- Entrepreneur Name: Andrew Eck
- Venture Name: Georgia Artisan Furnishings
- Impact Focus Area(s): Sustainability, Workforce Development, Community Development
- Business Stage (Ideation, Startup, Early, Later, Mature): Early
- Year Venture Established: 2016
- Business Type: For-Profit Social Enterprise
Social entrepreneurship is about solving problems. Tell us about the challenge you are focused on addressing and why it is critical that we make progress.
“If you drive around Macon, you can’t help but notice that there is a lot of blight. It’s a code term for houses that are beyond repair. They will never be remodeled and revitalized. A $9M fund has been created to tear these homes down, which has created an increase in the number of materials heading to our landfill which is already 95% filled. The biggest cost of demolition is waste removal. Working with a sister company of ours that does demolition, Georgia Artisan partners to reclaim wood to produce home furnishings.
The other part of our work is the employees that we have which we source from a partnership with the local technical school and workforce development authority. Our main goal is to make money, but at the same time attack some of the social issues here in Macon.
We also work with nonprofits and local city government to create benches and signs for pop-up parks. We contribute items that are place-makers for downtown Macon.
On days that I don’t make money, the personal and professional growth of my employees and the pride of the community we help grow are what I take home at the end of the day.”
Entrepreneurship is a journey that requires connections and support from a wide array of stakeholders across the ecosystem to help successfully identify, start, and grow a social enterprise.
“It was never one thing, but I would say the most significant experience for our businesses was going through the Velocity Accelerator in Macon which was founded by J.R. McNair. J.R. was able to find a sponsorship for me and one other company to go through the Velocity program.
When I came in to the program we were doing 1-2 orders a month. Truly more of a hobby level. Over the 10 week process, we changed our name to Georgia Artisan, updated our branding, pulled together a full business plan, and hired 2 full-time employees to help design and make more products.
It took about six months for things to come together, thanks to good online reviews our sales picked up significantly and we have been growing ever since. Velocity represented the transformational time—it allowed me to step back, put a plan in place for the business, and build a team.
In terms of getting plugged in to the community, I was already involved in the local entrepreneurship network as a student at Mercer University. As part of the campus maker space, I entered a competition with a music venture idea and finished in fourth place, just outside of any investment funds, and was frustrated with the judges. Six months later, I ran in to that same judge named Rob Betzel of Infinity Network Solutions and we had lunch.
That turned in to the best mentorship relationship that I have had. Through him I got connected to everyone in town. Now I have four or five mentors including advisors in different areas like construction, building development, and sales and try to return that same support to others.”
Why Georgia’s Social Impact Ecosystem Matters
Being an entrepreneur is hard and it’s even more challenging when you are a social entrepreneur as your business model and / or structure doesn’t follow the same path as traditional start-ups.
“Having a similar network like I have in Macon statewide where fellow Georgia entrepreneurs can link up with one another is at the top of my wish list.
Too often it feels like Columbus and Atlanta are further away than Boston.
My network within a 30 mile radius is strong. Linking with other networks across the state would be beneficial.”
Interested in learning more about Andrew and Georgia Artisan, please visit:
- Andrew on LinkedIn
- Georgia Artisan in the News