By Tracy Lane
When you never meant to even do it and then you become the best at it, growing a business and serving people becomes a grown-into dream come true.
Nine years ago, Christine DeGraf left her corporate marketing job to be a mother to her new little bundle of love. Christine found so much joy in being a mom…and also so much drive. As her niche for motherhood and child loving grew alongside her chubby legged baby, Christine found the deep desire all moms find. She wanted what is best for her children and wanted to give her daughter the things that she never had growing up.
Christine’s own mom lived out this drive raising her and her sisters. So Christine knew well the passion and pursuit that comes with motherhood. And she quickly found the daunting price tag that goes along with it. Her resourceful mother had forged another way and Christine knew she could too.
With a history of weekends spent garage sale hopping for new seasonal wardrobes, thrift store visits for the next pair of shoes, and flea market finds for household goods, Christine was raised to appreciate a deal and recognize value anywhere you find it. But it took a lot of work shopping that way!
Then Christine’s mother-in-law discovered a consignment model that changes everything for moneywise families. Stocking up for grandmotherhood, Christine’s mother-in-law stumbled upon a Rhea Lana’s Consignment Event in her local state. She excitedly shared with Christine that this event had thousands of high quality items. She found new and name brand pieces for only a few dollars each. She was certain that any mom (or grandma) could go back to each season’s sale to provide all of a child’s clothing, toys, and accessories in one place!
Christine had to have one! She knew that a Rhea Lana’s franchise would change the way that she and the other families in her Sweet Home Chicago community provide for their homes. So what do you do when the town you live in doesn’t have the business you need? You start it.
In 2010, Christine opened her own Rhea Lana’s Franchise in the western suburbs of Chicago. Christine had to pioneer the way and educate her community on upscale yet affordable children’s consignment. To a flea market find population it felt too good to believe until they started seeing it!
Christine knew how credible and meaningful Rhea Lana’s was the moment her mom walked into her first sale. Christine’s mom said she wished that she had the convenience and luxury of value and quantity in one place when she was a young mother. Isn’t that what every mom wants? Apparently it is because Christine’s West Chicagoland location grew so rapidly and served so many families that she decided to open up a second location in the Fox Valley area in 2017.
Christine never meant to become a business owner. It is very hard work and her kids certainly notice the hustle that she puts in during her sale events. Watching her clean up the restroom at closing one night, her five-year-old son commented that she could leave that for the cleaning crew. Christine responded humbly, “Honey, Mommy is the cleaning crew too. This is my business and I play all the parts from owner to clean up!”
That selfless attitude of service combined with a strong dose of daily grit have earned Christina DeGraf the coveted award of Rhea Lana’s Franchisee of the Year for 2018. She has stepped outside of her bubble of tasks she knew well to learn every detail of perfecting a complex and extensive business model.
She says the hustle is worth it because of the heart behind it. To put it precisely, a recent mom shopping her fall event shared that she was newly divorced and without Rhea Lana’s she wouldn’t be able to give her children what they need. Another family who consigns their outgrown items to size up for this season pocketed $600 in sales, allowing the dad to miss a day of his hourly work to attend his child’s Christmas play.
When she thinks about the thousands of people who walk through the door and make or save money for their family, Christine knows that even though she never dreamed it for herself, Rhea Lana’s is a dream come true for people she loves in the suburbs of the city she loves, Chicago, Illinois.