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Hidden Gems: Meet Brenda Mott of ScrapsKC

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brenda Mott, the Founder and Executive Director of ScrapsKC. Learn how ScrapsKC, a non profit creative reuse center, became an innovative and creative resale shop to serve the needs of Kansas City.

Playing outside until the streetlights came on, daydreaming and creating new ways to play with existing things was part of growing up in the 70’s. Brenda fondly remembers building forts in empty lots using found items, creating pictures out of clouds or making crafts from egg cartons. Simplicity strengthened creativity.

As a teacher and parent, Brenda realized that childhood play of the 70’s was STE(A)M education at it’s best. She wanted others to learn to create, build, problem solve, take risks, and be curious using things that would otherwise fill our landfill. The challenge Brenda faced was how to encourage this kind of creativity to a wider audience.

Five years ago, Brenda’s dream aligned with her family’s work with the homeless. Raymond, a homeless man Brenda’s family had been serving, asked for employment. It was the perfect opportunity for Brenda to turn her love for creativity, education and service for her community into ScrapsKC.

When the shop opened in 2016, scrap materials from community members, businesses and manufacturers lined the shelves of the small store where teachers, creatives, families, makers, and others could find second-hand art materials for their projects. Additionally, the homeless Brenda’s family worked with were invited to volunteer at ScrapsKC in return for food, clothing and survival items. Soon, ScrapsKC became a safe and welcoming creative environment to all of Kansas City.

Today, tens of thousands of customers have been welcomed at ScrapsKC’s large warehouse. Hundreds of homeless and community members have served tens of thousands of hours maintaining over 200 tons of donations diverted from the Kansas City landfills. Hundreds of children and adults have been educated on a variety of subjects and countless creative reuse items have been sent to over 29 states. The ScrapsKC team is honored by the outpouring of support from the Kansas City community for our mission, and we always look forward to welcoming new people to the ScrapsKC family.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Any start-up business has its ups and downs and ScrapsKC is no different. We started by selling recycled materials, like milk jugs and toilet paper rolls, thinking teachers would use them for classroom purposes. That didn’t work out too well for us. However, a local artist cleaned out her art studio and brought us thousands of dollars of painting supplies. She knew her donation would be purchased by someone who loved them as much as she did. That was the beginning of the change for ScrapsKC.

We eventually became the place that artists could bring their leftover supplies or purchase new supplies that fit into their budget. Community members could find creative supplies that were diverted from the landfill and only cost pennies on the dollar. ScrapsKC began to rapidly grow.

However, March, 2020 caused everything to change. Our doors closed for several months due to the pandemic. Fortunately, because of our work with educators and the homeless, we were considered an essential business. Like many other businesses, we pivoted to provide creative and educational kits for children who were now confined to their homes. Teachers used our contactless pickup for supplies they needed to teach online and parents and scout leaders were able to access our virtual programming. Our new online store allowed second-hand supplies to be sold anywhere in the world. Most importantly, we were able to feed and inform the homeless throughout the pandemic. It wasn’t perfect but we continued to support our community and we made it through.

As you know, we’re big fans of ScrapsKC. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about the brand?
ScrapsKC is a non-profit creative reuse center. We divert tons of creative materials from the landfill and resell them for 20-80% of retail value to support our mission. These creative materials are used by parents, teachers, creatives, artists, designers, makers and anyone who can transform something unwanted into something of value.

We serve local teachers whose school budgets are continually cut and spend hundreds of dollars, out of pocket, on their students. Every year we collect and repurpose gently used school supplies from local schools. The transformed school supplies are then given away to hundreds of teachers for free. Since our inception, we have given away over 35,000 pounds of restored school supplies to over 800 teachers serving over 20,000 students. Our homeless volunteers help repurpose the supplies and have said that if they had proper school supplies, maybe they wouldn’t have become homeless.

In addition to offering volunteer opportunities to the homeless, we serve breakfast on Saturday to 20-60 men and women who call the streets home. In addition to providing nourishment and fellowship, we invite them to ScrapsKC for purposeful activities during the day.

Our brand is lived out everyday at Scraps. We are curious, compassionate, dedicated to our community, collaborative with our customers and other organizations, creative and feel a sense of responsibility to our environment. We value Kansas Citians and are passionate about caring for our community.

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