March 25, 2021

20. Creative designs for everyone! | Mark Ostrom

What a fun resource we have for you guys today. Mark Ostrom is the Executive Director of Joy Collaborative. Joy Collaborative is a non-profit partnership that connects designers, architects, and builders with donors, volunteers, and sponsors. By doing this they come together and create unique and personal spaces for the disability and special needs community. And these are not your ordinary spaces these spaces are beautifully designed and one of a kind, custom to each child’s needs and interests. Please check out all of their beautiful work on their website that’s linked in our show notes. You won’t regret it! As always, if you enjoyed today’s episode please take a moment to follow and review us on Apple Podcasts!
Check out their latest room here:

Instacart - Groceries delivered in as little as 1 hour.
Free delivery on your first order over $35.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.


Hey listeners. And welcome back to the show. What a fun resource we have for you guys today. Mark Ostrum is the executive director of joy collaborative joy. Collaborative is a nonprofit partnership that connects designers, architects, and builders with donors, volunteers, and sponsors. By doing this, they come together and create a unique impersonal space for the disability and special needs community.

[00:00:25] These are not your ordinary spaces. These spaces are beautifully designed and one of a kind custom to each child's needs and interests. Please check out all of their beautiful work on their website. That will be linked in our show notes. You will not regret it as always. If you enjoyed today's episode, please take a moment to follow us and review us on Apple podcasts.

[00:00:45] Thank you. And enjoy

[00:01:37] you know guys, my life is hectic working. Full-time from home. Virtual homeschool, podcasting, and really just being an awesome mom and wife, grocery shopping is the last thing I want to do. I'm not ashamed. No, I'm proud to say I rely heavily on Instacart to deliver fresh groceries to our own Instacart delivers in as fast as one hour.

[00:01:59] I even get a personal shopper to get all of my favorite groceries. So I know it's always right. Right now, Instacart is offering our listeners free delivery on their first order, over $35. By following the link in our show notes, you are helping support our show as well. It is a, not just a win-win win. All right.

[00:02:21] Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, today, we have Mark Ostrom. He's an executive director of joy collaborative. Hi Mark. Thanks for talking with us. I'm excited to be here and he's very excited about this. So this is going to be great. And, um, I'm sure we can get right into, uh, we'll get into why I'm really excited about.

[00:02:43] Yeah. So joy collaborative. It's you guys are building homes for kids with life-limiting medical conditions, correct? Well, we're not building homes. We're doing renovations. Perfect. See, I knew it. She told you, she's like, they're building homes. It's like, are they building homes or they're renovating. Cause uh, yeah, that's the exact thing I'm doing.

[00:03:04] Cool. So before we get into dry collaborative, tell us a little bit about yourself, Mark. Where are you from? Tell us a little bit about your story. Yep. So I grew up in Minneapolis. I live in Minneapolis. I hope they don't bury me in Minneapolis, but my town. Immensely. Um, but I, you know, I started out as a really creative kid, um, growing up and eventually went to school, uh, for music education because I really, really enjoy being around kids and like to see them succeed.

[00:03:35] But by the time I got to kind of maybe my senior year. There weren't a lot of jobs available unless you went to some far-flung location and being a city kid that didn't have a lot of appeals. So, um, took some time off, did a couple of, you know, odd jobs. And, and what led me into design is I ended up, I had a very good friend who, um, if you happen to remember the Bennett and stores that were huge back in, maybe the eighties, nineties, uh, she was a director of store of retail.

[00:04:02] And, uh, we went to a couple of their store openings and. I'd make comments about layout or lighting or acoustics or something, just like you, you need, you, you need to either work for me or go to school, figure out what this is for you, because you have a knack for it. So, and, and, and architecture and things like that were things I was exploring at the time.

[00:04:24] Anyway. So, um, went back. To the university, um, was more concerned about, you know, interiors than I, you know, people experience than I was about architecture. So went through that program. Um, loved it, uh, worked in Minneapolis for a number of years firms from very small firms to very, very large firms. Um, and, uh, And just really enjoy the experience of creating space along with other people.

[00:04:51] And, um, got to the point where I am now because of economics. So, you know, having, having written out, um, a recession or two, um, I just got really tired of that because, um, you know, we, we build up our firms, we'd build up our, our colleagues and then it would just. Evaporate and sink in. And it would just that cycle of going up and down and just, it just was, I mean, it's not, it's not a great ride for anybody.

[00:05:17] And so I took some time and just did some introspection and, and wanted to figure out, you know, I know I have a place in the design world. Um, I think I'm a pretty creative person. Um, but I can't do it this way anymore. So what can I do to, to, you know, maybe take a little bit more control and put my hands on the steering wheel.

[00:05:36] So, um, I looked back on, you know, favorite, favorite moments, kind of, of my personal life and professional life and put a couple of things together. One was, um, uh, you may have heard of the rainforest cafe. So, which is which the first one was here in, in Minneapolis, in Bloomington at the mall of America.

[00:05:57] And I got to work on that project and it was super fun and it was a stretch creatively and obviously it had a lot of legs and now it's owned by Disney and whatnot. But, you know, just, just to have worked on that project and see what experience design did for people, um, was really monumental partner that then with, when I was going to design school, Um, I was lucky enough to work in the insurance office and I bet there aren't many people who would probably say they're lucky to work in insurance, but, um, as parents, you probably feel very much not that way, but, um, but I work in the dental school for the cleft palate clinic.

[00:06:31] So the cleft palette or your upper lip doesn't fuse, and it was very complicated surgery. We had a really cool clinician, um, director who Brett. Together, all these different kinds of services. So we had dentistry, we had, we had surgery, we had physical therapy, behavioral therapy, all this kind of stuff, which became very expensive for the patients who went through that program.

[00:06:52] It was my job to monitor the insurance claims. And you can imagine this was pre-internet. So the sack of paperwork was ginormous and both dental and medical would deny families services or claims. And, um, and so it was, it became a real challenge and I just took it on and I really enjoyed it. And we, you know, we'd bring a family in and say, Hey guys, we, you know, we got your $10,000 claim paid or whatever.

[00:07:16] And, you know, tears start flowing because there's all these other pressures happening at home best day ever. So I feel like that's like huge that you just said that it's easy for us parents on our side to just feel like we don't have anyone. Fighting for us on the other side of it. And I spent so much time on the phone with insurance companies or advocates.

[00:07:38] And it's good to know that there's, there is somebody on the other side, sometimes fight and not fighting to help you in take care of things for you. Well, it was, you know, it started out as a, it's a really overwhelming job because, well, one, you have to learn all the codes in this book. That's two inches thick, you know, you have to be familiar with what they mean.

[00:07:55] Um, but then you also have to start. You know, almost building relationships with the various companies. And after some time then you start kind of getting into a groove, but, but even so, I mean, you get these, you know, various companies that, you know, demanded these huge packets. I mean, it was ridiculous the amount of work that it would take to build these sort of cases and, um, But at the same time, I, I, you know, got to know these families because they were in the clinic for a long time.

[00:08:20] And, um, and just got to know them personally. Well, you know, that doesn't take long and I'm a huge softie. So meet a family who's in trouble or, you know, a kid who really needs help and, you know, I'm there. So, um, so it was, it was kind of putting those two things together and, and I was like, all right. I, I had gone through a couple of entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship programs, trying to figure out what this business really is.

[00:08:44] And, and once I figured it out, it just clicked that, you know, this is something that I've been wanting to do for a very long time. I just didn't figure out how to do it. And, um, and so I started, I was like, well, I'm not going to jump ship, figure out how to do this. I started doing nights and weekends. I took on some projects.

[00:09:00] I started with Make-A-Wish and, um, and that led to Ronald McDonald and Shriners and a bunch of others. But. But th th the, I think this cool problem that we're solving is that Make-A-Wish, doesn't really promote, um, space design or renovations of any kind they're, you know, they're really more about the, the celebrity experience than the cruise to some exotic location.

[00:09:23] And I was more interested in, you know, what's a permanent solution. Right. You know, I think they assume they assume that like with Make-A-Wish I think sometimes the assumption is it's, it's a once in a lifetime thing. And yes, a lot of these kids have life-threatening conditions and maybe they have a year left, but a lot of the kids that get, make a wishes, it's not that scenario.

[00:09:48] This is an opportunity. They've maybe had lots of hospitalizations in one year, and this is an opportunity for them to get something. And so what you're doing is really kind of a different take on that, where they're getting a, a long-term. Kind of wish in a way, right? I mean, yeah. They, I mean, they used to only serve kids with chronic diagnoses and that has changed in the last year or two, but even so, um, they're, they're just not set up to do this kind of work.

[00:10:16] I mean, it's just, it's just how they're set up. They're they're more about, you know, having those contracts with the franchises or whoever to do those experiences and that's what they want to do. That's awesome. I mean, the kids that it works for. Bring it on that's our that's incredible thing. This is just a different way to answer different set of problems.

[00:10:33] Yeah. I love it. So, you know, it really seems like you've, you know, now melded your past and design along with kind of a little bit of your experience working in the clinic all into one thing, which is really neat. I think. It's hard. I think for all of us to just think like, what do we want to do, where we feel fulfilled.

[00:10:54] And it's really cool that you've found a way to kind of meld it all together. It's it's great to hear you say that. I appreciate that Kristen. Cause it it's, it's taken me. A very long time. I, somebody asked me the other day, how long have you, you know, how long have you wanted to do this? And I realized that it was almost, I think maybe in college that I had this idea of just focusing on pediatric design.

[00:11:15] And there really wasn't. I found one woman in Israel who was doing this work and I thought, well, then that can't be a thing, you know, there just weren't any role models. And so, and so I just kind of, you know, just put it to the wayside and went through the regular track that, you know, all my. You know, colleagues are doing it, and that was fine.

[00:11:32] And I had a great experience and learned a ton. Um, but it just got to a point where I'm like, there's something else I knew there was something else. Um, and I just, it just took me at a number of years to figure it out. So now, you know, now we're a nonprofit, um, we're focusing on spaces for, for youth, with life limiting conditions.

[00:11:49] So, so we started out originally with that being just medical conditions. But again, it comes back to, to Mark as the softie, but, um, there's so many kids that couldn't be helped. If we open that up a little bit. So if we, if we describe, if we define a life limiting condition as a medical diagnosis, but then also consider things like homelessness and poverty, there's nobody that I can talk to that would disagree that that's a life-limiting condition.

[00:12:15] So that brings us to different kinds of opportunities. So, so we'll do, we will do projects for individual families. You know, I was just serving any individual family, but then we're also going to be serving programs. Um, that are aimed at, um, kids in those other buckets. That's really awesome. Cause I mean, I know here we're in an inner city as well.

[00:12:36] And so often I think it gets overlooked when there is like, we have a house that is for battered women who have gone as a respite and there's not a lot of support for them. I mean, there is there's food and there's shelter and that's kind of where it ends. And a lot of these kids, whether they're in the foster system or homeless or, you know, There's a mother that's running from something.

[00:13:01] A lot of these kids have some. Either mental health issues or physical or, or some sort of disabilities. And after birth to three, there's not a lot of support for them. Like you're saying like, I mean, when we were in birth to three or early intervention, it was a lot easier for us to get support, even when it came down to equipment.

[00:13:22] Right. There was borrowed equipment and there was a lot of sharing after three years old, you kind of on your own at that point. And so I think it's really cool that especially for these families that are in any sort of facility or anything to have. Some other supports for their kids, because they're probably not getting it in the school system or outside the way that they need.

[00:13:43] Yeah. If they're at school at all, I mean, there's a great deal of trauma that's happening before these kids ever, ever get to where it is that they're getting help. Exactly. Yeah. Right. There might be a family history of trauma that they're just trapped in. You know, they might not know anything else and they, you know, we're, we're gearing up to do a project for a homeless shelter for kids.

[00:14:02] And, and one of the program directors said, you know, I might be the one. Only person that this kid will has ever met, that they can trust. Wow. So if we can get them there through amazing space and change their outlook and change their trajectory, I mean, that is how can we put a price tag on it? I mean, that is so well.

[00:14:24] And statistically it's pretty much proven at this point that play is so integral. In a child's development. And so if you can offer that space for them to have that creativity and free thinking and open play, you're just adding so much value to them. Absolutely. In that. And what that's going to do, what that's going to do is that's going to help with bonding.

[00:14:47] Exactly. And that's what they can, these people are going through trauma, right? Right. And we're trying to get them, you know, it'd be great if we can heal that, you know, that'd be wonderful, but there's going to be a number of them where that's just not possible. Yeah. Well, and I think it does connect. It does.

[00:15:03] Yeah, exactly. And it does connect well with the disabilities or special needs community because. You know, it's not the same type of trauma, but I mean, we've even seen it in our household and we've been very lucky, but there's a level of trauma that comes with like a level of PTSD that comes with having to have multiple surgeries and going in and out of the hospital.

[00:15:23] Yeah. So you know, that, that just to have a safe space, a comfortable space that's yours, where you can be free and yourself is, is, like you said, is priceless. Well, and, you know, I, I think it was this, you know, this cleft palate clinic experience, where I got to meet these families and understand the stresses that they were under or the resources that they didn't have or both.

[00:15:43] Yeah. You know, it's like, you know, some of them were struggling maybe to both have an income. Yeah. Um, you mentioned the mounting medical bills. Um, you know, doing a renovation at home is probably not high on their list because they probably don't have the Spitfire to do it. For sure. Yeah. I mean, I know for, even for us, like, we're, we're so lucky that we like that I have Eddie and we own a construction business and that's something that obviously it's like, right.

[00:16:09] It's like having a, someone who fixes cars, right. Living in your house when your car breaks down. But even with that, I mean, we don't even have a ceiling, right. Like, so, because our priorities are working or getting this done or doctor's appointments, you know, we, you know, when we have a free moment.

[00:16:27] Honestly in our household, we have a weekend off, we're getting in the car and going on a road trip and trying to make positive memories to just relax. It's not, Oh, Hey, let's work on the house this week. And financially it's it's when, you know, it's, when we first started this podcast, we did a crowdfunding and I did a lot of research on like, why this would be important, why it's important to bring these resources to the community.

[00:16:51] And one of the biggest things were that this community. Hands down. I think it was like three, like 200% more than the average family and just. Costs, whether that's medical costs or therapy or whatever it might be. Yeah. And then usually there's one parent that's not working in order to make, like, when we had little Eddie, I didn't start working until he was maybe three, because those first few years was just appointment after appointment, after it was impossible to work full time.

[00:17:23] But so, and again, we've had it very lucky as far as. I don't know the word mild is the best word, but it's been easier for us than it has for other families that we know. So I feel like it's been easier to always open up with. I feel like it's been easier for us in our, I know, but yeah, it's all relative.

[00:17:45] Exactly. But I mean, we definitely have friends that have said to us, like I'm not going to get, like, they've had the same boyfriend for 15 years and they're like, we're not getting married because. Financially, it's going to hurt us and you think, you know, somebody else might go, Oh, they're living off the system, but really they're just trying to survive.

[00:18:04] And you can't really judge them for that. You know, they're doing what they can, I can just make it all work. And it's, it's scary sometimes. And so, yeah. Having an opportunity like this for some families must just mean everything. Yeah. That's why we're getting divorced next week. Right?

[00:18:22] Listen, if anybody listens, they're probably assuming we're getting tougher. No. Anyone. So to back up a little bit, tell us about joy collaborative and really what it's doing right now. So again, it's, um, you know, I, I started doing the work and, um, just again, nights and weekends, cause I felt it was the right thing to do for me.

[00:18:45] I needed that. Um, cause it was a great way to connect to kids. It was a great way to create some, you know, really address some, some needs that I saw. Um, and then it was about maybe two years ago that we started talking about, well, this needs to be a thing. Yeah, like this needs to move away from just a creative outlet and this needs to be more of a business.

[00:19:05] And so, um, nonprofit was definitely a direction I wanted to go. And, um, going through that paperwork, I wouldn't wish, but if you need help call me, I was staying away from it for now. It's a lot of work. Um, um, but, but it was. It could quickly became something, you know, um, it became something that was clear that, that I wanted to do.

[00:19:30] All of a sudden it was kind of the, you know, the clouds open and it was clear what, what wanted to happen? So we formed a board about a year, year and a half ago, and they, you know, were really at the advisors at the, at the early stages. And then we got our five Oh one status and, and for me the last. Year, I would say, I mean, outside of doing projects has really been about, um, the foundation creating the foundation of the organization, making sure that it's solid, that we're doing things for the right.

[00:19:56] Yeah. Reasons that we are accountable, that we are transparent and that we are in that this is a business and I get it. I get really upset cause I've talked to enough people in non-profit who, you know, there's kind of this old poor me kind of, you know, handout kind of approach and, and yeah, and I'm all about the impact.

[00:20:12] Like this is amazing full work here. People like this needs to get recognized and this needs to get promoted. So, you know, I, I'm not going to have this approach of, you know, a handout. That's just, I'm not interested in that. And that in this, the people that we're serving, I don't think want to be served in that way either.

[00:20:28] So. I've seen it firsthand. I was on the board of directors of a nonprofit that should not be named and they were great and they meant well, but they did exactly what you're saying. They did not run it like a business. I mean, there were many times that I had like, Serious conversations in the middle of a board meeting where I was like, this isn't going to work because you're only going to get so far.

[00:20:53] You can't grow it. You can't, you can't do the impact that you really want to make. And I think approaching it like a business, you're now able to say to anyone, who's going to collaborate with you. Hey. This is also benefiting you and X, Y, and Z way. You're getting exposure. Look at the positive impact you're making in the community.

[00:21:14] That's how you work as a business. Yeah, exactly. And I think that that almost marketing kind of kitsch outta is is, is huge. Yeah, it's a richer, it becomes a richer story. So I mean, it, it was, I remember one of the, one of the light bulbs that went off, I was doing a lot of. Business development for a company I was working for.

[00:21:32] And, you know, we would go off and we would do a, you know, a night where you're packing food or something like that, and would bring a bunch of, you know, design people from my network together to do kind of that, you know, feel good, kind of, you know, is important, but we got done and everybody's kind of looking at each other like, well, that was all right.

[00:21:48] Yeah. And I'm like, what if we could like, Do a real physical project. And then it was like, what are you talking about? So, so it was, so now, which I collaborative is all about is, is teaming with trained architects, interior designers, contractors, the vendors, to, to dig into the functional issues of space and make these renovations, make these changes at no cost to those that we serve.

[00:22:21] So we are, you know, we're, we bring in the caregivers to a project, any healthcare providers that's relevant to the whoever we're talking about, whether that's mental health or physical health siblings, family, to really make sure we get a real well-rounded picture of, of what lays ahead of us. And we're also, I'm a big fan of data.

[00:22:39] So we do pre and post occupancy surveys so we can assess our impact. So, so again, you know, I come back to it as more of a business and, you know, we are, yes, there's a, there's an incredible feel. Good. Part about it, especially, um, you know, for my architecture and design friends who would like to do something that's a little bit more soul touching, um, you know, then maybe doing a tenant space.

[00:23:02] Not that people don't need quality workspace, but, um, it's just a different way for them to use, um, their skills. I mean, I'm so impressed and I feel like. I just have to make sure that we're doing justice. When you're saying you're renovating these spaces, your space is extremely beautiful to aesthetically like this.

[00:23:21] Isn't just a workable space and maybe we're making wider doorways. The photos I saw on the videos I saw, what you guys are doing is, is Oh, impressive. It's gorgeous. It's beautiful. It's aesthetically usable for. The person that's going to be living or using the space. And it was, it was actually impressive.

[00:23:42] The thought that goes into each space, it's not just, Oh, okay. We're making another accessible space. It's really a personal experience, which I think. You know, I I'm so impressed by thank you. I mean, we, you know, my, you can talk to designers who can do things all day long to make things look better. Um, I'm really much more interested in the functional reasons why things aren't working to support whoever it is.

[00:24:10] So we spend a lot of time. I mean, I mean, a typical project for us might take four months from, from initial interview to completion in that I would say a good chunk of that first month, and this is not, you know, Eight to five, but I'm saying, you know, w we're going to spend a month diving into what are the problems, right.

[00:24:28] Um, we can dive into design and you can jump on Pinterest right now. That's great. You go do that. Um, but I don't want to lead us down a path that doesn't work. Yeah. You want a functional space? That's going to last for more than just six months. Yeah. Right. So I appreciate your comments. I mean, I mean, that is, you know, once we can get through that stuff and get the functional stuff figured out, then we can start layering on things that are either, you know, more calming or more exciting or whatever it happens.

[00:24:53] Whatever's relevant to that program, right? Oh, it is awesome. It's an awesome project. So tell us, where is joy collaborative located? Is it right where you are like, are you, is it just local? Right now we are based in Minneapolis, the twin cities. So for this year, uh, we are focusing all of our projects within 50 miles of Minneapolis, St.

[00:25:14] Paul, um, that will change in the next calendar year. Um, when I know we're going to start. Going beyond that. So, um, you know, I was talking to a friend the other day about, you know, somebody called me from Atlanta and said, Hey, we've got this, you know, a special needs girl. And this, all of this, you know, would be great for you guys to do a project, our assets right now, our strongest, where we sit and my, again, going back to the business, the worst thing that we could do is over promise and under, under deliver.

[00:25:46] And so and so for, so for this next year calendar year, it's all about delivering exceptional projects. And then we can go beyond that, but I know that we can control and we can manage and we can deliver with within our boundaries right now, because that's where our network is. Nice. What, I'm sorry. When it comes to, I mean, I think it's insane.

[00:26:09] I think 50 mile radius, as huge as it is, that's just like, I know it's impressive. Um, who, like, how is someone reaching out to get help from joy collaborative or to become partner in it? Yep. So we're, um, just to kind of take into your, into your last comment, we're on, we're on track to do 10 projects this year, which is basically starting one a month.

[00:26:32] Um, and I'm really excited about that because it's only March. Yeah. You know, and to know we've got projects lined up. Probably through the fall is very exciting, excited if we had 10 projects lined up, but you know, we, we do have a referral form on our website, so people can self-refer. Um, w you know, we are, we are a known entity at a number of the children's hospitals, so there, you know, child life or their physicians can refer.

[00:26:59] To us, but I would say the majority of our projects are coming in organically from friends or people. Who've heard about us from other friends. Um, and I love that. That's, that's really great now that we would, you know, I mean, I, I want to open us up to any project that's that's right. Well, honestly, like the special needs or disabilities community as parents, I can tell you right now, It's amazing.

[00:27:22] I have more connections or are quote unquote friends in our little community that I'm always like, Oh, I can get this person this, or I can help this person get that. I mean, that's why we started the podcast. Right? Cause we had a, such a community we wanted to connect with where. If you asked me like who I talked to from high school or I'm like, I don't know, nobody, like it's just become, it's not only has it become my network, it's become my social group.

[00:27:48] It's become my support group. So yeah. We're always like pushing each other, you know? Yeah. We're always pushing each other and I think that's, you know, that's another reason why. For you guys. It's great because I'm sure when you do one, they're telling everybody. Yup. That's great. I mean, we, we just had, uh, we just had a, a, a reveal, uh, event last Friday, which was a couple of years ago.

[00:28:15] And, um, and this boy had, um, cystic fibrosis and ADHD. So he has to sit for an hour plus or minus every day, ADHD guy, the way for him to just sit and calm down. And, and, um, and we got that project actually through the cystic fibrosis foundation, they found out about us called us, said, Hey, we'd like to do a project with you guys.

[00:28:37] Um, we've identified this family. That has a very small home and they're not going to be able to, you know, do anything on their own. Could you come in and help? And so, um, you know, the, the crazy part of this is we started that project, uh, November before COVID and lifetime fitness was one of the key sponsors.

[00:28:58] And, um, because he had cystic fibrosis, which was, nobody can come in the house. There was no way we were going to do anything in March when we were we're ready to go. So, so it's just a thrill now that we were able, I mean, this kid has stayed. It's, it's a lower level space. He stayed upstairs for at least a month while we were through construction.

[00:29:18] And so we were just able to take him through it on Friday. And we did a virtual reveal, which was our first and, and fun. And. And yeah, just some great responses, you know, can we do it again? How can I help, blah, blah, blah. So I mean that, that level of engagement, once you, I think can see it, um, you know, if you saw the space beforehand, which was rock concrete and barely walls and no ceiling, you know, to something that, that is really fun that had, you know, an AAV component that had special lighting that had a custom wall graphic that was done by Minnesota United.

[00:29:52] So our, our kid fan was a big, is a big soccer fan. And Minnesota United is, is our local team. And, and they jumped in and did a custom wall graphic for him that included his, you know, his number and his name on the back. And it just blew his mind. So, um, but now he's got a nice quiet space. That's it? We called it the break away for Saki soccer fans.

[00:30:12] And, um, it's just a spot where he can break away and he can, you know, just relax and he can, you know, or he can do schoolwork or he can have friends over. So, I mean, it's, it's multifaceted in that way. And that's the thing. And I feel like these spaces. Like you said, like these spaces they'll grow with him.

[00:30:26] You know, it's a space that he can utilize for years, which I think, especially right now with COVID is just so important. I mean, for like, for our little Eddie, it's just been, it's been tough to like do virtual schooling. Can't be, and he's so social and can't be social. And then he got the ADHD and we're just jumping her and I'm like, I'm pulling my hair out.

[00:30:50] If he had a safe space where he can just. You know, do whatever makes them comfortable. It's it's such a neat experience. I think I'm, I'm so impressed and excited to hear about what you guys kind of continue to do, because it's a great feeling. Wake up everyday to know that you're gonna, you know, help some family or help some kid along the way.

[00:31:08] It's. Yeah, for sure. I'm jealous. Do you want your own space? Yeah, no. Like of the work, like to be creative, like I can't tell you how many times I go to like estimates and stuff and I'm like, ah, you know what we can do with this space? And they're like, well, no, we just want to put like, you know, a couple of cabinets here and I'm like, Oh, cool.

[00:31:34] The what I was envisioning, it was like way better, but let's do what you want to do. You're out there actually. Well, you know, that's kind of the beauty of it. It's like, you know, we get this, we get this really cool, you know, kind of entwinement between, you know, this. Person who needs help or this group that needs help.

[00:31:55] We've got this design community. Who'd love to do something that's maybe a little bit more engaging. And because our projects are sort of short term, they get to see the results fairly quickly. I mean, I was working on projects. It would be years before we saw. Right. Well, and you're in, you're typically only renovating a room.

[00:32:13] Correct? Or is it like, how, how has your renovations tip truly project dependent? It depends on the organization. We try to keep them under a certain square footage and level of complexity. So we're not moving plumbing walls. We're not moving load bearing walls. You know, where we need spaces that primarily are sort of are finished, ready.

[00:32:34] So we can come in and do this work because we can't. I, I can't lean on contractors, come in and do that kind of work at no cost. That's just, well, and you want to have a turnaround time. If you want to complete 10 projects in a year, then you need, you need to be able to turn it around fairly quickly.

[00:32:48] Right. Right. So, I mean, it's absolutely right. So, um, I forgot the question. No, no, there wasn't really one. We were just kind of, I was kind of like how big, how big or small, um, So, uh, the, the, um, homeless teen center that I mentioned, I think what we're going to end up doing, because it's a space that, um, sorta was cobbled together over time.

[00:33:12] I think they've been in business for more than 50 years, which is fantastic and they've been growing. Um, but the spaces aren't necessarily contiguous. And they're on different floors and they're serving different kinds of areas of their population. So I think what we're going to end up doing, I, my fingers are crossed that we'll end up doing sort of a master plan and then we'll pick away, you know, maybe there'll be three phases and we'll phase those in over time.

[00:33:34] That's a good idea because to do them all at once, I think is going to be really disruptive for a group that doesn't need that. Right. I was going to say that they need the least disruption possible probably. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So how are you connecting with contractors or companies to help get this work done?

[00:33:51] Um, I keep a list of designers and we've got more designers that we can probably give projects to right now, which is awesome. Wow. Um, usually they're connected to contractors. Um, I know a number of them, but they, they come through the, the one for fin that we just did. This is there. Second or third project and they're looking for more so that's fantastic.

[00:34:11] Um, and then as far as, you know, organizations, um, what, we're, what we're doing now, which I find really exciting is, um, expanding beyond just sort of this. Just renovation as a one and done kind of experience. So in, in the case of, um, boys and girls club, we're looking at doing the boys and girls club, um, in South Minneapolis, which happens to be just a couple of blocks from the George Floyd site.

[00:34:37] So it's a, it's definitely an underserved neighborhood, right? There are, there are kids who are feeling at school. Um, there are parents who have no eyes on their kids and I'm not shaming anybody. I'm just saying this is no. Yeah, no, it's the reality here where we are too. Yeah. And so they're, they're not, you know, these kids are not being drawn to this program and that is hugely unfortunate, um, because they have great resources.

[00:35:00] So we're talking to a couple of the local sports franchises about, can you bring let's, let's do a couple of things. Maybe you guys bring some coaches in once in a while. And help these kids and get them excited about being in this place. Because what we're trying to do is get them into the building. The building has not been renovated in at least 30 years.

[00:35:19] There is no kid. I know who would step into that space and go, yeah, I want to spend time here. I mean, it is sad. They want to see something cool and, and worth leaving. Leave it, leaving a computer phone or an iPad to go do. No. I mean there, I wish, you know, it's just, it's just, it needs it. And that's what the exciting part about it, about working with other nonprofits is, is like, you know, they've stretched themselves as far as they can go.

[00:35:44] Right. And they, but they need to not be worrying about the stuff that I want to worry about. Yeah. Right. They want to worry about getting these kids out. And then if the, if the kids aren't doing well in school, if they're not even coming into the building, so they don't get access to these resources, we're not helping.

[00:36:00] And so what can we do around this renovation? Can we bring in a sports franchise? Maybe we start doing e-sports teams. Maybe there's other things that we can do to start telling stories about the successes that these kids are going to have. Oh, I think I'm like jealous. I'm going to move to Minneapolis except for it's way too cold for me.

[00:36:19] Well for me here in new England, so I won't be coming there, but seriously it is. It's so great opportunity for these kids. I mean, we see it here. I mean, living in an inner city and our kids going to public schools, which I'm grateful that we have that opportunity, but I see it. I see kids whose parents aren't home.

[00:36:39] They work two jobs and they're not home during the day and they're not home at night. And. You know, especially right now, like virtual schooling is a joke for them really. It's not something that they can, it's not their priority and I don't blame them. Their priority is putting food on the table and right.

[00:36:54] And if you're, let's say you're the oldest teen in the house, you're all of a sudden responsible and adult. Yeah. So now all of a sudden you're responsible and you may or may not be participating in school and that we just can't have that. And we can't have, you know, a bunch of kids failing out of school, you know, Two years into COVID that's just got kids on the street.

[00:37:12] I mean, they're going to turn into kids that are on the street at that point. Right. Great. So, so this space will have, I mean, it'll definitely be, you know, it'll be, I don't know what it's going to be. Um, I don't want to project anything, but it's going to be a very exciting, flexible space for. Kids to have one-on-one mentorship in a very quiet situation.

[00:37:31] We're going to have group work. We're going to have podcasts going on. We're going to have e-sports happening. I mean, it's going to be a thriving magnet space. That, that is, that is our goal right now. I love that. You're thinking beyond just. Building the space that there's more to it. I mean, cause it's really easy and great.

[00:37:50] If someone just came in and said, Hey, we're going to just renovate the space and we'll paint the walls and it'll look great and buy it. I mean, that's still needed and in some of these places, but. If you're the fact that you're willing to add the extra element of saying, that's not going to be enough. We need to get people to come into the door to utilize this space.

[00:38:07] How can we do that? And you're being creative and you're thinking outside the box and using the connections you're making right while doing this project, I think is so necessary and really neat and cool and inspiring. Well, we w we all want a better community to live in. Right. As far as I can tell, well, I want a better community to live in.

[00:38:26] So if we can take some of our local resources where they have a surplus and bring it in and having it impact in a meaningful way, Hey, that's a win. Oh, for sure. How can someone donate to get involved? If that's something they were interested in? Um, just go to joy, In two minutes and hit the donate button.

[00:38:45] Perfect. That's easy. Or the other thing, you know, if, if, if, if we're, you know, somebody is interested, you know, they, they are interested in creating one of these sort of affiliate. We're calling them affiliate programs. Um, you know, just call me because two things can happen. I can tell you what we've been doing, but I also know that people come with really creative ideas.

[00:39:06] And I love being able to have those open conversations and just say, you know, what, what is it that you guys are coming with? What can we do to mirror back, you know, and accelerate or accent, what it is that you're already doing so that it's not maybe just a real, maybe there is something that's connected to what it is that you are as a business or a company.

[00:39:26] Oh, I, I think that's great too, to just kind of. The fact that you're willing to share what you're doing and help grow this business model for lack of a better word, really? Right. It's, it's a type of a business model in a way, but it's such a, you're giving back so much. If you, don't what there's such a need everywhere that you can't have this too much, you can't have too much.

[00:39:53] Right. I mean, that, that is our hope that, that in, uh, I don't want to say the year in a couple of years that this will be a national program. I mean, that that's been my goal all along. Um, that's why it's so important for me to build a foundation. That's why it's so important for me to do strong projects before we.

[00:40:10] Branch out. So, um, I, I, I see this as something that we can replicate elsewhere and I'm, I'm hope and pray almost every day. That that's something that we're, that we're headed to do. It has, I can see Eddie without, even on something like this. It's like, I can't wait. I got your number. So we, uh, we specialize in, um, you know, bathrooms, kitchen remodels, we do decks.

[00:40:36] So we do ramps. Um, yeah. Uh, my, my colleague and myself are, um, we don't like to brag, but we're very talented.

[00:40:47] No, you are, but you're creative. That's the key. So we're both very creative, um, and just. We have a lot of time ahead of us. Um, so I think the sooner we get in to this the better, well, I will say I can't wait. I think you're forgetting, like, when we first started thinking about like, what kind of business could we start like years ago before our daughter was born?

[00:41:10] You wanted a bake shop, but it wasn't just a bike shop. You wanted to shop with an afterschool program because they had a skate park because then I would have, because then it would start tomorrow. Yeah. That's the thing. Well, the thing is, is that like we were in, we were inner city kids, so we knew what it was like to grow up and not have.

[00:41:27] I mean, we didn't, we were. Well, he does, like, we just came out lucky, like rolled out of being from an inner city kid one. We had a solid foundation in our family. We're, you know, we're privileged in a way, but we were poor. There were times that we were in the line for the, to get food down at the food pantry.

[00:41:47] Like that was my family. And sort of think that like, I think for us, we were like, we're going to own something. Like that's a necessity. And, but we can't just own something without giving back. And we've said it many times, like when we wanted that bike shop, it was like, okay, bike shop in a community center.

[00:42:01] I'm going to make sure I bring kids off the streets doing something. Yeah. Because then I would have like a little cafe too, because then you can have kids making money, like earning money. And then I was like, then you have a restaurant. And so it was cook and serve it. And with this business, we've talked about as soon as we're financially enough.

[00:42:16] Spot where we, cause we just started the business, but we're in a financial good spot. We were like, once a year, at least we're doing some sort of give back project because again, like we know too many people that have been affected by things and gotten those types of projects and it's changed their lives.

[00:42:32] Yeah. So, you know, I want to keep being a part of something like that because it's exciting to it's, you know, it's one of those, win-wins where you've changed. Someone's life. It benefits them, but it also, you know, selfishly benefits you a little bit and that's okay. I'd rather be selfish and benefit ourselves.

[00:42:50] It is. I mean, that's one of the legs of the stool here. It's because you know, this is a great way for it to be, to build community, not just in a larger community, but like within the design world. So on affirm, you know, you're dealing with a tough client or you're doing something that you just doesn't really spark your interest.

[00:43:04] Well, you know, if you get a. Nasty client, but, you know, I can unplug later on and, you know, help Emily with a special whatever, you know, it rule, help your day job and it'll get your colleagues, et cetera. Once they find out what you're doing and working for a company. I mean, I'm sure that you're, it's an easy selling factor to get companies on board to work with you.

[00:43:27] It's the fact that. What it must do for morale as a whole, when you work for a company who's willing to give back like this. I know for me, if I'm looking at two companies for a job offer, I'm definitely going to jump on the one that's looking to give back to the community because they're their fingers on the pulse, right?

[00:43:43] Like they're really paying attention to what's going on and it's not just about them. And that is. Is priceless. Like it's in a way where like, you're going to keep retention of employees. It's just going to make a big difference. And I think in the last, you know, the last couple of years being sold traumatic for everybody, I think this is definitely going to be more of a focus of building culture within companies and, and doing that kind of outreach is going to be really critical.

[00:44:07] I think people who, I mean, you're seeing in many companies, if they don't have any kind of outwardly facing, you know, program to do social good, um, you know, customer's going to go to, you know, Well, I think generationally, I think, you know, that gen the gen X generation and all of that is their mindset is more about quality over quantity.

[00:44:27] Right? You see that they would prefer to work four day work weeks and get all of the work that you could get done in six days in four days, because quality is more important than quantity. And I think that there are companies that are just not on board with that. And they're slowly going to get out, run by the companies that are, cause they recognize.

[00:44:46] Good. That it does for everybody as a whole, when you have a better mental health, you're a better employee. Absolutely. I mean, the design firms have been doing good work in the community for a long time. Um, some of it may not have been necessarily related to physical space. So, um, this is a great way for them to, to prove kind of what they do that, you know, this is what they do as a profession, because I mean, You know, any volunteer group can come in and do paint stickers, right?

[00:45:16] Anybody can come and do that. Right. But to bring in trained professionals who do this everyday, who are, you know, very empathetic, because that is, that is what we do as designers, that they're going to ask questions that maybe you hadn't thought about, um, you know, in years of problem solving behind them.

[00:45:30] I think we're going to get, you know, greater quality product in the end. Oh, yeah. I mean, architecture, engineers, their brain works in a way that I can't even understand, like Eddie's, Eddie's got to engineer brain and sometimes I think, how did you even come up with these? You're so creative. I mean, there's a reason why STEM is so cool.

[00:45:46] It's boring right now because it really does stimulate your whole entire brain. And yeah, if you can sit down with somebody whose brain works that way and say, these are where my struggles are and then someone can come to you and go, I see your struggles. And I have a solution a hundred percent. I can't even imagine.

[00:46:02] I mean, there are, I mean, that actually just happened to us with our son's braces, for his legs, the traditional he's so unique in his disability. There's not a lot of kids like him, if any, and we've talked to so many orthotists that have said, Oh, this is the standard. And then the coolest standard doesn't work for him.

[00:46:22] We know what his strengths are. We know what his weaknesses are and the standard orthotic just isn't going to work. And we met this amazing orthotist who custom drew and custom created this amazing orthotic out of like three different designs. Like that's a creative brain that needs to be working in that field, you know?

[00:46:41] So the more people we can get kind of excited about doing that kind of work and knowing that it's there for them to do. I think it's exactly what you did in your life. You know, you saw a need and you saw that you had this creativity when it came to design, but also, you know, you have a big heart and you're thinking about others.

[00:46:59] I think being able to collaborate, the two of them is really cool. Yeah, I hope I hope we've got something really unique. And, um, and just that to be able to help on a, on a larger scale is going to be really fun. Yeah. Yeah. I'm just dealing with, sorry, Warren, Massachusetts. So you've got, you said you've got coming up.

[00:47:19] You've got about 10 projects this year, which is really exciting. I'm going to have a lot of excited families and communities. Tell us about the fundraiser you've got coming up. It's called architecture. Which is the neatest name, ever texture is going to be a fundraiser for us. So, so joy collaboratives, all about, you know, creative space.

[00:47:43] And we've all been locked up with our pets. If you've got pets for a long time and we're treating our pets very differently. So I'm much more human than maybe they would have been. And so we thought, well, let's, let's treat our pets to something creative. So, um, so we came up with architecture. So it'll be a fundraiser in June.

[00:48:04] Uh, that'll be primarily virtual, some in person, um, of pet furniture. So we're going to reach out to our designer, friends and our creative. We, Minneapolis is known for creativity and, and all the amazing studio artists we have here. And it's going to be a wide open competition. Um, To support joy collaborative in the work that we're doing.

[00:48:24] So I'm really, really excited, um, to be able to, to look forward to it, to see what kind of entries we come in, because we know we're going to get some just choice one. And, um, but we're also partnering with, um, with Finnegan's Finnegan's brew company, uh, is here in Minneapolis and they opened an incredible brew house, not long before COVID and, uh, but their, their business model is they are a nonprofit brewery, so they give their profits away to the community.

[00:48:53] And by offering other services, which is where they make their income. And, um, and so it's just this great partnership, um, between us and, and I'm super excited where we're, um, uh, you know, I think, I think we'll have some fun surprises for people, Sony. Awesome. You should send us some Finnegan's.

[00:49:14] Every once in a while we need to chill out. But what, um, I think it's really neat that especially with COVID, it's, it's almost opened up and allowed things like this, like fundraisers that are virtual to be for anyone can donate, anyone can participate in. So I think it's great that we're able to kind of highlight that and let our listeners know that.

[00:49:33] Because I would assume anyone can, can jump in. Right? Absolutely. I can't wait to see Eddie's entry. I know I'll be coming, but yeah, that's going to be the fun part. I mean, you know, originally it was just going to be, we were going to, you know, we were going to do it in some, you know, space where people could get together.

[00:49:49] And the more we realized that, you know, even in June people, aren't going to be comfortable, really getting together in person and. In a lot of non-profit experiences are happening online. So we're just going to focus a good chunk there. Um, but we'll have photographs of all the entries and there will be a competition online and we'll have celebrity judges and we're going to have kid judges and it's going to be, it's going to be really, I think this is, it's such a creative and unique way to do a fundraiser because I feel like so many people are doing like a virtual gala or, you know, things like that, which are great.

[00:50:20] But I. I think it's a lot, it's a really neat way to get people excited about wanting to be a part of something. I hope so. I mean, it's, you know, we'll have opportunities where people just want to, if they just want to donate, you know, and don't need a pet furniture piece. That's totally great. But I think we'll find a bunch of different ways that we're going to be able to Oh, fresh, have some fun.

[00:50:38] I mean, Since COVID, if I see one more dog or cat pitcher and I've posted more than I need to be posting because we're all working from home. Right. So I'm working from home now when I was out of the house, probably 50 hours a week. And my dogs are, as you could tell, even during this interview, very needy.

[00:50:56] For our attention. And that's only because I'm home all day long with them. They get my full love and attention. They've now become just another child. Okay. So my entry is going to be, so what's your entry idea? Oh, at the end of the bed, I'm going to do my dogs so they can be right there to the bed off.

[00:51:20] Great idea. I can have like little drawers and stuff for like their toys and blankets. Tell your idea. Get to build in. When does this episode come out and where are we right before that we'll have it on our website. Uh, early April is when we'll have everything kind of lined up. And then the event is actually June 5th, but entries are going to be due a couple of weeks before so we can all get them on social and whatever.

[00:51:42] Perfect. We'll share it all. Cause I'm excited about that. That's really neat. Awesome. So we ask all our guests the same thing. If you had a few moments to speak to our community, what type of advice would you give them? I think you touched on it a little bit earlier and I would just say, ask for help. And I come that, come that, come at that from the design experience that, I mean, at least here in Minnesota, we're, we're known as a very philanthropic community.

[00:52:06] And I think we have people who who'll say yes within reason pretty easily. Um, and I think. To your, to your audience that, you know, you might be surprised at what they might find. If they just ask about a problem that they think is insurmountable or they can't see a way around it. Um, w w w designers love solving problems like this?

[00:52:29] Um, six degrees of separation is not a thing. So you could find somebody very talented to help you. Don't, you know, don't run to, you know, uh, you know, you know, maybe a builder store to kind of look for answers. I would, I would go to somebody who really has experience. Who's been trained in asking questions and, and, you know, not letting you off the hook easy when it comes to answers.

[00:52:51] Ah, I think that's such great advice because. So many times it's, it is really easy to think, Oh, I'll just go on Pinterest and I'll figure it out and make it work for our family. But the reality is like you're saying, I think we forget sometimes that designers are creatives, right? So they think differently than the typical person does.

[00:53:09] And when you're a creative, you're really thinking about how will this space work for an individual or for a family or community. And. Sometimes you'd be surprised by how many people can help out. I think a lot of times people will think, Oh, I can't make my house more accessible because I don't have the money or I don't have the means.

[00:53:30] But the reality is there are a lot of people that are willing to even just explain to you what you can do. To make it a D I find somebody who can be your advocate, you know, find that too, while a person you, you know, um, who's just not going to give up, who's going to make sure that those waivers come through or he's going to make sure that they can find some cash.

[00:53:47] Cause you can't afford the run  or whatever it is. Yeah. Don't just don't I just, I'm a big fan of persistence and you don't have to be obnoxious about it. Yep. I mean use, I think it's perfect. Like use the same energy use when you're fighting with an insurance company to get their diapers covered, that you would to get your house squared away, to make it comfortable for everybody.

[00:54:07] And I think that's huge because I know like even for any of the space he's working on right now, you know, they're creating a therapy type room. That's not just for their child, but it's just so that they can have socialization with other parents and other children. And there's a safe, comfortable space for everybody involved, which is.

[00:54:25] I know for like when I, when we had Eddie and he was younger, it was huge to know that we could go to a space where I didn't have, I wasn't full of anxiety. It wasn't. Yeah. Cause that was a big, you know, you're walking in full of anxiety, you think, will this even work for us? Even when we have friends over at our house, I think if we're going to have a picnic, you know, what, if they have a wheelchair, how are we going to help them get into the house?

[00:54:47] I don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable, but some of those things are very simple changes you can make. For your own space to make a comfortable, and then you can have everyone come to your space. And now you've got a social group on top of that, which is something we have a difficulty doing in our little world.

[00:55:03] Yeah. The shot, you know, I think there, there's such a, um, the world has such a bias against what people look like and, um, you know, we need these kids. We need these kids. They've got talents. There they are, they are absolutely need to be somebody that we weave into our community and we can benefit from what they bring and inclusion is a win.

[00:55:25] So, you know, I, I see what we do as an honor and a privilege to hopefully get those kids. You know what to a point of bravery and excitement, where can everyone find joy, collaborative, find yourself free to reach out. If they're looking for more information you should need to know about is I enjoy

[00:55:43] Perfect. Um, my contact information is in there. Give me a call, email, whatever you need, whatever works best. I'm happy to talk about what we're doing. Awesome. I think I'm, I'm really excited to see what you guys do. I mean, you guys are so new in this process and already, and making such an impact. So I'm, I'm really, really excited to see where you guys go and what you guys do.

[00:56:03] Thank you both. Yeah. Thank you. Um, it's you're an inspiration for sure. Mark. Absolutely. All right. Well, we'll get ready when we need a couple of Eddie's on Arab. Yeah, you should be careful set the bar. And so I got something to aim for now. What I like a goal driven person. Well, thanks Mark. We really appreciate you coming on the show.

[00:56:25] Talk. Thank you both. I love what you guys are doing and the information coming out there is just great. So thank you. Same to you. Thanks for sharing. Well, thank you so much for listening. We really hope you enjoy this episode as always, please make sure you share with a friend and leave a review. You can find all the resources mentioned in this episode, on our Facebook or Instagram on, at special about special.

[00:56:49] Thanks again. And we'll see you soon.