Reshaping Communities and the Upcycle Part Shop Journey with Nicole McGee

May 25, 2023 | | 0 Comments



Upcycle Parts Shop

In a world where consumerism and waste are rampant, Upcycle Parts Shop is a breath of fresh air. The Cleveland-based retail store and community space creatively resources the Cleveland community – turning what would otherwise be discarded waste into something beautiful and useful.

In this episode, founder Nicole McGee shares her journey of starting and growing Upcycle Part Shop. Nicole’s story is one of community building and resourcefulness. She emphasizes the importance of building strong relationships with the local community and being a good steward to the neighborhood.

Nicole’s focus on consistency as a currency of trust is evident throughout the conversation. She shares how the organization has evolved over the years to prioritize sustainability and collaboration. At the heart of Upcycle Part Shop is their vision for community partnership, recognizing that people are already there and valuing their contributions. Rather than just focusing on recruitment and being the “cool new business,” Nicole emphasizes building strong relationships with the community.

Building strong relationships with the community has been key to the success of Upcycle Part Shop. Nicole shares stories of the people who have supported the organization throughout the years. From the mother of a current staff person who donated yarn to the organization, to the neighbor who built shelves and helps shovel snow, the community has rallied around Upcycle Parts Shop.

As the organization approaches its 10th year, Nicole reflects on her role as a serial entrepreneur and her plans to transition out of the organization. She shares her vision for the future of Upcycle Part Shop, which includes thriving retail and expanded programming. Nicole also talks about her own personal projects, including public speaking and crafting.

One upcoming event that Nicole is excited about is a fundraising evening with local celebrity Kenny Crompton. The organization is always looking for ways to collaborate and partner with the community, and Nicole’s passion for community building and sustainability is evident throughout the conversation.

The work of Upcycle Part Shop is important, as it not only helps to reduce waste, but it also strengthens the community by providing resources and opportunities for people to come together. By valuing the contributions of the community and building strong relationships, Upcycle Part Shop has created a space that is much more than just a retail store.

To learn more about Upcycle Part Shop, their upcoming events, and how you can get involved, visit their website at upcyclepartsshop.org.

Read Full Transcript

[00:00:11] Adam: Welcome to People Helping People, the podcast to inspire greater social change. I'm your host Adam Morris, and I'm so excited to be here today with Nicole McGee of Upcycle Part Shop. We have been trying to connect for a long time to record this podcast because she's doing really awesome stuff up in Cleveland, around upcycling, and I'm very excited to share her story.

So, Nicole, welcome on the podcast.

[00:00:33] Nicole: Thank you. I'm so happy to be on the podcast.

[00:00:37] Adam: Can we start off, can you just tell us a little bit about what Upcycle Part Shop is and what you do?

[00:00:41] Nicole: Sure. Well, I have to say that I'm really happy to have you here in my office, Adam, because it's a very messy, loving space where all kinds of things happen, and we're right on St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland, St. Clair Superior neighborhood. So place, is an important part of what we do here at Upcycle Parts Shop, and I'm also saying that cuz it's a little bit of a loud street, but you get, you're here, it's like the full effect. This office is right above our retail storefront and the work we do at Upcycle Parts Shop is about secondhand materials.

So people bring in materials, they donate them to us, we sell them. In our retail shop, it's like a thrift shop meets an art supply shop. So everything is cheaper than normal prices because everything is secondhand. And we also take those materials and use them for workshops and programs that we do all over the city and the region.

It's about, encouraging people's creativity through, encouraging all of us to think about the value of materials and challenging, single use throwaway society by extending the life of yarn or fabric or paper you know, Jewelry or vintage little thimbles. That actually that's me referencing something I need to donate to Upcycle Hard Shop.

I used to have a thimble collection, so there's treasures downstairs in the retail shop. Every time you walk in it looks a little bit different.

[00:02:03] Adam: That's neat how it changes every single time I come in,

[00:02:05] Nicole: Yeah.

[00:02:06] Adam: is fantastic.

[00:02:07] Nicole: you for coming back. So you noticed that? Yeah, I agree. It looks better than ever today, I

[00:02:12] Adam: I love it. What sort of customers come into the shop?

[00:02:15] Nicole: We have been in the same location for nine years. Right? Isn't that exciting? So I, I say that to say like we have a broad different strata of audience and customers. Some, people that come in have been coming in since we opened nine years ago, and they're our neighbors or our merchant neighbors and people who live or work close by.

And then we have people who, come from the suburbs of Cleveland or who work downtown, or who come from another county and like really pay attention to our social media and then come in. All of it is awesome. And I think the best thing that we can do as an organization is be a place that connects all of those folks to one another.

That's sort of one of my quiet agendas is to build social capital through the work that we do here.

[00:03:03] Adam: Neat. So you said you got started nine years ago. How did the idea for this come about?

[00:03:10] Nicole: So, I'm taking a sigh because I feel like there's so many entry points to this story, but I feel fortunate like to actually be reflecting on something that started nine years ago.

But realistically, like all these kind of projects that we all do as social entrepreneurs, like everything starts from many places at once, right? So 10 years ago, I got a grant. I was part of a team from the local development corporation that wrote a grant proposal working to revitalize a specific portion of this neighborhood using creative reuse and upcycling as an entry point.

[00:03:43] Adam: Mm-hmm.

[00:03:43] Nicole: So the, the concept was creative placemaking, which you know, is a little bit more of a term in fundraising than it is in real life. Like people don't walk around and say, we're creative placemaking today, because it can mean so many things to so many people. But what that meant to us and to me, is the invitation for people who already live and work in a place to be part of that place's future through creative invitations and creative interventions and creative, like making of designing together. So we built this proposal and conceptualized that a creative reuse center would be central in this specific neighborhood. And we did lots of other things as well. We did pop-up events and we did, art residencies and different programs like that. So that was the concept.

We got funded. Thankfully, ArtPlace America was the amazing funder and, um, Upcycle Parts Shop was the keystone piece of that proposal. And so we are the thing that is, you know, you can point to it nine years later. It feels now like we're the thing that came out of that. Lots of other things also came out of that, but the strategy to create something in a community and then build it with the community was really appealing to me. And before writing that grant proposal, I was working with up cyclists to do pop-up shops around Cleveland that we called Collective Upcycle. Those were the finished products that I was making as an up cyclist myself and others were making.

And we were taking over vacant storefronts, creating short-term retail experiences and showcasing what could become in those spaces. So that was, you know, a decade ago in my life and also in Cleveland's life. So now some of those neighborhoods no longer have as many vacant storefronts and that journey taught me so much about retail and so much about, um, working together. And it also taught me like that wasn't quite the right structure. Like to be a single artist managing all kinds of money for other artists like it, you know, it's like I'm so grateful to work with a team now.

[00:05:46] Adam: now. Yeah.

[00:05:47] Nicole: You know? So yeah, that's part of the journey.

But reuse in making art and designs from materials in the waste stream is personally really. Interesting to me as a creative person.

[00:06:01] Adam: How did you find out about that?

[00:06:04] Nicole: I rode my bike to work one day. I was doing fundraising and community. Um, Communications and community work at a nonprofit health center. I was always this kid that was like making stuff as a child, like making weird things out of weird things.

My parents totally supported that. That was always me as a person. I never knew you could go to art school. It just was not part of my working class, small town upbringing and never occurred to me. I studied advertising in college. I landed as a community organizer, at an organization in Cleveland. And then I moved from there to work at a health center.

So I was riding my bike where I work at this health center and have like a career kind of job, a wonderful place to work, a wonderful job. And I, um, was always making jewelry on the side. And I biked past this, like broken, like a drawer that had been tossed out on the side of the road. I was not biking on a road that I would recommend 20 year olds bike on by themselves.

But at the time, you know, I didn't, I, I didn't care And I, I'd bike past this dresser that had been like dumped and I thought, oh my gosh, there's costume jewelry there. If it's there when I come back from work, I'm gonna stop and get some. And it was, and I did stop and get some, and I filled like a newspaper bag.

I think I had like a long skinny newspaper bag and I was like, I'll take this and this. And I just, I didn't take it all. I felt like the universe was giving me a gift that I wanted to share. I dunno who else would've taken more. But I made jewelry from those pieces of jewelry and I felt so much more excited about what I was creating than the pieces I had been buying from like, a bead shop.

Bead shops are super cool, but like, this was like, there's a story. There's this history. I have no idea who threw this out or why. But the secondhand nature of like these pieces came from Trane Avenue in Cleveland and I got to elevate them. Like that really lit me up and it was really interesting to people who wanted to buy my jewelry.

So I was like, I think there's something here, this waste stream and creativity that comes

[00:08:06] Adam: Neat. And then like, fast forward to today, you help a lot of people create new things, even from all the great stuff that's in the shop. How does that work? How do you help other people on this journey?

[00:08:18] Nicole: It's interesting because, so that's personally as an artist, really. You know, inspiring to me to work with secondhand materials. I also think there's a lot of economy opportunity in it. If we can take something that has no value or has little value to others and make it into something that can be sold and has intrinsic subjective personal value, but then also maybe it can be sold and has external value, like that feels loaded with possibility to me.

So, I that's, part of the ethos of starting this shop, but I would say that on a day to day, the shop runs, it's open five days a week. We have a wonderful team that, that runs it and a great shop manager and like, it's, it, it works and people get it and people come in and, and often they're creative people themselves.

You know, if you walk into our quirky, inspiring, eclectic storefront, you're either going to be like, Oh my gosh. Or you're gonna be like, I'm in the wrong place. Right. And like we often the people who come in here are already our people, I guess is what I mean. So, um, creating ways for them to access low cost supplies, is awesome.

It's fantastic and it supports a lot of small businesses. And then the workshops and programs we do, they happen on a different floor and they're not as connected as we would like them to be, but they happen with a different program like our program department. And that's where we get invited to come to a school night or to come to a community festival or a, team building exercise at a corporation.

And we bring our materials and we encourage people to roll up their sleeves and express themselves. So it's more about your own creative, energy that everybody has. Even if you say you don't, you do. It's about fostering and encouraging that in people. And then we talk about the supplies and where they came from and why we do it, and how we can all make small choices in our own lives to consider reducing what we bring into our lives and what we throw away and how we, participate in the world we live in environmentally and climate change.

[00:10:22] Adam: What sort of change happens through those workshops?

[00:10:25] Nicole: You know, all kinds of powerful change that the amazing woman we work with as a grant writer has been encouraging me to think about in more qualitative and quantitative metrics. And I'm like, oh, right, yes. Evaluations are so important.

[00:10:39] Adam: Numbers,

[00:10:40] Nicole: I, but I feel like I love to get a front row seat to people being like, oh my gosh, I had no idea that I could make something like this. Like often we experience workshops or people at the beginning who say like, I'm not creative. I don't know, and they're like literally, legitimately nervous. Often those are the creations, like 30 minutes later where it's like, Here, see, like, see, and you know, they're sort of like, oh my gosh, I made this.

And it's never a surprise to us, but it's always, a joy to watch that transformation of just like we as humans, and especially as adults, spend a lot of time thinking. And there's something that happens when the encouragement and the materials and the tools are all right there to just play. And it becomes creativity and it becomes something that, people feel like is an expression.

So it's very, my answer to you of the change that happens is very anecdotal. It's also very powerful to kind of watch it. And then we also hear from people who, who've been doing, who've been working with us or have known us, or who have just sort of, Been on this journey on their own, talking about like, gosh, now I think about everything differently.

And one of our volunteers says, I see faces everywhere. Like the two, the two nails or the two bolts on something like now she sees eyes and, and it's just funny to sort of recognize creativity is a personal journey and, um, Blending that with, with our own environmental impact and also with connecting with other people.

Like, that's such a personal journey, but I, I think that it's a, it's a pretty cool one to be near to see it happen and to listen to how people get to a different place.

[00:12:25] Adam: Yeah.

And I love what we said about that, being really hands-on empowerment. Like you're not just thinking in your head, but when you realize, Hey, I can actually do something and I, I have the power to do something with raw materials around me, and create something out of nothing.

Um, then I think that helps people realize what they can actually accomplish, and do.

[00:12:46] Nicole: Yeah, exactly. And if we recognize we can do that. What you just said with materials that we already have near us right now, maybe there's a stapler, maybe there's a sticky notepad, a cereal box.

Like it really doesn't take much. What we like to say is it's about looking at not what something is or was, but what it could become. And that statement works on many levels and so does the act of designing and building something from what you just have already.

[00:13:16] Adam: And if you're listening, just to give some context, Nicole ran this workshop for our work program, last year.

And we, we had a bag that was just full of, of stuff. It was like scraps of, uh, wall material, buttons, little knickknacks and do dads. Um, and we were having trouble coming up with ideas of things that we could make.

And Nicole was like, no, here's, here's what you have to do. Here's the problem you need to solve, and you need to create a solution for this.

And you have five minutes. And you could see everyone freaking out of like, oh my gosh, what am I gonna do in five minutes? But everyone dove in and after five minutes, everyone had come up with something. And just that sense of like, oh, I can make something really quick, prototype it, and that gives me further ideas and, and gets my head going.

So that was very transformational, for our group.

[00:14:04] Nicole: That's amazing. What a word. Transformational. Thank you, Adam. I would say that limitations are where it's at, for creating something. Limitations are the fuel you need, and so five minutes feels stressful, but like just get to it and it's actually easier to do something in five minutes than thinking about it for five hours.

[00:14:23] Adam: Yeah,

And also making the a problem very specific and being like, Hey, here's my audience. Here's what their need is. I really love that approach of being like, you know, even here's the bag of materials. You're limited to this.

Right. See what you can do and come up with and then tell a story about it. So, uh, that's very fascinating.

[00:14:40] Nicole: Yeah. Thanks. We've been lucky to sort of evolve that way with other people's input and recognize like that's a good format that breaks the ice and gets people creating.

[00:14:50] Adam: So can you walk what they, they see when they come into the shop?

[00:14:55] Nicole: Sure. So it's a, it's a storefront with beautiful front windows and it is 900 square feet. So it's small, like picture, picture, small storefront. So you walk in, it's a colorful place and we purposefully have like our mission on the front windows and we have, um, these lovely colorful scarves hanging from the front windows that were made by a senior center a long time ago.

And so we try to express what we are, you know, through the windows. And when you walk in, there's fabric. The fabric section and sewing section is on the right. And on the left it's like the knickknacks section. I like how you said do dads earlier. Like all those words capture a lot of what you have, what you find here.

Treasures do dads knickknacks. So you know, there's, there's different sections, but as a customer you don't really necessarily know that. You just kind of get the flavor of lots of. Colors and textures and shapes. There's postcards and paper, including one of my favorite little drawers is like other people's relatives. So it, you know, it's like black and white photos of strangers, but you can just make up your own stories and imagine, and there's just a lot of, um, History, but, but the purpose is to be creative with it. So unlike, uh, Joanne's or a Michael's, it's not, it's not new. Some of it is new because some people donate things they haven't used, but it's like the exploration and the possibility.

Those are strong feelings that you experience when you walk around our shop. There's also a basement, so it's not only 900 square feet and in the basement, it's, it's more, um, It's kind of like the bargain basement. It's, it's more raw materials and it's like trophies and wine corks and binders. We are convinced that the binders procreate and multiply. Just a lot of them. They're actually free in the basement. Um, so, you know, just sort of a mass of, of multiple things. Pencils, crayons. We found a long time ago that when you have five of something, it's, kind of annoying, but when you have 500, it's a material. And that's kind of the nature of how reuse and upcycling works.

So five corks is, they're just getting in your way, but 500 or 5,000, they can make a really incredible something, right? And, sometimes customers say like, what would I do with this? And we say, what would you do with that? Like, it's not, it's a retail shop in that it's like, we're here to get you the materials.

It's less demonstration and workshop. Currently, we have plans to evolve that, but it's a good place to get the materials if you have an idea, or to be inspired by what's here. But people who really like instructions, I don't know that they love the, the open-ended nature, of our work.

[00:17:31] Adam: But part of creativity is being inspired, and looking for possibility in new things. And you know, this shop is like the gold standard for that because you don't know what you're gonna find. Right.

[00:17:41] Nicole: I love it Yeah. Thank you. Yeah, and it's kind of like write your own

instructions like that, if that speaks

to you, like bring it on.

Yes.

[00:17:49] Adam: I love it. So, you know, nine, 10 years, um, how has this changed you as a person?

[00:17:55] Nicole: Ooh. What a great question. My gosh. I don't know if I had a chance to tell you this, Adam, but I just did my first ever TED X talk.

I

know. It was exciting It.

was so exciting and have been real fast in my world.

That's been a goal for me for a long time. And John Carroll University had their inaugural Ted X and April and the application came out. I applied, I got accepted, and then I did it. Like it all just happened and, I would say through that journey, I'm framing my answer through that experience because in my mind I thought I would talk about the power of talking to strangers.

Like that's something that's really interesting to me. And then I realized like my best stories, my most recent examples, the place where the deepest richness of that experience is based is upcycle part shop. So even though I was like, I'm coming at this rev as Nicole as an individual, like of course I'm actually talking about upcycle part shop because this is in some ways like the manifestation of what I wanted to create and what I value, in like the, the easy way for people to connect, like through common experience in the place where ideally when you walk in, somebody greets you by name if they know you or greets you by saying, here's my name, what's yours? And like, we wanna create a sense of experience here in our shop. So having wanted to do that and then realizing like, oh, you know what, there's actually so much here to like mine through.

I've learned a ton through this experience, through this community, through this neighborhood, and, I think that my, my work now is to kind of pull the lessons learned and share them more with more people. So that's one way that it's changed me is to realize like, this, is never been a job. It's

It's been like a vocation. Yeah. And I have always felt honored to get to do this and incredibly supported by the city I'm in and, and the organizations and people in it. But I'm so reflective. 10 years in now, I mean, you know, publicly it's nine years, but we got the grant and it took us a year to launch.

And so, I don't know, there's something about that decade mark that I can't stop reflecting on, what a journey it's been. And also, this might be another reason why I'm so reflective is that it was 20 years ago that I moved to Cleveland from a rural town in Pennsylvania. And so I kind of can't believe the math there.

Like, hold on. This has been my, this has been my work neighborhood for half my life. Like I can't, or not my half my Cleveland life. I can't believe that my life as a working professional straight out of college, like half of it has been. Here doing this work, like it just feels really powerful, to like accumulate experiences in a place.

[00:20:34] Adam: Mm-hmm.

[00:20:35] Nicole: and the way that time is a metric of what you're building.

We've learned early on that consistency is a currency of trust. That's something that's true in a lower income neighborhood, and I think it's true in all of life. And I feel like it's lessons like that, that I have come to experience and learn, through this work.

[00:20:56] Adam: Neat. And what does that look like connecting with the local community and changes that you've just seen here in this neighborhood?

[00:21:04] Nicole: It's an interesting question because it's very subjective. Our work, in this neighborhood came out of the local community development corporation, and then when our local, we call them CDCs, sort of struggled and was going through some changes. We were sort of doing the work of trying to build community here in our neighborhood as much as we could.

And now our CDC has actually moved a few doors down from us and is a wonderful partner and is stronger than they used to be. Right. So now it's like, oh, right, like we are no longer filling in, for what's not happening. Now what's. Like community building is happening, there's community meetings and, it's been an interesting nine or 10 years, it's like a lot of time to consider, like there's so many chapters.

There's been so many different, phases. And figuring out what we do best to be a good steward, to be a good neighbor, um, has been an evolving question. I wouldn't say have a definitive answer, but I think what we do best is we creatively resource our community. We invite people to come here, we go out to them.

We try to make the residential community around us, stronger because we're here and we try to be consistent in what we're actually able to do.

And I think that one's important because it's been easy to go after some grants and do some programs and or hire a part-time person to do some programs specifically focused in our neighborhood, but that's not actually sustainable.

And. It's been interesting to experience that and to recognize like, hold on, we actually care a great deal about our neighborhood, and yet if we're creating positions that are not revenue producing, then they actually are the most vulnerable of the organization. And that was never an intention.

Right?

[00:22:45] Adam: If the grant money runs out, then it goes away

[00:22:48] Nicole: more like when the grant money runs out. And so it's interesting to be like, okay, now what we're doing is baking in our commitment to the community, into our shop, into our programs, and when we get grant money to do those, fantastic, that's awesome. But we want to create an experience where people can be welcomed.

That's just how we do business. Not, creating positions that are like, we go out to you when we can, when we have a grant. It's interesting to do both and to recognize consistency again is what needs to drive us. And we can be a great partner, but we are not the only partner and nobody wins when we overpromise and underdeliver.

[00:23:25] Adam: That's great. What advice do you have for a budding social entrepreneur who's just starting and hitting the ground and they want to connect and build something in their community?

[00:23:35] Nicole: I like all your questions, Adam, and like that last one was a bit of a downer, so I'm like, okay, so not a downer, but just like reality, you experience the challenges of big vision sometimes in wanting to be all kinds of things that are not necessarily sustainable for forever and, forever isn't what we're building for, but I believe in building things that are going to improve people's lives for the long haul. So I would suggest connecting with people who are already in that place. I think, that's really key.

I like to tell this story when we first got this grant, so we, this is not the community I live in, and, I was doing these popups.

I knew like I will go to whatever community in Cleveland can fund me to work there. Like, I'm ready. I was ready to work in a neighborhood specifically, so this was beautifully, aligned and, but I also was like, this is not my neighborhood. This is not my community. So we did, we wrote some grants to say like, our first grant was called, hello, my name is Upcycle.

And like that was the name of the proposal. That was what we got funded. We lived under the CDC as a parent organization for six years. That was one of the best moves we made because we were able to focus on our work, our business model, not the incorporation and the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and the board and all that stuff that like numbs my brain on a weekly basis now. So I would recommend like find a partner you can live under and try it out. And build relationships everywhere you go, especially in the neighborhood you're in. And so I wanted to tell a story when we were ready to open here. I walked up and down the street and knocked on doors of our merchant neighbors.

And I was like so excited. Like we had rent funding and like, we were like, we knew this place that we're in the Slovenia National Home. It's our, those are our landlords. That's where we are located. It's a very eastern European history to this neighborhood. And I went next door to this place called, um, Oman's and Sons.

I think it's like, maybe it just says Oman and Sons, and it's like a corner deli meat shop. And Mr. Ajman Frank has since passed away, but at the time, nine years ago, I was like, hi, my name's Nicole. I see your son says Ajman and Sons. Do you have sons? And Frank, who's like this white man probably in his sixties, like leaned forward and said, honey, I'm the grandson.

And I was like, Okay. That told me so much about the, the history and also the level of enthusiasm, like was a bit of a mismatch. You know, like I'm like, we're moving in and he's like, ah-huh. And he had been, you know, he is the grandson and so I was like, I understand. Everything, everything was said in that one sentence, and it was kind of like, this place has been here for a long time.

This neighborhood is tired. This neighborhood has been through some real stuff. It's been really neglected. It's all these things and so, you know, that was just like a moment in which I understood so many things by, by introducing myself, but also, we were really open to meeting our neighbors and in that first summer, even before we opened, we created one of the best relationships that continues, to nourish our organization.

And me personally, it was, a mom walking by with, two young kids.

And I don't know if you know this story. I tell it all the time, but I just love it. So, I'm inside like rearranging some things. The blinds are shut. The shop hasn't opened yet, but there's a sign that says we're opening in July, and it was probably like May and, And I heard this, this little girl say like, mom, the sign says close.

They're not open. And then I just heard like a, somebody come a little closer and knock on the door. And so I opened the door and it was a mom and a 12 year old and an 11 year old I think. And she was like, what's happening here? Like, what are you guys doing? We lived down the street and I was like, hi.

And to me that was like, we can build relationships with our community here because like, come on in. You're already curious. This is just one family. But it felt like so warm to be, to be welcomed by their curiosity. So I opened the door and I was like, here's what we're doing. And I was so excited and we ended up walking around the corner to like pick some fruit from a mulberry tree together.

And I was like, oh, this is amazing. And that 12 year old that day said, when I'm old enough, can I work here? And I was like, yes.

[00:27:49] Adam: yes.

[00:27:50] Nicole: And later she told me, That she said that because it was really close to where she lives. And she was like, I wasn't really that into the creativity or the stuff. It was like, one day I'll need to have a job.

And this is right around the corner.

But when she was old enough, we hired Desha when she was 16, we got a grant and we hired her and now she's 21. And, she just left, last year and we were able to partner and, and sort of transition, her goals through a, a collaborative relationship. We have to sort of see her off to, she wanted to work full-time and we only had a part-time position for her. So now she works at, neighborhood Connections in Cleveland and the swanky new Cleveland Foundation building, and I get to actually meet with her tomorrow. She's gonna gimme a tour of this new building and like it is just with such pride that I've had a friendship with her and her brother and her parents since then, and, what they might not realize is how much they grounded me and our organization in that goal of community partnership and actually building with our community.

One of our first donors was, was the mother of, of a current staff person, but a person who lives nearby as well, and, and that they brought yarn to us and. Desha's mother and grandmother, like that summer, the kids don't volunteer here the whole summer. And, and they came by with like stickers. They were like, Hey, look at all these letter stickers.

We are at a yard sale. This is kind of what you do, right? And I was like, Ugh. They get us. You get us. Like we,

they just,

our community has gotten us from day one and supported us. So that was a really long answer to say, recap, build relationships first, where you're going because the importance of community building work is about retention and recognizing people are already there, so recruitment is where a lot of money goes.

A lot of energy goes. People wanna bring in like the cool new business. But we can do better than being a cool new business in town. We can actually be for the people who also already live here. This is their home long before it was ours. So how can that make us stronger? How can we defer in some ways and collaborate and partner in other ways?

That's huge. And then, consistency, as you know, consistency is a currency of trust being available. The ways that you say you are being open, The times you say you'll be having ways to reach you just sort of, you know, doing good business and recognizing that all audiences are valuable audiences.

You're not in one place, only for one group, but people can support. Businesses and, and concepts and projects in so many ways. So, I encourage you to think about what those ways are. Maybe it's the neighbor that's willing to hand out postcards or another neighbor that loves to grill and would love to have that job at your gathering.

We have a neighbor that built these shelves and helps us shovel snow when, when we need help shoveling snow, which thankfully are not in that season right now. So, yeah, I think it's about valuing people.

[00:30:45] Adam: Yeah. And I, I love that this kind of theme behind it of you're not just bringing in a flashy new solution and being like, here it is.

You're developing something with the community. It's not something that you're just imposing, but something that is coming organically out of the people that you're around and, and part of,

[00:31:02] Nicole: yeah, I think that's it, exactly. And I think sometimes we think of who our audience is, especially with business in mind, right?

Like, who are we selling to? What do they want? What's the, prototype, or like, what's the profile of like the ideal audience. That's valuable. We all need to make money. That's really, it's important to make money. But that's not your only audience.

And I think that we can all sort of be stronger when we work together and when we recognize there's a lot more people that might wanna be part of what we do. And there's a lot more ways that we can grow and strengthen from more participation.

[00:31:36] Adam: So what's the vision for the future for Upcycle Part Shop and what you're doing

[00:31:40] Nicole: Oh, seriously. I'm like, every question you ask, I'm so

ready to talk about it.

Thank you. Um, so we're about to turn 10. Well, this, I, that's the cart before the horse this summer. We turn nine. However, as I reflect on this journey, which you've all been. Very gracious to listen to me reflect. I know, that I'm a starter, I'm a serial entrepreneur.

I'm ready to start the next thing. So for me, the organization's, 10th year is my exit point. I think that Upcycle Parts Shop is ready for its next chapter. And I think that when founders step away and allow that to happen, really amazing things can happen. So we're all kind of preparing for that, but that sounds a little dramatic.

It's just that that's coming. Right. And, and we're trying to strengthen and deepen and make choices that strengthen the organization. And also, to be really honest, recognize like, what's me as, founder and what's the organization as the institution that will continue and making decisions with that discernment.

It's challenging.

It's really fascinatingly challenging. And it's also silly to ask that, like sometimes collaborators are like, Hey, we wanna work on this project. And it's like, we're writing a grant for it and it's next year. And I'm like, is this me or is this upcycle part shop you want? And you know, they're sort of like, ugh.

Both. And you know, and I realize through some of those awkward conversations that this is more of a me question that I'm internally processing

for

[00:33:09] Adam: Re opportunity.

That's a huge change for. You know, after 10 years, like, Hey, how do we transition onto the next thing? And what does that that look like?

[00:33:16] Nicole: Yeah. Yeah, so for upcycle part shop, future looks like thriving retail and maybe an expanded footprint. That's the goal. Programs that, that expand in schools, with schools and in our community. And, just being consistent, and continuing to partner in our community. For me, it looks like supporting, always supporting upcycle parts shop, however, I can, I want to do more public speaking. I really like sharing lessons learned distilling some, of the experiences. I also really like making custom awards from plaques that are finished with their former life of being on somebody's office wall. People really, are done with those, when they're done with them.

I like, transforming those and, celebrating people. I do that on the side. That's, my side hustle, my llc and convening people, bringing people together around, common ground. I am still building this, so I'm, every time I talk about it, it's more clear, but it's also like a little bit of a, like verbal spaghetti.

it's

[00:34:20] Adam: a work in progress.

[00:34:21] Nicole: a work in progress.

It's all the good, it's all the things. It's all the good things, um, that I like to do. And I'm not going far, but, but more to come on that.

[00:34:29] Adam: Beautiful. I love it. So how do people find out about Upcycle Part Shop and where are you located?

[00:34:35] Nicole: We are located in Cleveland, St. Clair Superior Neighborhood, and our website has our hours as well as our address. It's upcycle parts shop.org. And, we're open five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, 12 to five. We have a really fun Instagram. I think , we feature a lot of what comes into the shop and then also some of what we're doing with programming.

I'm really excited about a fundraiser, a social mixer fundraiser. We have coming up with a local celebrity who's, who's known on morning news. His, his name is Kenny k Crompton and he has a morning news show called Kicking It with Kenny and he's always like at different places, like featuring them at like 7:00 AM and I don't actually, don't tell Kenny this, but I actually don't have television or don't watch it, but I know him through the website and also through having worked on different projects and, and being on his show various times. And this guy has such great energy and he's totally game to craft. And so it's always, it's been a dream of mine to do crafting with Kenny and I was like, I think we should do this on television at once a quarter. And he was like, okay.

Like, okay, let's mum. But then I'm like, maybe it's, maybe he comes to our event and he hosts crafting with Kenny. So it's May 23rd, and we're doing a fundraiser evening where we all get to craft with Kenny. So that's something fun.

That's coming up. Cool. Yeah, it's fun to sort of think about who are the relationships we already have, what are the variables, what are the pieces we can pull together?

And an organization that has always supported us is hosting us in their cool space. that's something that's coming up that is neither here nor there for your question, but it's on our website. If you go to upcycle parts shop.org, you'll see and you could even get tickets and join

[00:36:10] Adam: I love it.

Well, thank you so much for sharing the story of Upcycle Part Shop, what you do, and, inspiration for our social entrepreneurs.

[00:36:19] Nicole: Thank you so much. It's really exciting to be a social entrepreneur and to talk with other social entrepreneurs and to recognize how much all of us have to learn from one another.

So thanks for your work, Adam.

[00:36:30] Adam: I love that. If you're listening, check out Upcycle Parts Shop and, there'll be more information in the show notes on people Helping people.world. Thank you.

[00:36:39] Nicole: Thank you.

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