To open our newest feature, ‘Meet the Scheme’, we spoke to Matt Wood, Reuse Shop Manager at Community RePaint Loughborough which is run by The Exaireo Trust, to find out more about what happens behind the scenes. Matt has been employed at the Exaireo Reuse Project for the last 2.5 years and manages the day-to-day paint operations at the scheme.
Matt Wood, Reuse Shop Manager at Community RePaint Loughborough
So first things first, Matt, please can you tell us a little bit about your organisation, The Exaireo Trust, and why you became a Community RePaint scheme?
Community RePaint Loughborough is hosted by The Exaireo Trust (Exaireo), a local Christian Charity and Registered Provider of Social Housing providing temporary supported accommodation and a holistic service to single adults that are homeless in the Midlands. The aim of Exaireo Reuse Project is to provide work experience for the homeless supported by Exaireo through upcycling furniture, providing these individuals with confidence, new skills and socialisation, in preparation for the workforce within a safe space.
We manage 12 supported accommodation houses in the area which we rent to ex-homeless and provide placements for these individuals. Through this work, we gained a greater awareness of paint waste and paint reuse, which is also when we found out about the Community RePaint Network and decided to join.
This provided an additional project for our ex-homeless clients to gain skills in areas, such as processing paint, paint retail and painting furniture.
Furniture upcycling at Community Paint Loughborough
Can you tell us what your typical working day is like and share your top tip for managing your business during these more uncertain times?
A typical day at the Exaireo Reuse Project includes taking upcycling commissions from customers and upcycling furniture with paint from our Community RePaint scheme. We have had 37 upcycling customer commissions over the last 12 months, where they have asked us to personalise old furniture that they’ve purchased through us.
We also work hard with increasing our online presence to ensure consistent messaging, especially during the numerous lockdowns, including promoting the scheme and encouraging people to get involved – whether that be through purchasing or through their presence. By increasing the awareness of the Exaireo Reuse Project and Community RePaint Loughborough we are helping to change the lives of homeless people.
We’ve recently built an online shop to allow customers to purchase paint online to collect in-store here.
Community Paint Loughborough’s online paint shop
My top tip for managing our business – at all times – is to invest in the people who come through the door. I’ve noticed that customers who come in the store are often grateful for the conversations I have with them, whether that be talking about what we do as an organisation or helping them choose the right type of paint for their project.
It’s a more personal experience and important to establish that customer relationship. It’s what separates us from the rest of the paint retailers in the area. We, therefore, pride ourselves in providing an educational and pleasant experience whilst helping to make a difference.
Furniture upcycling at Community Paint Loughborough
What have been Community RePaint Loughborough’s biggest achievements thus far?
I honestly think that our dedication to customer servicing has been our biggest achievement. We are always trying to get a better understanding of our customer’s requirements and develop relationships.
We are also interested in developing new, efficient ways of doing things and broadening our horizons, specifically in terms of how we can support the community even more.
Joining the Community RePaint Network has also allowed us to do more in terms of what we can offer customers and the work experience we can provide for the ex-homeless.
In 2019 Community RePaint Loughborough collected 6,285 litres of reusable paint and distributed 5,794 litres of reusable paint.
Community Paint Loughborough’s paint display
Do you have any painting tips that you can share with us?
The most important thing to remember is that painting is a process, and it makes such a difference if you complete all steps of the process – sanding, cleaning, priming etc. – to ensure a good result. Having a better understanding of each step of the process often leads to increased investment in projects.
For those interested, it is also worth spending a bit of time researching the difference between water-based and oil-based paints to decide what’s best for your project. There is so much more to be aware of than just what colour to choose.
To recap, for a higher-quality finish you need to put in a bit more elbow grease to reap the rewards. When it comes to painting furniture it’s all about prep, prep, prep.
Proper preparation precedes perfection!
Paint processing at Community RePaint Loughborough
What’s next for the Exaireo Reuse Project?
We are expanding our range of products and reuse operations at present. We received 6 months of funding to recycle and repurpose wooden pallets, which will be overseen by an ex-resident. We kicked this off in December when we sold our pallet wood Christmas Trees, but we plan on putting together a brochure of items that customers can order, such as bird boxes, storage, tables, etc. The pallets will be donated from a local business and will be repurposed by the ex-homeless. We will promote this new project online and would ideally, like to sell our stock to local garden centres.
Click here for further information on the Exaireo Reuse Project and to purchase paint.