What sparked your passion for starting The Welman Project?
The Welman Project started out as a hobby. In Vanessa’s early 20s she was briefly an assistant preschool teacher in California while simultaneously freelancing as a production coordinator for New York Fashion Week and The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. She noticed a great need for materials at her school and was shocked by the number of amazing items being tossed after the events she was helping to produce. The eureka moment came about when she and a few colleagues were able to rescue hundreds of pounds of runway glitter from heading to the landfill and instead the sparkle was spread to schools in the Soho area. The passion behind The Welman Project is fueled by our commitment to support our teachers and schools while reducing waste in our community. Anyone can contribute to a classroom’s success and through The Welman Project, we strive to facilitate that relationship through the creative reuse of surplus stuff!
What does a typical day at The Welman Project look like for you?
There is no typical day at The Welman Project, but we think that’s what makes our job so fun. In a given day, we will receive donations, we will make a delivery to a FWISD school and assist teachers who come to shop our free inventory at our warehouse. Dabbled throughout that day we are playing with donated materials to create curriculum enhancing reuse ideas to pass along to our network of educators. We never know what’s inside a donated box and we get equally as excited about pencils as we do about architecture samples and 53 pairs of rubber boots. One time we got a mint condition Brady Bunch coloring book from the 70s. That was pretty hilarious.
If you could describe your company in three words or phrases, what would they be?
Pintooglezon (thanks to our RTI mentor, Opie, we’ve decided to coin the term Pintooglezon, because our services are like if Pinterest, Google, and Amazon got together with a glue gun and made a science lesson).
Why did you choose to start and grow your business in Texas?
Both of us Wellies were raised in Fort Worth and are products of FWISD public schools. We believe in bringing up the community that brought us up into the women we are today. Fort Worth is rooted in tradition but its branches continue to reach towards innovation, sustainability and defining what community truly means. We didn’t choose to grow our business in Fort Worth - Fort Worth opened up its arms, embraced this idea and we are honored to call this city our home and playground!
While meeting with other FORT members, has there been a significant example of contribution to each other’s business success?
Coming into this program, we were just a couple of friends who leaped into starting a nonprofit because we saw a way we could do good in our community. We really didn’t see ourselves as entrepreneurs, and certainly felt out of place among the amazing startups in this group. But the way they’ve all validated our company and embraced us as peers has really changed our thinking and challenged us to rise into the role of business leaders. That simple mindset shift has taken us so far in just the past few months, and we believe it will be a huge factor in our long-term success.
What do you like best about being part of the RTI FORT cohort?
We had no idea what we were getting into when we joined the CoFORT, but it’s been a truly transformative experience. The whole team is just delightful, and our mentor, Opie, is the absolute perfect person to guide us. Our meetings with him are always educational, thought-provoking, challenging, encouraging, and, because he understands how we communicate best, full of laughter. Working with him, we’ve been able to step back from our operations and do critical work on the business instead of in the business, and we’ve actually had a great time doing it. Plus, having office space with central heat and air is a really nice change from working in our warehouse!
Find out more about The Welman Project on their website: http://thewelmanproject.org/
Be on the lookout for our Green Event happening on March 29th. The event will be at Connex, Fort Worth which is zero energy building used as a co-working space. Connex uses recycled building materials to reduce its carbon footprint. This event is meant to gather a group of socially like-minded people who are eager to have a positive impact on the local Fort Worth community as well as the rest of the world.