Kelly Britton, Cure Cincinnati

Kelly Britton and her twin sister, Kari, founded CURE Cincinnati to salvage scrap materials from local companies and to teach Cincinnatians how to creatively recycle and reuse them.

How did you start your business?
About a year ago, I saw [the reuse center] Scrap in San Francisco while visiting a friend, and we came up with the concept then. In October 2012, we followed that idea and launched Cure Cincinnati. We started taking donations wherever we could and storing them. We’ve moved so much junk from our apartments in and out of storage units!

Today, we take free items and donations of anything we can upcycle and turn into something new, and mostly limit ourselves to collecting from interior design and architecture firms.

What’s your mission?
To keep scrap material out of landfills, and get it to anyone who can find a creative reuse for it, like artists or teachers, and finding a way to upcycle. Pinterest is such a big deal right now, so we feel like we’re providing for a need people don’t even know they have yet.

Why open a reuse center in Cincinnati?
There are around 40 creative reuse centers in the U.S., so we’re building from something that exists already. A business might typically pay someone to pick up palettes of scrap materials. When we pick that same material up for free, we’re doing them a favor and helping ourselves out.

Our spin on creative reuse is that we want to host classes using the materials we gather to show students and other people how to upcycle. My sister and I are both night owls and we work until 4 or 5 in the morning; we’ve never had anywhere in Cincinnati, like a coffee shop, open then, so our other idea is to have this be a space that is open 24 hours.

How did you get the word out?
There are so many great resources in Cincinnati—we knew getting donations wouldn’t be hard at all. One of the biggest things we did at first was that we created a press release kit. We put together envelopes letting design companies, architecture firms and schools know that we exist and will pick up materials. We’ve gotten a lot of scrap fabric, pieces of wood and just really anything you can think of from places like GlazerWorks, an architecture firm downtown, Valerie Makstell Interiors and the Bruce D. Robinson Design Group, and other people, too, who have donated through finding us elsewhere.

What have you done so far with materials you’ve picked up?
We craft with them to make or sell items. We’re at Market Side Mercantile—[artists and crafters] can rent space there. They sell our stuff and we have stuff we’ve made down there. I just made throw pillows that had different paintings of Cincinnati on them.

What’s next for you and your company?
It’s uncertain right now. For now, we’re collecting donations and taking things as they come. We store donations in our apartments and we’ve had storage units before. The next step for us is getting investors and getting a physical location downtown.

The idea is to bring the resources to the community so they have an area to go to try these [upcycling] ideas. It’s easy to say you can make something you see on the internet with things you have at home, but it’s often easier to just go to a store and buy it there.

Interview by Robin Donovan

Check out SoapboxMedia's recent feature article about upcycling centers around the country.