We recently moved back to the Dallas area to be close to my parents. They had this old round coffee table stored in a back room and they asked if we wanted it. The table itself was pretty banged up with scratches, old paint splatters and marker drawings from the wear and tear of 5 kids growing up.
I sanded down the table and re-stained it. The total cost was $10 in supplies (with enough left over for 2 more projects) and about 2 hours of labor. I wish I had taken a "before" picture, but here is the "after" picture.
When I finished, I thought to myself, "That wasn't too bad. A few hours and a few bucks later and the table looks like new."
The next day I drove by an old entertainment center sitting on the the side of the road for free. The wheels started turning and I thought, "What if I fixed that up? I wonder how many other wood furniture freebies I can pickup and restore?"
I checked craigslist and there were about 10 recent posts for free kitchen tables, dressers, chairs, bookshelves, old desks, etc... in my area. I could continually gather items, restore them as needed and then sell them in a monthly yard sale or at the local farmers market. Not only would it be a great recycling program, but I can take the profits and donate them to anti-trafficking NGO's.
As I thought more about this idea of Freedom Furniture, my mind began to drift into what I call the "What if?" daydream. What if I found enough furniture I could start a non-profit business? There's enough support in the Dallas area that I could get furniture donations, find someone willing to rent a small warehouse and/or retail store at a discounted rate, find local hardware stores willing to discount or donate supplies.
In addition, there's a wonderful NGO called Mosaic Services here in Dallas. They provide safe homes, counseling, education and job support for trafficking and abuse victims. What if I had enough work to hire 1-2 former trafficking victims referred by Mosaic Services? What if there was enough work for 5, 10, 20 people?
What if this were a viable business model in other major cities? How many jobs could we create for former trafficking victims? How much money and awareness could we raise towards combating modern slavery?
As I continued to ponder this idea, the symbolism of it dawned on me. We would take old pieces of abused and discarded furniture and give them new life. In the same way, we would give trafficking victims new hope and purpose through employment and provide support for local NGO's.
I'm going to try fixing a dozen or so pieces of furniture and do a yard sale. If things go well, I will do another yard sale and then hopefully another. With a little more experience I will have a better idea of pricing and profitability for a program like this. Here's a link to my flyer for the Dallas area. If you know of anyone with furniture to donate, have them contact me.