Christena Reinhard, MBA ’08

Look Good, Do Good

Union & Fifth charts a new path in charitable giving

Chanel for charity? Gucci for goodwill? That’s the idea behind the nonprofit Union & Fifth, which sells used designer clothes and donates the proceeds to charity.

It’s the first nonprofit of its kind in the country and the brainchild of entrepreneur and alumna Christena Reinhard MBA ’08.

The online consignment store offers a wide selection of donated luxury women’s goods, from Cole Haan heels to Burberry summer dresses. Donors direct payment to a charity of their choice, with Union & Fifth receiving 25 percent for overhead.

“It’s a win-win for women who love both shopping and helping their favorite cause,” Christena says.

Soul-fulfilling

Christena’s passion for philanthropy has its roots at USF, where she was part of a small group of MBA students who introduced a fundraising competition to campus in 2006 called Challenge for Charity.  

After graduating, Christena took a job in sales, but realized that the position wasn’t for her.

In the MBA program, I learned all the skills I needed to write a business plan, pitch investors, and think about things like logistics and marketing.

“It felt like my soul was being sucked out,” she says. “It helped me realize that one of the things I liked the most was doing philanthropic work like Challenge for Charity.”

So, when Christena was laid off in the midst of the Great Recession, she decided to refocus her career. She became a fundraiser for a Bay Area nonprofit, where the idea for Union & Fifth came to her after she made $40,000 selling designer items from one donor’s closet. “Why not fund a whole charity like that?” she wondered.

“In the MBA program, I learned all the skills I needed to write a business plan, pitch investors, and think about things like logistics and marketing,” she says.

Change the face of philanthropy

She started getting in touch with her network of USF professors and classmates.

“So many people stepped up to help,” she says. “Professor Mitchell Friedman talked public relations with me; Professor John Durham talked advertising with me; classmates who work at huge marketing companies helped me plan marketing strategies.”

Since Christena launched Union & Fifth from her living room with her sister-in-law two years ago, it has taken off. The nonprofit now has 15 employees in California, Ohio, and Massachusetts and has partnered with brands like Eileen Fisher to expand its business and distribute overstock merchandise. It works with nonprofits across the country to create fundraising campaigns specific to them, and has garnered media attention from magazines like Women’s Wear Daily and Redbook.

So far, Union & Fifth has distributed more than $150,000 to charities.

“This is just the beginning,” Christena says. “Our method of raising money for charity is really connecting with donors, shoppers, and brands. Our goal is to change the face of philanthropy.”