Even as a child, Sarah Kincaid says she was fascinated by the fashion industry.
"I liked sewing, dress-up, and 'Punky Brewster' [a 1980s sitcom] from a young age and worked at a clothing store in high school."
In 2002 Sarah left her home state of Michigan to pursue her dreams. She attended Columbia College in Chicago to study fashion merchandising and management. To help pay her expenses, she worked 30 hours a week at a trendy retail chain store just off Michigan Avenue in the heart of the city.
"I really enjoyed working [there]," recalls Sarah. "I loved the people I met and learned a great deal about business management, delegation, and teamwork."
She coupled her degree and work experience with a personal enrichment study-abroad program in London.
Sarah's career seemed to be on track, yet she wasn't so sure it was the right track.
"Selling merchandise that didn't cost much to make at a high price point never sat well with me," says Sarah. "I became more concerned about the source of these items. I'd wonder, 'Who in Cambodia is making this purse?' or 'Are they being paid fairly?' "
During this time Sarah also felt a greater need to live a life fully submitted to God. She had a hard time seeing how working in fashion could be fulfilling spiritually.
"I had to remove myself from the retail industry because I wasn't sure how God-honoring it was," says Sarah. "I believe that your work is a form of worship; it's one of the ways you love and serve God."
Sarah accepted a position at the Salvation Army's Central Territorial Headquarters in Des Plaines, Ill. In her job, she raised funds to support Salvation Army children's homes and represented Sally Ann Fair Trade products, which provide sustainable income for women in developing nations. Sarah could be true to her convictions and fulfill another passion-helping others.
Finding god-honoring niche
But her skills and passion for merchandising never wavered, so in her spare time, she started retailing vintage clothing and household items both online and through an event called the Vintage Bazaar in Chicago. Scouring the area for worthy secondhand items soon became one of Sarah's strengths.
"Once I was more mature in my faith, I started thinking even more critically about the ethical and environmental choices consumers make," says Sarah. "I felt God was pushing me back toward retail, but in a God-honoring environment. So I prayed about it."
In 2012 God opened another door. Sarah was offered a different job with The Salvation Army, this time with the Chicago North Side, Ill., Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC). As store merchandising supervisor, she would oversee the center's nine thrift stores, which had a new emphasis on creating a higher-end thrift store experience.
Thrift store maven
She readily accepted the position. Not only does Sarah see how it fits with her education, skills, desires, and experiences, but she also agrees with what the thrift stores stand for environmentally.
"It's one of the best forms of recycling," she says. "Instead of used items becoming garbage, they're either resold or recycled."
And the proceeds from thrift store sales benefit ARC beneficiaries working to get out of a lifestyle of addiction.
"Not only do I love what I do, [but] it [also] supports people who need help. It's something I can get behind and something I want to be a part of," says Sarah. "It seems as though the things I've studied, the places I've worked, and the ways I've served [have] all led up to the place I'm at. God answered my prayers to work for Him in a way that excites and fulfills me."