GROW Studios is the birth-child of many years of hard work, an appreciation for the arts and a deep devotion to mental health advocacy. As an ambitious social enterprise, they have several businesses under their umbrella that serve as training centres for individuals with exceptional needs.
Jon Mains, Nathan Ayer and James Richer run the new facility in the bustling complex at 250 City Centre Ave – a partnership with Maker House called "Bytown Works", and a dream come true according to Mains. After working in a space with all of GROW Studios programs – which include pottery, jewelry making, art, repurposing and a printing studio - a space dedicated to woodworking was long over due.
With several months of planning, Maker House and GROW Studios decided to team up and share a space that could be used by both. The renovations finished June 1st and it has been a giant step for both companies. Most notably, GROW Studio’s woodworking business has been able to cut production time in half and expand their product line. Due to their special collaboration with Maker House, GROW Studios now has access to a storefront and the ability to showcase their products to a larger audience.
Moreover, what makes GROW Studios unique is two-fold. Ultimately their aim is to empower individuals with mental health barriers with new skill-sets while creating market-competitive products. And they have done just that. Their woodworking pieces are meticulously crafted for the home using hardwood and proper joinery techniques. According to Mains, he wants people to appreciate the woodwork first and then learn the mission behind it. He states, “This is the best way to break the social stigma around the capabilities of individuals with mental health issues”.
Another admirable feat for GROW Studios is their commitment to paying their participants a working wage. Unfortunately, this is often not the case for skill-based programs for those with mental health issues. As a not-for-profit 35%-40% of all Grow Studios’ proceeds go to wages.
The team behind GROW Studios’ woodworking shop is incredibly proud of how far they have come in a short period of time. When asked where they would like to see themselves ‘grow’, Ayer and Mains responded that it is more about the vision in becoming a role model for social inclusion than it is about meeting specific targets. This was the obvious response for two empathetic care-workers turned hobbyist carpenters.
However, they realize that as a business these are important challenges that also need to be considered in order to be sustainable. Currently they are working on expanding their product lines while establishing a solid reputation for high quality woodworking. “The best reward is when we turn people into repeat customers. We have seen people come in for a desk and then come back for a table, and then chairs and so on and so forth. This tells me we’re heading in the right direction”, says Mains.
This month Ayers and Mains will attend a two-week course at the Rosewood Studio in Perth to further develop their carpentry workmanship and gather new ideas – so be sure to keep your eyes peeled at Maker House for newly inspired pieces. Additionally, if this sounds like something you would like to be a part of, GROW Studios is always interested in taking on volunteers. They are generously funded by Christian Horizons. All volunteer inquiries can be made through christian-horizons.org.
Until next time Maker-friends!