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#OTGYpsi: Owner of online store Thrift Activist one of many millennial and Generation Z entrepreneurs popping up in the Ypsilanti area

Christian Knox of Thrift Activist.
Christian Knox
Christian Knox of Thrift Activist.


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Sarah Rigg's Feature Article: From solving mobility problems to creating streetwear, Ypsilanti-area youth explore entrepreneurship

Thrift Activist

Thrift Activist on Instagram

Thrift Activist on TikTok


Rylee Barnsdale: You are listening to 89 one WEMU. Welcome to On the Ground Ypsi, a program created in partnership by WEMU and Concentrate Media. We're highlighting the stories of those improving and making a difference in the Ypsilanti community. I'm your host, Concentrate reporter Rylee Barnsdale. The world of entrepreneurship has boomed over the past few years, with many new businesses being launched from a living room or even just a phone. Across the country, more and more young people are choosing to be their own bosses and launch their own businesses. And Ypsi is no exception. I'm on the phone with Christian Knox, who's online vintage shop, Thrift Activist, is featured in Sarah Rigg's article this week. Hi, Christian. How's it going?

Christian Knox: I'm good. How are you doing today?

Rylee Barnsdale: I am not too bad. So, you are 22 years old. You are recently graduated from college, and you started Thrift Activist when you were 19? Do I have that right?

Christian Knox: Yes, I was 19 when I started.

Rylee Barnsdale: I know that, speaking as a former college student, I know I was always kind of looking for more ways to make money, to pay my bills, feed myself. But I never would have thought of running my own business. I don't think I would have even thought I had the time. So, what made you want to start yours?

Christian Knox: Yeah, so I played college basketball, so I was really strapped on time. But right when the pandemic hit came home, I actually started reselling shoes first. So, that summer, when we were kind of in quarantine, I was selling shoes. And then, going into my sophomore year, I played basketball at Trine University in Angola, Indiana for two years. And then, I transferred to Lakeland University in Wisconsin for my senior year. But during my sophomore year, we had a Goodwill, probably five minutes away from campus. So, I was selling shoes. And then, I just thought, one day, "Let me just see what they have in Goodwill and see if they had any shoes." I found a lot of good clothes. Actually, when I went, didn't find any shoes. I sold the clothes same day that I actually bought them. So, I decided to switch from shoes to clothes, and I haven't stopped selling clothes since.

Rylee Barnsdale: You said you dropped into a Goodwill. Are you a frequent thrifter, or do you collect vintage things? Why make the shop a vintage resale one instead of another kind of side gig?

Christian Knox: I just really like clothes, you know, kind of going back to basketball, like, clothes and shoes is kind of like pop culture, and it's kind of connected to basketball. So, vintage really caught my eye because of the quality of the vintage garments and also some of the graphics that they used to use for different things, such as, like, wrestling tees, vintage sports tees. Like, they're just different. So, I just kind of gravitated towards the vintage clothes. And I do thrift frequently.

Rylee Barnsdale: This is 89 one WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and I'm sitting with Christian Knox, owner of the online vintage resale shop, Thrift Activist. So, Christian, you described you got started with sneakers. You then ventured into clothes. Was the initial selling through eBay so successful that you wanted to then turn that into a full business?

Christian Knox: The reason why I kind of switched is, like I said, I went thrifting and found from clothes, but I also bought a couple of pair of fake sneakers. I took a hit on that, and I was kind of discouraged. And then, it's a lot of capital to keep up sneakers selling because you're spending $100 to $200 per pair. And then, you have to wait for that to sell, too. So, especially being in college, I didn't have a ton of money to invest. It was just doing very well for me. Like I said, I went thrifting. At the time I was selling on Facebook Marketplace as well. I posted the clothes I found on Facebook Marketplace, went to practice, hung out with some of my teammates, and came back. Everything I bought that day sold by that evening.

Rylee Barnsdale: Oh wow!

Christian Knox: So, it was easy for me to make the transition and the switch. Depend on what you're selling. It's not as much money, so it's a lot easier for a customer to spend $30 as opposed to $150 or $250. So, it just really worked well for me.

Rylee Barnsdale: And you've given us a little bit of insight into what the resale kind of market looks like--talking about go into different thrift stores, looking for different labels, brands, trying to get the best deal to then resell. Can you give us a little bit some more details on what is setting Thrift Activist apart from other online shops who maybe are doing similar things--maybe the same thing?

Christian Knox: Right now, I'm making the transition into buying wholesale, so people who come shop with me either on eBay or I'm starting to launch my website here soon. It is just going to be the consistency. It's going to be the same garments, same type of garment. So, you can always come to Thrift Activist and get something that you're looking for.

Rylee Barnsdale: And do you have any plans in the works to maybe expand the shop? I know you're getting the website started. But are you thinking of maybe you can upcycle vintage clothes in some way or maybe even developing your own clothing line and brand alongside the vintage reselling?

Christian Knox: Yes. So, I have a lot of things that I'm thinking about in terms of expansion. One, with just selling on eBay. I just want to expand that kind of how I do it is based on the market, depending on how many items I'm selling. For instance, if I'm selling five items for the month of December going into January, I'll buy back up to maybe 6 or 7. So, just expanding my inventory that way. I'm transitioning into also doing a website of my own, probably like my dad's vintage pieces that I did, I'll put on my website and do it that way. And also, I wanted to make my own brand in the near future. So, just staying with clothes in the fashion industry, I have a lot of things that I want to want to do to expand Thrift Activist.

Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm chatting with young entrepreneur Christian Knox, owner of the online vintage resale shop, Thrift Activist. Christian, you initially were going to school. You've graduated now, but you have your degree in sports management. And I'm kind of curious to see how sports management kind of transitions into selling clothes, potentially developing your own brand in the future. Where do those connect? You mentioned the pop culture aspect of between sports and clothes, but can you expand on that a little bit more?

Christian Knox: It was kind of funny. When I went to school, I had no plans on starting a business at all. Like I said, I kind of did it during quarantine as just something to do. You know, we were all kind of stuck at home. I got I kind of got tired of playing video games. I said, "I've always loved shoes. Let me give it a try." You know, start a reselling page. So, that did well. And then, like I said, it kind of just transitioned into clothes. So, my freshman and sophomore year, my plans was to be an athletic director. In my freshman year at Frederick Community College, and that's where I played basketball my freshman year, I had a really good relationship with the AD. And just based on my personality and the relationship that we built, he thought I would be a great AD. He kind of gave me insight on what a AD is at the college level. I was very interested in it. So, you know, my freshman year and sophomore year, that was kind of where my mind was at. And then, going into my junior and senior year, reselling started doing very well for me. I was starting to really understand how to operate it, what I'm looking for when I'm going thrifting, what my margins were, and just really understanding how to run the business and just seeing where I could take it in the next two, three, 4 or 5 years. So, my focus kind of shifted from being an athletic director to running a business.

Rylee Barnsdale: Do you see yourself selling in person more or maybe even looking into a brick-and-mortar kind of establishment?

Christian Knox: I kind of want to stay away from brick-and-mortar. I was thinking maybe in the future do pop-up events.

Rylee Barnsdale: Okay.

Christian Knox: I just noticed in the community we don't have as many pop-up events for vintage clothing as I think we could. I know a lot of places, bigger cities, you know, I was in Wisconsin, so I know Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin had a couple of big, like, thrift conventions. There's also a thrift con that goes around the country and has different events. But I was thinking maybe if we could have start, like, pop-up events through Thrift Activist in the Ann Arbor/Ypsi area and kind of have vendors from all over come. And obviously, there's a market in the area for vintage but just kind of expand the awareness of vintage clothing and how much good stuff it is in the vintage and the vintage space because there's just so many great pieces. And there's a lot of very talented sellers that find pieces from the 50s and 40s and just from all across the past. So, I definitely think that would be something in the near future that Thrift Activist can do for the community.

Rylee Barnsdale: And to any aspiring entrepreneurs listening, the people maybe who don't know where to start, people who are just getting started, is there any, you know, advice you want to impart on them?

Christian Knox: Yeah, one is just to be patient. I know especially being young and in social media, you're seeing whatever you want to do whether it's a vintage shop or a clothing brand, you see other brands doing particularly well selling out every drop. But just having the patience, like there's a lot that goes into running a business. So, just giving yourself the grace and the patience to learn each aspect, make mistakes and be okay with making mistakes and just growing every day. That's just part of running a business. And then, just pick something you have fun with. Like I said, I've always loved clothes and shoes, so it's really easy for me to do the research on different things that I can buy and make money on and just going out thrifting and finding the stuff and taking pictures and going to the post office. Like, it's all very fun for me because I love clothes, and I love what I'm doing. So, just having patience and then making sure if you're going to start a business, do something that you really are passionate about and love. And success is inevitable.

Rylee Barnsdale: Well, thank you so much, Christian. This is super insightful. Thank you so much.

Christian Knox: Thank you for having me.

Rylee Barnsdale: Check out Thrift Activist.com or on Instagram at Thrift Activist to see what's up for sale now. For more information on today's topic and links to the full article, visit our website at wemu.org. On the Ground Ypsi is brought to you in partnership with Concentrate Media. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM Ypsilanti.

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Concentrate Media's Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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