The Ryan family are the owners and operators of Hinterland Trading Co.
Hinterland means the land between the water and the mountains and the Ryan’s felt this was the perfect name for the business because where they once lived, and built their business, and even where it continues to flourish now, perfectly lies between the water and the mountains. It basically sounds like the best of both worlds and we are thinking that a visit to this hinterland doesn’t sound too shabby.
It all started with a horrific accident. Elizabeth Ryan, mom and President, was run over by an out-of-control car at a school bus stop. Tradgically her legs were crushed and she would need years of surgeries. She went home with new plates, screws, and rods and life would never be the same. Elizabeth and her husband, Kelle, were working in Washington D.C. in the intelligence community prior to the accident. Kelle would continue to work in D.C. while Elizabeth's road to recovery at home began.
Her journey to gaining her strength and function back all while raising two children was, as you can imagine, more than difficult. She started to dive into the interior design world, a major turn from her prior profession. An opportunity to work from home for her fathers seed business came up and next thing you know they were one step closer to the birth of Hinterland. Austin and Bailey, their two children, began to help sort seeds and mail packages to their online customers. "One day, my mom came across some air plants and she ordered a pack of 10, and then 20, 50….and selling them at a rapid rate”, Bailey told us. One day the company mistakenly left the information for the air plant farm on the box and they were another step closer. The farm was in a remote town in Central America and when Elizabeth called them directly she learned that it was owned by a man who went to University of Louisiana and that the farm supported several villages nearby. Which means that anyone who purchases from them helps support and contribute to the people of those villages. Did you just get goosebumps? Ya, us too.
Elizabeth continued to build Hinterland and was off to selling fertilizers, terrariums, ceramics, etc. “Hinterland was growing so fast, with no end in sight”, said Bailey. As Elizabeth and her family began to heal, a family business bloomed and kept them moving forward. Our favorite part, this was all operated out of their basement. The Ryan family, with the help of Bailey’s boyfriend and three of their closest friends, continued to run Hinterland out of the basement 5-6 days a week to keep up with orders. Kelle was able to leave his job in intelligence and join the team full-time and Austin and Bailey became well versed in dealing with wholesale clients and customer relations.
In 2015 they packed up and moved their family, and the Hinterland business, to Virginia Beach. Hinterland could no longer function out of their basement with the plans that the Ryan’s had to move forward. They set up in their new warehouse and Elizabeth and Bailey started to teach terrarium classes. One day Kelle bought a $20 add on Facebook for their terrarium class. Bailey said, “my dad called and told us we had to get home because we had just under 150 people signed up for the next class”. Learning how to put terrariums together AND drink a little wine? Sign us up!
Soon after that, there was an opportunity for them to get a shop in their town center, this would connect them with the community in a whole new way. They jumped on it, and by that I mean they moved into the new space within 3 weeks. We love their tenacity! This was another huge step for Hinterland. Having this space exposed them to their community more and gave them an opportunity to push the business in a whole new direction. “You can walk in anytime and create something with a friend, or sign up for one of our evening classes and enjoy a glass of wine with your girls...and you get to build something you wouldn’t have on your own” (Bailey).
So back to these “air plants”. For those of you who are not familiar with them, they are plants that can live without soil. Yes that is what we said, and no it isn't too good to be true for you black thumbs out there. We asked Bailey why they love air plants so much. Aside from the fact that they sell fast, she said, “Because they are easy to care for, great for anyone living anywhere, and they are beautiful. You have a lot of freedom working with them and they work well with almost any vessel”. Spoken like a true creative, right? We agree that working with air plants really does take originality and imagination and they hope that their products can help inspire you in whatever space you choose to place yours in.
The family hand picks every material and item they sell. If you have any questions or concerns, you aren’t just dealing with a store manager or employee who might not have as much information. They love that they get to be the people who teach you about what you are buying or answer your questions about something they created for you to take home. “Large companies who sell similar products tend to be high priced, minimal in access or exclusive. We try to accommodate to anyones needs, wants, or budget”. They want their business to be something everyone can enjoy, and have even become life-long friends with customers and clients. This doesn’t surprise as, we felt the same way working with them!
Head over to Hinterland and meet the fam. More importantly check out our collection which includes an iconic Hinterland product. After all, who doesn’t want to be a part of helping a village thrive?
Thanks for reading!
Mer + Haley