There is no denying that social media is a huge part of almost all of our lives. But for some, it has crossed over from pure entertainment to a means of making a living. These days you can make money doing just about anything online from taking surveys to freelance writing to listening to podcasts (I have done all of these with varying levels of success). But Indy native Ryan Monson has used this tool of the modern age as a means of reminiscing about a time before the widespread use of social media. Using his Instagram account, he sells used and vintage clothing from the 90s and early 2000s.
About a year ago, Monson needed something to take his Instagram-run vintage store to the next level. With a passion for travel and a desire for unique items for his shop, he soon came up with the idea to visit every Goodwill in Indiana, documenting his journey along the way. In this interview, he talks about what this process has looked like both for himself and his business.
Evelyn Allee: What initially sparked your interest in used/vintage clothing in general?
Ryan Monson: The earliest I remember vintage clothing being a part of my life was in high school. I have always loved expressing myself through clothing and I feel that (in general) the flashiness of vintage makes me stand out and feel unique compared to everyone else. One of the first items I remember finding that was like that was this all-over print button-up shirt with planes on it and even the buttons were planes! In college, I found many vintage local school shirts like a 1993 Carmel High School Final Four shirt, or a 3A state baseball champs shirt. Ultimately, I liked feeling like I was the only one wearing something that was from the 90s or early 2000s, usually because of the graphic or the history/uniqueness of the piece of clothing.
EA: What inspired you to go to every Goodwill?
RM: I was at a crossroads with my business and wrote down any and all ideas on paper as to “what’s next.” This was on the list, it seemed achievable, and I thought it might be good exposure/worth covering from media outlets, while also giving me an opportunity to travel, get access to inventory that other thrifters in Indy don’t or won’t go out of their way to travel and find it. There was so much upside and I wasn’t on a timetable. So I went for it.
EA: How long did the Goodwill project take you?
RM: About a year, or just under.
EA: What was your best Goodwill find from this experience and why?
RM: I have some favorites because they were some of my “firsts.” I had never found a “Stone Cold” Steve Austin shirt and I found two of those. I found an Elvis shirt from 1975, and my first vintage D.A.R.E. shirt. Financially speaking, two of my favorites were a Purdue rugby polo that I bought for $.25 and sold for $81 and a Dallas Stars Logo Athletic Splash hat that I got for $1 and sold for $35. Those were some of my biggest hits.
EA: Do you shop at other secondhand stores besides Goodwill? Which ones?
RM: I do shop at other stores, but a magician never reveals his tricks. If you can think of a way to get clothes, I am probably doing that.
EA: What goes into running a business via Instagram?
RM: Instagram and this business take skill. Ultimately, even if you have a great product, if your pictures have bad lighting or you aren’t creative with what you post, you won’t be as successful. I am pretty confident that I am one of the most hardworking and successful brands in the state when it comes to marketing, brand recognition and overall uniqueness. I’m confident there will always be a place for me in this community as I am more than just a “store.” You will see that through my content, and the way that I treat the friends I make through here. If you ever buy anything, cool. If we just become friends (which has happened and has become one of my favorite parts of this) that’s great.
EA: What is your best piece of thrifting advice?
RM: If you are just asking for the casual fan, I would say go with someone. The few times I have gone with someone it turns out to be fun to show them what you are finding, and you may not even buy anything. If you are looking to start your own thing, I’d say that in general, starting a business is easy, but being successful is hard.
“Anyone can be an entrepreneur, but not everyone can be a SUCCESSFUL entrepreneur” – Gary Vaynerchuk.
You will always have someone who is working harder than you or is more talented than you or both. What you CAN do is your best, so do that.
EA: Now that you have been to every Goodwill, what is next for you?
RM: They say that if you announce your plan, you plan to fail. I generally ignore that advice because I’m different. I’d say that I do plan in the next few months to go to other major cities in the midwest. Other than that, most immediately, I am going to rest for a while because this has really taken a lot out of me. A lot of times I would go to four-nine Goodwills in a day, and that can be exhausting to do every weekend. I also have a lot of inventory, so I’m going to slow down a bit.
EA: Where can people find you online?
RM: I’d love for people to see the episodes of me visiting every Goodwill. You can find that on Instagram TV (IGTV) or on Youtube. You can also follow me on Instagram to see what I am finding in the future.
All photos by Maddie Scarpone