WAVERLY — Growing up in Waverly, Ann Bonzer Seggerman got a broad and diverse education. This blend of mentoring, experiential learning and formal instruction helped her become a business leader with a varied portfolio.“My parents were small business owners. My mom managed a hotel, and my dad ran a gas station and can redemption center,” she recalled. “Growing up, I did it all — sorting smelly cans and cleaning hotel rooms.”
Like her parents, Seggerman felt drawn to entrepreneurism. However, she initially took a traditional career path, working as an underwriter at CUNA Mutual Group. She also “dabbled” in reselling high quality items, using eBay as a primary outlet.
Eventually, her mentor, Ron Matthias, asked if the skills she learned from her hobby might help him.
“He and his wife traveled and collected many fine things,” Seggerman explained. “When Ron decided to sell some of his collection, he came to me. He knew I sold some things on eBay and wanted me to do the same for him. It was intimidating. He told me he knew I could do it and that he’d be happy with whatever I was able to get.”
Matthias’ confidence bolstered Seggerman. Her success paring down his collection led Seggerman to launch The Trading Assistant in 1999. The consignment business specialized in estate liquidation.
There was high demand for her services. However, eBay and Paypal eventually raised fees significantly. These changes and others raised sellers’ costs, making the method of ecommerce relatively cost-prohibitive for novices.
Flooding in June 2008 drove a surge in Seggerman’s business. As homeowners cleaned up, they rediscovered salable items. Many sought Seggerman’s assistance in clearing items from their homes.
“The phone was ringing off the hook,” she recalled. “I had a six-month waiting list.”
Seggerman re-evaluated and reinvented her business model, and Ann’s Liquidation Service LLC was born. Her business now focuses on buying and clearing out a client’s home — “the good, the bad and the ugly,” she explained.
“We go in and haul it all away so the family can really just deal with selling the house,” she said. “There are dealers who will come in and pick out the highly valuable items for resale. We will clear out everything, so it really is more of a service. There’s nobody else around here who does this.”
If Seggerman’s entrepreneurial spirit was spurred by her parents’ example, her businesses grew because of The Trading Assistant and later, Ann’s Liquidation Service.
“It all began in a completely organic way,” she recalled of her evolution into property management.
Seggerman wanted to move her business office outside her home and establish dedicated spaces for storage and shipping. The basement of 118 E. Bremer Ave. suited those needs, so she purchased the three-story downtown property.
Today, she rents the main level of the historic building to Waverly Chamber of Commerce. The second floor houses three apartments. The third floor was once the Masonic meeting area. In recent years, Seggerman and her husband, Rich, renovated that space, converting it to two apartments.
The need for storage increased with Seggerman’s business interests.
“I was out walking on Mother’s Day, and I saw a for sale sign in front of (104 E. Bremer Ave.),” she said. “That was 2011. The basement had never been cleaned out since the flood. I knew that once that space was cleaned out, it would be perfect for my inventory.”
The building also offered another appealing possibility: retail space.
“I wanted to try running a store,” Seggerman said. “The idea of it was a little scary, but I thought it was something I could do.”
Today, 104 E. Bremer Ave. is home to Renewed Purpose, Seggerman’s retail store that features vintage items and locally produced goods, such as two Iowa wine brands, O’Brien’s Granola and Henning’s Popcorn. The building also houses storage for Ann’s Liquidation Service and two more apartments.
A sideline arose from Seggerman’s desire to reduce her own “personal collection of stuff” after an acquaintance mentioned Facebook seller groups.
“They were of interest because the Facebook groups provided ways to keep things civil and clean and avoid scams,” she explained.
Seggerman launched Waverly for Sale Group in about 2011. The group was closed, and individuals had to request membership. Through member feedback, trial and error, Seggerman developed guidelines that fit Facebook’s restrictions. These covered everything from how sale posts should be written to forbidden items and practices.
The group was among the first of its kind in the Cedar Valley and grew rapidly. Today, the group’s membership numbers more than 30,000, exceeding three times the population of its namesake city.
A few years ago, Seggerman relinquished precious storage space in the back room of Renewed Purpose to accommodate members’ desire for a safe space for pickup and drop-off of items.
Today, a group of 10 volunteers manages most daily operations of the busy group. However, the most significant changes to the way the group operates were dictated by Facebook, Seggerman said.
“It can be frustrating, because of the changes Facebook imposes,” she said. “Facebook was never designed for buying and selling groups, so it seems like they’re still figuring out how to do it.”
Meanwhile, Seggerman focuses on Ann’s Liquidation Service and Renewed Purpose. She continues to rely on word-of-mouth referrals from attorneys and previous customers.
“I want to remain small so I can continue to do this myself. I enjoy being hands on,” she explained.
She also strives to encourage and support other downtown business owners.
“My favorite part of going into retail has been the thriving downtown community,” said Seggerman.
Several with local businesses have struggled during the past year due to construction that blocked businesses and closed sections along Waverly’s thoroughfare, Bremer Avenue. Another round of construction is scheduled for March.
Seggerman sees many positive effects of downtown construction and hopes the community can support businesses through the rough times.
“I know it’s convenient and easy to go on Amazon and buy things, and I certainly do,” said Seggerman. “There are businesses that are struggling, and they need our support. There’s something to be said for going and picking out your purchase and giving that extra, personal touch.”
Ultimately, Waverly will persevere, she added. Though her hometown is small, she believes it has consistently produced “amazing talent” and will continue to do so.
“I never considered myself a leader,” Seggerman said. “I am a really strong cheerleader, and I am happy to support those leaders we have.”