Urban Ashes is a full service design and fabrication company located in Saline, Michigan. They specialize in taking reclaimed urban wood and repurposing it into custom designed furnishings and other wood based products. Their mission is to build strong communities by repurposing the lives of of some of society’s too often “discarded” resources. Combining the talents of former felons and troubled youth with quality craftsmanship, Urban Ashes is able to deliver a products that holistically create value for society.
Urban ashes utilizes formerly incarcerated citizens and troubled youth as the backbone of workforce. The company was founded in 2009 with the intent to resurrect salvaged wood while also using the skills and experience of the community’s returning citizen. The metaphor of salvaging lives as well as wood played central to the org, creating a culture of pride, comradery, and community. Mentorship, patience, and unrelenting support has allowed the organization to help move employees away from their former life into a stable place, in some cases helping them move on to bigger and be. All the while, the company grew and continued to scale. In 2016, Urban Ashes took their innovative community empowerment practice one step further by taking on troubled youth as summer workers. Allowing their current employees to mentor these youth, many of whom were at a crossroads that the employees were once on, brought real purpose to the lives of these former inmates. Not only were they working to resurrect their own lives, but they now had the opportunity to help youth keep from going down the same path. Urban Ashes that truly leverages and supports the community it operates in, creating fulfilling lives for its employees and building a strong community around it.
The advice Urban Ashes has for businesses who want to make an impact in their community is simple, take time to listen to people. Go outside of your bubble and meet the people who you are uncomfortable meeting, people who you would otherwise avoid. Listen to their story, find out who they are. Then, take time to reflect on how your business thinks about its people and the positions it offers. Think about not only how your company can benefit from them, but how you can set your company up to be an opportunity to make a real difference in that person’s live.
Keep in mind that the process of making a difference in the lives of employees and the community takes time and deliberate action. The way to get results is to take the small observations you make about people and your business and put them together in a structure that delivers long term value. If you start with listening and observing, you will hear what needs to be done and you must act on them!