When a business finds a unique market niche that also reflects the passion and purposes of its owners, it’s got the makings of a big idea.
In just three years, Who Gives a SCRAP has become a popular destination where thrifty teachers, artists and crafters can find affordably priced, new and gently used supplies, while keeping tens of thousands of pounds of materials out of landfills.
Along the aisles that meander through the Colorado Springs store are bins, boxes and shelves full of donated fabric, yarn and notions; paints, markers and canvas; glue, marbles and popsicle sticks; scrapbooking supplies, gift wrap and jewelry; doll wigs and googly eyes; office supplies, containers and much more.
Who Gives a SCRAP is the brainchild of Jayne Blewitt and Lorrie Myers, longtime friends who were looking to make midlife career changes.
Blewitt, an artist and dance teacher, and Myers, a school secretary, wanted their new jobs to be arts- and community-based but didn’t have a clear direction until June 2015, when Myers went to a family wedding in another state.
Her niece, an avid thrifter, took her to a creative reuse center that upcycled arts and crafts materials. Inspired, Myers called Blewitt, and when she returned, they started researching how to make that idea work here.
“Jayne had worked for nonprofits for years, so she had a really good core of that, and I had cat herding … trying to figure out how to get things done,” Myers said.
The two originally conceived of Who Gives a SCRAP as a nonprofit.
“We did all the paperwork and we were at the point of writing the check for $900,” Myers said. But after doing more research and consulting with mentors in the community, they decided a public benefit corporation would give them more control.
That idea, too, was new. Colorado’s public benefit corporation law went into effect April 1, 2014. A benefit corporation is a for-profit corporation that is intended to produce public benefits and must balance shareholders’ pecuniary interests, the best interests of those affected by the company’s conduct and the public benefit stated in its articles of incorporation.
Myers and Blewitt applied for the new designation, listing themselves as the only shareholders and stating a mission of trash diversion and community outreach. Who Gives a SCRAP became the first public benefit corporation in Colorado.
The business’ first location was a 400-square-foot space at Ivywild School, where Myers and Blewitt opened a 60-day popup Nov. 1, 2015. They stocked the space with fabric, yarn and craft supplies that had belonged to Blewitt’s sister Cheryl, who had passed away in July. Donations started flooding in when people found out about the project through Facebook.
Blewitt and Myers outfitted the store with tables and shelving so it resembled a gift shop. Their goal was to make their rent and divert 1 ton of arts and crafts supplies. In 60 days, they recycled 4½ tons.
To house the rapidly expanding business, they opened a location in Old Colorado City in February 2016 with an additional 1,600 square feet.
At the end of their three-year lease, they were again bursting at the seams. They moved to their current, 4,000-square-foot location on Oct. 14, 2018.
“We loved it the minute we walked in,” Blewitt said. “It has everything that we wanted — enough retail space, a designated classroom, a receiving area, a great processing room. People can pull up and drop their donations off right behind the building.”
After Blewitt’s daughter Carly came to visit the Old Colorado City location, she decided to open a store in Fort Collins. With the help of her mom and her business partner, the Fort Collins location opened May 1, 2016.
The business’ income comes from sales, classes Blewitt and Myers teach, and classroom rentals. Prices range from 10 cents for items like bottle caps and corks, to half to two-thirds of retail for new items.
Sales at the Colorado Springs store increased 96 percent during calendar year 2017. The Fort Collins store’s sales increased 183 percent from October 2017 to September 2018, following a move to an expanded space. That covers overhead including eight employees (assisted by volunteers), but Myers and Blewitt still aren’t drawing salaries.
“We get by, by the skin of our teeth every month,” Myers said. “Our overhead right now is just at $20,000 between the two buildings.”
But there are other measures of the business’ success. The two stores collectively have diverted more than 122 tons of clean, reusable materials from landfills in El Paso and Larimer counties since 2015. Only about 100 pounds of what the two stores take in per week gets thrown away.
Who Gives a SCRAP was recognized as Social Impact Startup of the Year by the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado and Vectra Bank at the 2017 PRISM awards.
“The concept has been so embraced by the community,” Blewitt said. “Everyone has just really been so supportive and really want us to succeed.”