Meeting Rhea Lana Riner in person for the first time was one of those rare occasions where the person immediately fit her "phone voice" - kind, patient, and genuine. Rhea Lana, as it turns out, is the quintessential working mom who never even intended to be a working mom at all.
An army child who "grew up all over," Rhea Lana graduated high school in Leavenworth, Kansas. She and husband Dave moved to Conway from TexasÂ in 1995 when Dave left a lucrative career as an engineer to take a full-time position with an interdenominational collegiate ministry. Rhea Lana's occupation was the most challenging and rewarding career, that of a stay-at-home mom to three children under the age of four. Her children, Rebekah, now 18; Ben, 17; and Leah, 14, are currently students at Conway High School.
While her children were small, Rhea Lana's primary extra-curricular activity was tennis, serving as a tennis pro and helping start Junior Tennis in Conway. Tennis is still among her preferred hobbies, along with reading, though most secondary activities in her life have taken a backseat to Rhea Lana's Children's Consignment Events.
The sale started in her living room. "I was a young mom on a tight budget, and I had this idea that I could invite friends and acquaintances over, we could each bring our baby clothes that were in good shape, and we could buy and sell from each other," she says. Rhea Lana sent 100 invitations to her first sale and received 11 responses. "I was thrilled," she says. She bought three rolling racks to hang clothes on, cleaned and ironed all of the garments, and Rhea Lana's Children's Consignment was born.
Due to the success of the first event, Rhea Lana's attention to detail and organization, and word of mouth, the clothing for the second year's sale spilled over into several rooms in her home, including the kitchen and the garage. She knew she would have to relocate the sale to keep functioning. Not to mention, "The neighbors were not crazy about the traffic," she says.
The third year, Rhea Lana relocated the sale to a shopping center across from Conway High School on Prince Street into an office that was previously used as a physician's office. "We had clothes everywhere and in each of the patient rooms," she says. "It is such a wonder people kept coming; God has blessed the sale so much," says Rhea Lana.
In the early days of the sale, Rhea Lana found herself ready to give up; as she says, "My goal was always to be a mom first." Her inspiration to keep going came from other young moms who came to need the sale. "We're all trying to stretch the budget," she says. "I had many young women who begged me to keep going and who said they would help in any way they could. They were my inspiration to keep going." In fact, many of those young women still help at the sale today. "Besides our volunteers, I have a staff of managers who work many hours at each event. Â Some of the ladies have been with me for over seven years. Much of the success of our company is due to them. They are continually encouraging me to do things better and to not be satisfied with anything less than perfection when it comes to our operations and our customer service. I really love and appreciate these gals."
Rhea Lana's Children's Consignment Event had many location incarnations over the years before landing in the Conway Towne Center, where it remains today. Some facets of the sale have changed, however.
Today, Rhea Lana's sales feature over 85,000 items, including children's clothing from birth to juniors; babies and children's furniture items, toys and equipment; and maternity clothes for moms-to-be. There are sales in multiple cities in Arkansas, including Conway, Russellville, Little Rock, Hot Springs, and Northwest Arkansas.
The business of consigning has changed as well. "At the beginning of the sale, we didn't turn anything away," says Rhea Lana, "We learned that people wanted the clothes to look new." As such, consignors are encouraged to pre-sort their items and select clothes with no stains or missing buttons, for example. Other suggestions for sellers are to iron and prepare your clothing, price items at 25%-30% off retail, and place your clothing items on the appropriate size hangers. "Good presentation goes a long way and can make a huge difference," says Rhea Lana.
One detail of Rhea Lana's Children's Consignment Event that makes it particularly unique is the use of software for cataloguing and organizing consignment items prior to the sales. Consignors can check in their items online and view the status of their items during the sale. Rhea Lana's husband, Dave, created this software and Rhea Lana credits it with elevating the sale's level of success.
Buyers at Rhea Lana's sales can expect a well-organized consignment sale with name brand and boutique items at a fraction of their retail costs. Rhea Lana suggests that buyers come knowing what they are looking for and bring their kids' measurements, but consider leaving the children themselves at home for maximum shopping efficiency. "The sale is so busy and fast that it is best to come ready to shop!" In fact, it is her goal to bring a boutique store shopping environment to Rhea Lana's Children's Consignment Event. Buyers will also have the opportunity to interact with various vendors that offer unique gift items and accessories. In addition, the first 1,000 shoppers will receive a goody bag.
Buyers and consignors may also want to consider volunteering to work at the sale, as this provides the opportunity for some early-bird shopping. In addition, Rhea Lana's accepts sponsorships, the main benefit of which is, "Incredible exposure to a target market: moms. There are advertising opportunities, and we send out 20,000 brochures," says Rhea Lana.
As for Rhea Lana's Children's Consignment Event's future, it can be summed up in one word: franchising. "Our first franchise is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the sale is planned for Spring 2009," she says. Rhea Lana is excited about the franchising opportunities of the business and says Dave's software has made it possible. Other plans include more controlled growth and a continual effort to make Rhea Lana's Children's Consignment Events even better.
"As women, we never know what is around the next corner." Inevitably for Rhea Lana, it will be another successful consignment sale from the woman whose goal was to be a stay-at-home mom. "You never know what life will bring."