Kámen Road has a mission of one-bag travel. When it was time to design our packaging for Kámen Road bags, I wanted a partner that shared our values.
We looked to the B Corp community in San Francisco and found Ashbury Images. I bought the black bamboo and soy drawstring bag from Pick Natural and contacted Ashbury Images in San Francisco to do the printing.
We are getting ready for another run with Ashbury Images, and I thought that it is time to introduce Wade Walker (WW), the general manager of Ashbury Images, who will give us the insider’s view of a company built on changing lives.
Kathleen Murphy: Can you give me the history of Ashbury Images?
Wade Walker: In the late 1980’s, Ashbury Images began as a vocational job training program in the basement of a homeless drop-in center in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. We started with one manual screen press mounted on an apple crate. Since then, we’ve grown significantly and our target population has shifted to focus on disconnected youth. In 2007 we moved to a brand new 11,300-square foot facility in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. Our total production capacity is now over a million prints a year on a single shift.
KM: What is your background?
WW: My background is in running large print, fulfillment and manufacturing companies. I decided to leave corporate America to join New Door Ventures and Ashbury Images because of the rough neighborhood I grew up in and the lack of opportunities for me and my friends. You can change the trajectory of a young person’s life by them just having an opportunity, a choice.
KM: What is most important to you and how do you achieve it?
WW: The most important thing to me is providing a safe place for our youth to come to and learn. We do this by working closely with the case managers at New Door Ventures, working together to make sure the youth get the proper job skills and life skills training needed to succeed.
KM: When Ashbury Images started, were there other companies doing what you were doing? To me, you are still a pioneer and your growth is inspiring.
WW: Locally, we were one of the first social enterprises providing this type of job skills training. Other organizations around the US have since come along.
KM: How did you build and grow this amazing model?
WW: Our growth really comes from our great partnerships with our customers. We also continue to evolve as our customers’ needs evolve. This year we added fulfillment and kitting to our services. This not only allows our customers to lower their per unit cost by ordering in bulk, but also gives them the option to drop ship to multiple locations. These services alone added 2-4 more youth positions throughout the year.
KM: Did the mission come first; then you identified your product services around the mission?
WW: I like to say that they came in tandem. Ashbury was created as a way to teach homeless men a skill, while being able to create some revenue for the New Door Ventures mission at that time. Ashbury grew and New Door Ventures pivoted the mission to work with disconnected youth. Since then we have been able to grow Ashbury and now employ 40+ youth a year.
KM: What were your biggest discoveries?
WW: I have discovered that most companies want to give back in some way. There is no better way than buying something tangible and knowing that it creates a social impact in the community.
WW: I really don’t feel we have any struggles. Giving back every day and creating opportunities is a blessing.
WW: We have been able to grow 15% this year to date. This has allowed us to hire four youth interns, full time, with benefits. No greater achievement then that!
KM: What should we all know about Ashbury Images?
WW: We are a nonprofit, social enterprise, located in San Francisco. We produce custom screen printed totes/shirts/etc.., promo goods and embroidered products, while empowering disconnected youth between the ages of 16-24, with paid job skill training opportunities. We also offer storage, fulfillment, kitting and drop shipping. Each year we put 40+ young adults through Ashbury alone and 200+ through our parent company New Door Ventures. Every order you place is a direct donation back to our organization and leads to more opportunities for our youth. Your order literally changes lives and creates a social impact.
KM: What is in your future?
WW: We recently launched an East Bay expansion at New Door Ventures. This has been really exciting for our entire organization. For Ashbury, this also gets our name out there even more in the East Bay community.
KM: How can we support your work?
WW: Share with your network, friends and family. They can change a life with every order placed.
KM: In addition to the dollars we spend, what can we do to support the lives of youth?
WW: We must give our youth opportunities, meaning the opportunity for work, education and a voice. We have to find ways to engage our youth and keep them connected.
Have a great weekend!