Mimi Spaulding - Paperworks Studio
Today's Expert: Mimi Spaulding
ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Vertio Radio Local Business Spotlight. Here is your host, John Bentley.
JOHN: Today on Vertio Radio Local Business Spotlight we have Mimi Spaulding. She is the Career Education Coordinator for Paper Works Studio. Welcome to the program, Mimi.
MIMI: Thanks for having me, John.
JOHN: Tell our listening audience what is Paper Works?
MIMI: Paper Works and Paper Work Studio…we have two facilities and both team up…we’re partners in training and partners in employment, and we make hand made paper. And when I say we, we have a cadre of special education students in training and adults who have disabilities and barriers to employment making some supremely wonderful hand made paper that will hit the market place in a variety of different forms.
JOHN: Well I guess I’m wondering what is hand made paper.
MIMI: Hand made paper…if you have ever seen the old world way of paper making it is actually pulling a pulp that is made out of different fibers and recycled materials through a screen and then that mixture is dried in one way or another. We have our own special way of drying it and it is made into an actual sheet of paper. It’s more of a decorative paper rather than a paper you would use everyday like when you’re writing out an assignment for a class or something like that. You wouldn’t use our paper. You would use our paper for special things; sending a note to a friend, making your wedding invitations, your bar mitzvah invitations, sending out a corporate customer event. Our paper is specialty and beautiful, and we have 28 different standard types, and then we do a whole bunch of custom work.
JOHN: Ok, now who would be interested in the products that you offer?
MIMI: The products we offer…we do both wholesale and retail business, and we also do a very large custom business. The retail side would be anybody, you and me of the street who needs a product. We have a great website: www.paperworkstudio.com where you can order any of our stock note cards or our full sheet paper for crafting yourself. Our wholesale business would be leading toward that store in the marketplace that represents gift products, stationary, and high end products for their customers. And then, of course, our custom market would be anywhere from somebody who is getting married, maybe somebody who is having a baby, a group like a corporate group that wanted to have a special invitation sent out for their extra special clients or to a big event that they are holding. They would commission us to make their special invitations.
JOHN: Ok, now where is the Paper Works Studio located?
MIMI: We have two locations. Our training facility which is part of the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District is at 880 Parsons Road. Paper Works Studio, the facility where we actually sell product is under the direction of Goodwill Industries and Goodwill Industries location for Paper Works Studio is at 2889 Aero Park Drive in Traverse City, Michigan. And Goodwill Industries is the partner that has partnered with the TBAISD in order to promote employment. This is an employment option for individuals with special needs who need some support in an employment situation. They’re not quite able to maybe make the best decisions on their own so they need a little support and guidance in that and everyday decision making, every day effort, but they have a want to work and a will to work and they have some skills to get this paper made. It’s just beautiful.
JOHN: Now, Mimi, how did Paper Works evolve? How did this come into play?
MIMI: Well it started about 20 years ago as a classroom project here at the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District for our special needs class and this was a project that was started by a classroom teacher by the name of Tim Coffee. He started it with his students who, I don’t know if you know much about special needs, but these individuals were fairly severe and with multiple disabilities. If you can imagine their cognitive level that he was starting with was somewhere between a six month old and a two year old, very limited cognitively, and he was given the assignment to go out and recycle with his classroom, and he started picking up paper with his kids and trying to recycle paper because it was the big push about 18 – 20 years ago, and what he felt is he felt like his kids were being viewed as garbage collectors, and it really upset him. So he said, gosh darn it, I’m going to find a way to make something out of this paper that we’re recycling that people will appreciate and that is where Paper Works Studio was born. Keep in mind Tim Coffee is a guy who hunts and fishes and really is not an artistic kind of guy, but he did some research, went to some classes, did years of trial and error in order to make this program what it is and integrate the students into the program and then slowly integrate higher functioning students in to work side by side, work as peers, get to know one another. All the different jobs have been broken down into these different, available, accessible tasks that our students can be successful at and have a part in. That’s how the whole history evolved.
JOHN: We are in the studio with Mimi Spaulding. She is the Career Education Coordinator for Paper Works and Paper Works Studio and you’re listening to the Vertio Radio Local Business Spotlight. I’m your host, John Bentley. We’re going to take a break here, but we’ll be right back. More with Mimi.
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JOHN: Welcome back to the Vertio Radio Local Business Spotlight. Today we are in the studio with Mimi Spaulding. She is the Career Education Coordinator for Paper Works and Paper Works Studio. Welcome back to the program, Mimi.
MIMI: Thank you.
JOHN: Now we’ve been talking about the high quality, hand made paper products that you guys are Paper Works are producing. It’s a great opportunity for training employment for special needs students. I guess I want to ask you, how has this business impacted the special needs community?
MIMI: Well this opportunity and I’m glad you called it that, because that’s exactly what it is. A lot of other schools take the approach of teaching vocational skills or work skills to their students in a non-authentic way. This opportunity really allows the students to take ownership of what they’re doing, what they’re making, seeing it through from A – Z. They take it from the material stage all the way through the finished packaged product and they have ownership of it, and a lot of other places do different activities but they don’t really result in that same pride and self esteem that is built into the Paper Work Studio process. Our students go on to become, some of them, go on to become integrated employees into this community. They’ve learned skills that will take them on to community jobs or programs where they contribute. Some of them will have the ability to go on and work at Paper Work Studio which is operated by Goodwill Industries, our partner in training and we hope to have hundreds of employees in the future. We’re just getting started out, and we have a great crew, and we are impacting their lives every day. We’re helping them have a reason to get up in the morning, a place to go, a place to contribute. I think a lot of people take for granted that they have a job and that they go to work every day and that they have a place where they are appreciated. Think if that wasn’t the case. What would your life be like if you didn’t have an option, a place to go to work and contribute and be part of a successful group? That’s what work is and at the bare minimum that is what work is to people. Whether they realize it or not it’s a place to go to make their life better, not only through the pay check, but to build relationships and grow your self esteem and that’s one of the things that Paper Work Studio is really helping to do. The work force development option is one that wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Goodwill Industries stepping up and taking on this new Paper Work Studio facility.
JOHN: Well we certainly know how valuable Goodwill Industries here in the Traverse City area. It sounds like a good match.
MIMI: Very good match. Our missions are so similar, and we’re looking not to give a hand out, but a hand up. Help people realize their potential, help them achieve their maximum self-sufficiency and if we can help instill a work ethic in people that they can take and carry on, that’s just going to make their future stronger.
JOHN: Now you had mentioned that you use recycled materials. How important is that in your business plan?
MIMI: It’s critical. From day one it was a need as far as cost, you know, cost saving effort back before everybody was green. But now it’s really become a way of life. We have refined the process down so that we are using approximately in almost every recipe ½ is recycled paper content in our base pulp mixes. We also use recycled floral, outdated floral that comes from florist shops around town and grocery stores that we have we have great arrangements with and that have just been wonderful partners. They give us their outdated floral that can no longer be sold to customers would normally go in a dumpster, and we take it and we take it and we are able to recycle the petals and dry them and embed them in the paper in a couple of our paper types.
MIMI: Yeah, we have other fibers that we use as some of our mainstays that are store bought, but those in and of themselves are recycled, recyclable, renewable sources and those would be cotton linter and abaca. Abaca is a type of real strong paper that you find made into coffee filters that you run coffee through and it doesn’t tear. That’s one of the fibers that gives our paper its strength. The cotton linter that we buy that goes into our pulp is a very soft fiber that gives a nice softness to our paper. So when you combine the cotton linter, the abaca, and the recycled paper that is sorted and shredded and placed into our pulp, it’s really a beautiful quality paper that has a neutral ph balance so if people want to use it for scrapbooking and put their photos on it’s not going to yellow their photos. Over the last 18 years, we’ve really got it down to a science and we know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and these students have been able and the employees have been able to rise to every challenge we’ve given to them as far as just making sure the product is the utmost quality.
JOHN: Now what about something new in the foreseeable future? Where do you see the studio in 5 years from now and/or do you have any new products that may be coming out soon?
MIMI: Certainly. Last summer we redesigned when Goodwill and TBA did their partnership agreement, the first thing we tackled was the product line. We are ready to launch the brand new product line which includes our old favorites like the floral, the crushed rose, the paper made from actual denim, the golden fern, and then we have our marbled line which has eight beautiful different type style marbling color combinations. And then we have a new color of ten shimmery solid color embossed cards which are just gorgeous. That’s probably going to be the biggest surprise to people. We’ve never done embossing. We’ve done a lot of dye cutting in the past. The embossing brings more of an artistic quality and a higher class of product if I might say that rather than a crafty product. It’s really become an art piece. And one of the things we’re most proud of is bringing a new graphic designer onboard who will be specializing in custom orders. She will be the go to for weddings and corporate clients who need a really special beautiful invitation made from our paper. Before we’ve done this in house and we have serviced probably over the years about 600 special orders including probably a good 2/3 of them being brides and grooms who are ready to tie the knot and want something special that says something special about them, and they have enlisted us to make their special day invitation, and their wedding thank you cards, and their programs, and whatever you can imagine that might go into a wedding and the paper line that goes into a wedding we’ve done it. Now we have a person that is specially dedicated to that. Her name is Heather Sills and she is our graphic designer for Paper Works Studio.
JOHN: Excellent. Well we have been in the studio with Mimi Spaulding. Mimi our time is up, but before I let you go, I would like to have you share your website and contact information for our listening audience.
MIMI: Certainly. Our website is www.paperworkstudio.com and our phone number in Traverse City is (231) 995-7757.
JOHN: Well Mimi thank you for joining us today on the Local Business Spotlight.
MIMI: Thank you so much, John.
JOHN: We’ve been in the studio with Mimi Spaulding. She is the Career Education Coordinator for Paper Work Studio, and you’ve been listening to the Vertio Radio Local Business Spotlight. I am your host, John Bentley, signing off. Have a great day everyone.