Looking back, Candis Marshall says that she had never would have envisioned that making products out of recycled tires could actually become a viable business.
Marshall, an artist and educator at heart, founded the Mega Mergers Apprenticeship Program in 2015 as a summer camp which focused on at-risk teenagers. Her intention was to teach them the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, accountability, self-sufficiency, hard work and communication.
This year, Marshall says that she intends to take the business to the next level, with a rebrand, having developed her ‘Cajouben’ fashion line using the recycled material.
“All of our products are made from tires, every aspect of the tire. We make accessories, jewelry, bracelets and belts for men and women. Depending on the event we can make speciality items. We also make functional furniture. Everything we do is art. I’m an artist. Everyone that has worked with me in the past has had some affiliation with art or youth development.”
“It was never my intention to get into this business, not even remotely,” says Marshall. She recalls that it all got started back in 2015. “My son was in the 2nd grade at the time and he wanted some money for a vacation. I told him to come up with an idea to make some money and whatever he came with and made I would match it. He though about it and found an old tire outside and said that we were going to make wallets out of the tire and so we did. Queens College was having an art fair I called up a friend of mine and told her I wanted to participate. We went there and were able to sell the wallets and straw bracelets and made $175 dollars.”
Still, Marshall notes that even though the initial response was great, the idea didn’t stick right away. It wasn’t until she ultimately developed the Mega Mergers program for the Ministry of Youth, that the idea really began to take shape. The response to the program was overwhelming. The program offers apprenticeship training that aims to boost environmental consciousness as well as encourage entrepreneurial skills and the development of social skills which can be used to generate immediate income on a shoestring budget.
“Last summer we had 25 kids and developed 60 products which we tested at expos as well as public and private events,” says Marshall. ‘I started 2016 with literally zero dollars. I was able to mentor some 25 young adults entering the work force. We did about 20 events we had about 30 media spots and were able to circulate about $25,000 though grants, doing festivals and things like that.”
“I have decided to move forward with the business because I actually see the viability of it not just locally but internationally as well. My perspective has changed about it entirely. The focus is not so much on craft but more so on fashion design . When we started it was all about creating things, throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks,” says Marshall.
“I want to inspire the next generation,” says Marshall. I looking to even bigger things in 2017, creating excellent, innovative products and inspiring people to do the same,” says Marshall.