genes that these two passed down.
Okay, my Great-Grandma first:
If being a female entrepreneur in the used goods industry was a thing in 1940, it would’ve been the oldest women in this photo who would’ve started it.
HYON should have been a legacy business. If it was, we’d be celebrating 80 years this year (and in her honour, I will bake a cake and celebrate the genes & grit she gave me to start this company).
My Great Grandma cared about her family, she cared about how they were perceived in the world around them.
She wanted the best for her family – but often couldn’t afford it. If she had the support of her community (in the way I have), if her husband would have been okay with her working (in the way mine has been), and perhaps if others had been around to help raise her children (in the way our neighbours have helped us), guaranteed HYON would be a 80-year old company today.
It would’ve been born out of necessity in small-town British Columbia.
It would have started as a used goods network that provided necessities for families.
My great grandma would have found other moms in her network who would have done the work to sell used items for the wealthy families (a very obvious elite group at that time). These moms would have known the value of these pots & pans, encyclopedia sets, sheets, kids clothes and tools. They would’ve gone door-to-door collecting the used items and then perhaps would’ve hosted a tea party to sell these valuable used goods to their friends. The items would have sold at a heavy discount compared to new sticker prices at mom & pop stores.
Who knows – they might have even exchanged used goods for bread & butter.
Repurposing fabrics and woods in the mid-1900’s wasn’t cool because it was “in-style” or “on-trend.” It was what our families did out of necessity – to provide shelter, build barns, clothe children, host the ‘church ladies’ and keep up with society in an ever-changing time.
If HYON were celebrating 80 years today, it would have helped millions of families gain access to the valuable necessities that came at premium – and were out of reach at that time.
We know great Grandma didn’t start HYON… let’s pretend her daughter did.
My Grandma next:
If being a stay-at-home mom and having a side gig was a thing in the 70’s, it would have been my Grandma to have started it.
HYON should have been a legacy business, if it was, we’d be celebrating 50 years this year (and in her honour, I will pop some champagne and celebrate the values she passed down that gave me the foundation to start HYON).
Being a pastor’s wife couldn’t have been easy in the 70’s.
My Grandma would have needed to develop a swiss-army knife of skills to relate to those older & young, richer & poorer. Those who felt they had nothing to live for and those who were forced onto their death beds. All in a time when society was high as a kite. And what would bring people together in those days?
It was about hosting. Men in the living room, women in the kitchen, kids in the basement. Regardless of why people gathered together, you can bet that the china was out and everyone was dressed in their best. Everyone faked it – it’s how they fit in.
The beautiful thing about living in the lower mainland in B.C. at this time was you were only a hop, skip and jump away from the trendiest, wealthiest families in Canada.
Effective consignment didn’t need a shipping label – it was sitting on driveways during summer garage sales and, if you could set your pride aside, Salvation Army & Value Village were open Monday – Friday. Sure, it didn’t smell good when you walked in, but guaranteed you would find items that affluent folks were tired of. They had traded up for the newest finds in the Sears catalogue or the Eaton’s store downtown Vancouver.
Shopping malls had just started popping up – with all this new consumerism, surely a hyper-local consignment network would have been embraced.
Grandma cared about her family. She cared about how they were perceived in the world around them. She wanted the best for her family – but often couldn’t afford it. If she had the support of her community (in the way I have), if her husband would have been okay with her working (in the way mine has been), and perhaps if others had been around to help raise her children (in the way our neighbours have helped us), guaranteed HYON would be a 50-year old company today.
Grandma could have started an effective sales network out of the church basement – which would have later become a ‘thing’ in the early 90’s. A garage sale of sorts where items are dropped off to be sold at a weekend event. Grandma would have had the network and support of both the wealthy and the poor in her community to come together and recirculate items. Who knows, HYON might have scaled as an event company at that time.
We know my Grandma didn’t start HYON… let’s pretend her daughter did.
My Mom next:
If being a single mom of toddlers and finding time to start a business was possible in the 90’s, it would have been my mom who would have started it.
HYON should have been a legacy business. If it was, we’d be celebrating 30 years this year (and in her honour, I will take a weekend away to reflect on just how blessed we are to have the opportunities we have today).
Three generations in, and like her ancestors, my Mom has great taste, is extremely frugal and is always on the hunt for a good deal. If she had the support of her community (in the way I have), if her husband would have been okay with her working (okay, irrelevant – mom didn’t have a husband in the 90’s & she was already working full-time), and perhaps if others had been around to help raise her children (in the way our neighbours have helped us), guaranteed HYON would be a 30-year old company today.
It’s possible that mom could have launched a consignment model in 1994 that would have been more effective than eBay would become 10 years later. She could have introduced the ability for friends, neighbours and co-workers to exchange goods or start selling items for others. And you can bet that she would have had the support of my Grandma and Great Grandma!
Computers wouldn’t have done it – items would have probably been marketed for sale in the local papers. Lesser-valued goods might have found their spot in some type of anticipated monthly sales event. Sure, items could have been shipped to other cities but the company would have been built with incredible local support.
For my mom, finding name brand clothing, like-new appliances and jewellery that had hardly been worn was a reason to hand out high fives. She would brag about what she found rummaging through racks and shelves of used items and just how little she had spent to get it.
It was about having the things she wanted on a tight budget. It wasn’t yet an accepted trend to shop the sale racks at department stores or wear someone else’s pants you found at a consignment shop. Just because it wasn’t popular doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been. The switch to “thrifting”, “re-commerce” and the development of the ‘circular economy’ could have started before the turn of the century but it didn’t.
I think I know why.
My Great Grandma, Grandma and Mom did not have the opportunities I have today. It was a different time under different social norms. In my short life of 33 years I’ve started three businesses and welcomed two kids into the world. I married a man who has always stepped up so I never had to step down. I’ve had the support of government programs, community associations, family and neighbours.
HYON should be a company that has been in our family for generations, it’s built on a foundation that has been in development for 80 years. A legacy business at heart.
With a cake, champagne, and a weekend away, I will honour this. Celebrating what should be 80 years, 50 years or 30 years in business.
Thank you to these incredible women who gave our family a beautiful life and passed along the genes that make up HYON’s DNA.
~ Kristy Ehman