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Social entrepreneur turns old houses into new furniture business, Owen & Abbey

Owen & Abbey products

Owen & Abbey wood

Kimberly Watts' new business does a lot to make its customers feel good about their purchases. The Detroit-based business utilizes reclaimed wood and provides jobs to disadvantaged women.

Owen & Abbey makes tables and an assortment of home furnishings from wood reclaimed from deconstructed homes in Detroit and Pontiac. Watts was inspired to start this business last year when she first came across products made from reclaimed building materials.

"I thought there was a business here, but I wasn't sure about it yet," Watts says.

While Watts had an extensive background in fundraising, she did not have much of a history as a maker. But the idea of turning reclaimed building materials into a business stuck in her head, so she wrote a business plan and entered it into the Michigan Social Entrepreneur Challenge. She won the Jaffe Right Start Prize.

"Then I knew I was onto something," she says.

Today Watts is splitting time between her day job and Owen & Abbey. She hopes to grow the company to the point where she can start to hire people, specifically local women battling through economic adversity. To help make that happen, she has been filling orders from referrals and Etsy listings. Watts also graduated from the Build Institute's entrepreneurship program earlier this year, which is also helping steer work her way.

"It does a great job of supporting its graduates," Watts says.

Source: Kimberly Watts, owner of Owen & Abbey
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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