How a Binder Clip Can Change the World

Taylor Willis & Vanessa Barker, Co-Founders of The Welman Project

Closed Caption Transcript:

Hi friends, my name is Vanessa Barker.

I'm Taylor Willis and we are
the co-founders of the Welman Project.

We are a local non-profit on a mission
to fill the classroom, not a landfill.

So we are working to solve these
two big issues in our community.

That's waste output generated
by businesses

and lack of resources in our schools

with one solution,
and that's creative reuse.

We do that by collecting surplus materials from businesses,

finding curriculum,
enhancing ways to repurpose those materials

and giving them away to teachers
for creative reuse in their classroom.

And today, we are going to tell you how
a binder clip can change the world.

Let's back up just a little bit.

So my good friend Taylor
here said creative reuse.

Well, what is creative reuse? In our mind,

Creative reuse is looking at the every
day through a lens of possibility.

So sure, this is a binder clip
and it clips papers together.

That's its intended use.

But how can we creatively reuse this

in general and specifically
to us in a classroom?

There's lots of really fun ways.

For example...
 You can create a catapult

using a binder clip, a spoon
and some rubber bands.

Why is that important for a classroom?

Well, that's physics and it's math.

And it can be applied in kindergarten classroom

or it can be applied in a
high school senior science classroom.

Another thing you can do with this
is with the binder clip.

You can make your own clipboard.

So if you have a stiff cardboard or

the end of a notepad
with that kind of press board

material at the back,

you can actually make your own clipboard,
which is really great for teachers,

because that's a hot ticket item
that teachers are always looking for.

And generally speaking,
they need one for each student.

And generally speaking, there's
twenty five kids in the classroom.

So instead of purchasing brand new clipboards,

easy way to make your own using your own using a binder clip.

Now, that's just a binder clip,
but in our line of work,

we apply creative reuse literally
to everything that crosses our path.

So when a business donates surplus
materials, whether it's office supplies or

factory remnants or outdated signage,
business cards, we're looking at that item

not just for what it was or what
it still is, but what it could be.

How many different ways
can manipulate this thing?

In a classroom to cover anything from
math, science, literacy,

to history, to art

and all the other subjects
in between.

So creative reuse,

is something that anyone 
can participate in

and encourages you to 
color outside the lines

and think outside the box,
which is my superpower.

And what does this have to do with you?

Well, you're entrepreneurs,

you're business people,
you have businesses

and businesses account for two thirds 
of the waste in our local landfills,

Two thirds! That's a lot of waste.
That's a lot of waste.

So as business people out in the world,

we want you to be out there thinking
responsibly about your waste

and working to reduce that waste output
that is coming from businesses.

As entrepreneurs, you have flexibility.

You're setting up your business,
you're making choices.

And we want those choices
to be sustainable choices.

So looking at all of the ways that you can do that

in your business and actively
making those choices,

because it's important,
not only because it's the right thing to do, 

but for your consumers,

79% of consumers say that they consider

the sustainability practices

of a business before making a purchase.

So it's good business practice.
Is what you're saying, Taylor.

That is what I'm saying.


So there are two things that we encourage
you guys to do within your business.

One is to rethink and the
other is to reimagine.

Excuse me.

The first thing is rethinking what
you are doing, how you are using your

business dollars, how you
are making partnerships.

Are the companies and people you're

working with also practicing
sustainable measures?

Are they reducing their carbon footprint

if you are shipping
and packaging lots of items,

what does that packaging look like?

There are really great options 
for packaging and shipping nowadays

that really reduces the amount 
of one time use plastics

and can.... 
That box or that packaging can be

reused or at the very least
recycled, which is awesome.

So another part of rethinking 
is rethinking your day to day,

and it goes beyond just
having a recycling bin in your break room.

It has to do with, all right,
if we are producing business cards

or we're producing letterhead,
what do we need to have on there?

What is absolutely necessary?

Your website, your website is not
going to move, but your offices might.

So unless you're really having 
somebody come to a location

for your goods or services, do you really
need that on there?

A lot of what we get from companies

besides binder clips, are paper products
that have outdated information on them.

So what information is necessary?

For your customers, for your partners 
to have on that piece of paper,

and what can you
really eliminate to keep that...

those documents, those papers 
in circulation longer?

Obviously, going paperless 
is really rad. I love trees.

You should love trees too. They're
good for the environment.

They make our world beautiful.

So going paperless is always rad.

And then in that,

if you decide to go paperless,
what do you do with all those binders?

What do you do with all those binder
clips, paper clips, staplers?

Well, duh, you donate to us
and then we pass them to teachers.

So just rethinking
how you're purchasing what you're having

in your office or
your shop is really important.

Try to get that two thirds
of waste produced by businesses down.

That's a great goal.

The other thing is to reimagine.

So we all are going to create waste.

It's inevitable,
no matter how hard we try to reduce or

refuse, waste is going to happen,
especially in the business world.

But it doesn't have to go into a landfill.

So when you're done using it or

if there is a misprint, duh,
call us, but also reimagine.

You know, think about, well, I really
would have thrown this way.

But now that I listened to 
Taylor and Vanessa at the Women Project,

I know that this binder clip

or I know that this weird sample
has so many more applications.

So we encourage you to 
think outside the box,

which you already do
because you're entrepreneurs.

So this is a no brainer for you.

Rethink, reimagine.

Why should you do this?

Well, because it impacts your Fort Worth.

That was good.

Thank you.
You're welcome.

We chose to focus on getting 
resources into schools

and improving our education
system because we know that 

an equal education for all is vital
to the success of our community.

And so we want to improve those,

the education for all
the students in our society.

So we are looking for creative reuse 

as a solution in classrooms
because having that hands on,

open ended kind of learning is vital

to developing the skills that our
workforce needs. 

Being able to manipulate these materials 

and have these 
outside of the box activities 

promotes problem solving and
critical thinking skills and creativity.

And I'm going to bet that's what you are
looking for when you are hiring employees.

So as your business is growing and you're
looking in the future to hire 

hundreds of employees for your 
very successful business

that you have planted here in Fort Worth,

we want to make sure that you have

the resources to be able to hire 
the successful workforce

that you need for your business to thrive.

So as business people in this community,

you need to be concerned about
the education that is happening now

because that's going to impact
the future of your company.

It's so true,

I mean, it is it's crazy to think about it.
My kiddo's a first grader right now, 

and she will be in the
workforce before I know it.

And what can we do as a community to make
sure that even these young learners are

tapping into that creativity that so often
gets stifled as we get older and older?

So. Rethink, reimagine, care.

And the final thing we want to talk about
is where we are. So, 

physically we're in our new building,
which is very exciting.

But Taylor and I,
we've known each other since childhood,

we have always had a passion
for the environment.

We... We grew up in Fort Worth ISD,

and so we really wanted to give back
to the community that raised us and then

create a better community environment
for the kids we're raising today.

We started out as a hobby and we thought, 

oh, man, there's so many things going 
in the landfill

when we used to work in event production

and we noticed that 
there was a lack of resources in our schools.

So. All right, why not? 
Why not just put those two together

and use some creative reuse 
 brainpower and knock on some doors

 and see if teachers or
schools would be interested?

They were.

And it was nuts.

And so we decided, you know, 
we should probably become a non-profit 

and just be like, legit.

And so we did.

And it wasn't until a year
and a half ago maybe that we really

felt comfortable 
calling ourselves entrepreneurs.

You know,
we were just two buddies who had an idea.

It was a passion project. It was joyful.

It was fun, and I got to hang
out with this chick all day.

So but in order to take this project
and really be an agent for change

and really make an impact on our
community, we needed to start

telling ourselves that we were businessmen
and that we were entrepreneurs.

And once we felt a little bit more
comfortable in that role,

things really started picking up.

So who would have thought that in a global
pandemic that we would be in a position

to move into a new building that is twice
the size of our current location

and has heat and air conditioning,
which is super bonus.

But here we are.
And we got here because of amazing mentors

and which is so vital
in launching your idea.

We got here because
of a supportive community.

We got here because educators said,
yes, this is helping.

This is impactful.

So we did not do it alone.

What's going to happen 
in this new space is that 

we'll be able to continue our
mission of filling classrooms and not landfills,

but will be able to invite
the community as a whole into our space.

So currently it's just educators coming in 

and shopping for free
for their materials.

But now in this new location will be able
to invite the community as a whole

to come and use their purchase power 
to support that mission

through a retail space that 
boasts awesome creative reuse projects

and items and vintage things
and funky things,

as well as a workshop space where

the community, young, not so young,

pretending to be young,

can come and 
get their hands dirty and be messy. 

And get back to those creative,

critical thinking, problem solving skills

that I think are deep down inside
of all of us, but kind of get

swallowed a little bit by 
the hamster wheel of life.

So, yeah, so we're really excited.

We're going to be celebrating
our fifth birthday.

So. It's just crazy.

We've always been flying the plane
and building it at the same time.

And I think in year five, year six,

we're starting to really get  
to that cruising altitude and

trying to do our business better.

I've talked a lot,

but I also want I also want to say
that when you look at, OK,

you need to be an agent of change or
for change or you need to make an impact.

That sounds really daunting.

You know, there's a lot of big issues
in the world right now,

and it just feels sometimes overwhelming
to think about how you as an individual or

your company is going to
help solve those issues.

A wise person once told me that

there's only one way to eat an elephant,
and that's one bite at a time.

We don't actually eat elephants,
but you can make an impact

with small actions,

with small adjustments in how you
run your company,

and that goes to sustainable practices
in implementing those in little bites.

You know, Taylor and I.

We thought, all right,

we'll put our little little bits of good
into this bucket and hopefully one day

it'll fill up and maybe we'll see
a bigger change.

Well, the community jumped in and went,

I want to put some stuff in that
 bucket, whether it was actual stuff 

or volunteer time or just
an encouraging note to a teacher.

And that bucket filled up really fast.

And now we have millions of buckets.

And the impact and the change
that we're seeing

is instant and that's crazy,
so don't be discouraged about, oh,

I got to be this agent for change,
you already are.

You're an entrepreneur.

You already saw

a place where the world could improve
and you're doing it right now.

But now you can do it with... considering,

you know, what you're purchasing and where
it goes. What else you got, Taylor?

That's it.
We love Fort Worth.

You're in a great place.

Keep doing whatever you're doing.


A binder clip can change the world.
It really can.

We've seen it happen.