This summer, with the help of our fabulous Communications Intern Isabel Thompson, we’ll be maintaining a “Where Are They Now?”  blog series. It’ll check in with past winners of our annual Impact Challenge as well as with past participants of our Accelerator Program, and document where they are in their work today.  In this first edition, we interviewed EcoWorks, Inc.’s Founder Sherill Baldwin.

I recently had the privilege to sit down with EcoWorks, Inc.’s Founder Sherill Baldwin to talk about the successes and challenges that her innovative non-profit has faced since we last saw her in reSET’s Hartford office.

As background, EcoWorks, Inc. is a creative reuse center that’s open to the public and is now located in New Haven, CT.  It is run by a group of volunteers who are passionate about the arts and who hate the idea of waste!  EcoWorks, Inc. holds hours every month to sell low-cost products and raw scrap to teachers, artists, and craftspeople.  They also offer workshops and classes, and run reBoutique that showcases Connecticut-based artisans and their repurposed, upcycled goods.

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Sherill Baldwin was no stranger to the creative reuse center concept when she launched EcoWorks, Inc.  Prior to receiving a M.S. in Resource Development from Michigan State University and a B.A. in Solid Waste Management from UMass Amherst, she lived in Berkley, California, where she ran a creative reuse center for the arts.  This experience combined with the dedication of six Board members and five volunteers is what ultimately led to EcoWorks, Inc.’s creation.

While developing her business plan, Sherill learned about reSET through Program Director Rosie Gallant and she immediately enrolled in the Accelerator Program.  We spoke a bit about her experience with the 16-week curriculum.

“It gave me the courage to take my idea to the next level, and even more, it gave me legitimacy that it could go to the next level,” said Sherill.

Sherill added how she initially wasn’t fully aware of or comfortable with the many sectors involved in starting and maintaining an organization.

“The Accelerator helped me understand that you don’t just throw in the towel because you don’t understand something.  You have to try to gain those resources or people who have those skills to help you complete the pie.”

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According to Sherill, EcoWorks, Inc. is amidst a growth spurt and is pursuing further expansion.  When asked where she sees the organization in the next year or so, Sherill answered, “Huge growth.”  She hopes to expand, possibly hire part-time staff, and to continue to deliver their services more regularly to customers all under one roof.

I asked Sherill how people can get involved and she spoke about her immediate needs with a potential move.  She would love some extra hands to help EcoWorks, Inc. move to a new location.  And in the long-term, she said, “Be in touch if you are interested in buying low-cost art supplies, or tell your friends who are teachers, artists or daycare providers that we have great materials for them.”  Sherill also alluded to her desire to house more local consigners in the Fall. So if you’re someone whose interested in teaching classes, she’d love to hear from you.

When asked if she had a final piece of advice for social entrepreneurs just starting out, without skipping a bit, Sherill said, “Have faith in yourself.  And have faith in your idea.”

For more information about EcoWorks, Inc. or to contact them, please visit their website.