By day, Cynthia Dam is a Brand Designer at Hive.co in downtown Kitchener, but outside of that she is the proud owner of an online consignment shop called Inspiroue. 

“The shop’s name comes from my goal to inspire people to learn how to shop more consciously. One of the ways I’m doing that, right now, is to show people that you can thrift amazing styles that you might not realize are available second-hand … thrifting is the most affordable way to experiment with your style,” Dam said.

“At the end of the day though, Inspiroue is an education and awareness piece to get people thinking about sustainability when they shop.”

While the shop itself launched nine months ago, Dam’s interest in sustainable fashion has been growing for some time now.

“I found I didn’t have a connection with any of my clothes. They were usually bought at cheap shops like H&M or Forever 21 because I was stressed or just wanted to shop. Realizing that led me to get educated about how wasteful the fast-fashion industry really is, which changed everything for me,” Dam said.

Putting what she’s learned into practice, Dam makes an effort to curate the most sustainable fabrics she can find.

“I generally stay away from the polyesters, the acrylics and look more for organic cottons, linen, and any other kind of eco-friendly fabrics. I also look for things that are union made in Canada and the USA, which is actually teaching me a lot about the history of certain factories and industry developments, which I really love,” Dam said.

When asked about her own personal style, Dam classified it as having become “classic and vintage, with a healthy balance of classic staples and statement pieces.” This look is reflected in her shop’s inventory, which she replenishes by rifling through her favourite thrift shops.

“I’m a sucker for Talize, Value Village and Goodwill, and I try to explore them in different cities to switch things up. Of course, there is no shortage of great pieces to be found at a lot of local consignment shops like Luster & Oak, Special Delivery and White Tiger Vintage,” she added.

In addition to managing her online store, Dam has also been managing a YouTube vlog for the past several years. She uses the channel as a creative outlet and platform to connect with her customers, share what she’s learned about sustainable fashion and offer styling tips.

Part of her success stems from being quite well-connected with the local community.

“Moving here and working in the tech space, I’ve become part of some really awesome groups like the Makers Collective, that empowered me and made me feel like this is my home, now. I came from Toronto and studied at Laurier throughout my undergrad, but it’s really been since I graduated that I came to truly love it here,” she said.

Before long, she began receiving invites to set up pop-up shops at local markets and events, the first of which took place at Apollo Cinema’s night market earlier this year. Since then, she’s been a part of Plant Market KW, Shopify and Makers Collective’s Shop Talk Series, Hustle + Flow’s one-year anniversary, as well as a couple of events at Arabella Park.

“Looking ahead, I’m really excited to share that come January 2020 I will be opening a pop-up store in downtown Kitchener’s Project 220 space,” Dam said. “It’s such an awesome area and I’m so grateful for the chance to craft a more complete Inspiroue experience.”

Despite her busy lifestyle, Dam is committed to growing her brand while balancing her very fulfilling full-time job.

“I think the key is to remember the things that made you want to start your side hustle in the first place, especially when things get tough and you feel like you’re juggling too many hats. That said though, it’s equally as important to avoid burnout … listen to yourself and your body,” Dam said.

“It can be easy to get lost in the journey – comparing yourself to others, looking at numbers, getting hung up on things that are quantifiable. Remember that if you’re doing what you love, it should be the qualitative value you pay attention to.”