jenny2015My name is Zach McCullough and I’m Dabble’s community manager among many other things. I recently wrote a blog post about moving to St. Louis from Austin, TX and starting to work for Dabble. I talked about all the people I’ve met in St. Louis, working for Dabble, and why I decided to create this interview series – Dabble Talks.

If you haven’t read any of my interviews, start with this one. Perennial is a DIY shop on S. Broadway and their founder, Jenny Murphy, has been one of Dabble St. Louis’ earliest adopters. Perennial is a lot of things so you’ll need to read my interview below to understand their story, but know one thing – these women are doing great things for the community.

Be sure and click through the link above and find out how you can get involved. There are lots of ways and remember, you’re supporting a great cause.

When did you decide to start Perennial and how long was it before you opened your doors?

The ideas behind Perennial started forming when I was an art student at Washington University. 2008 was when I first started exploring ideas of creative reuse and community engagement. In 2011, Perennial was officially incorporated and got its 501(c)3 status. Then, in 2012 we moved into our current location on South Broadway!

Perennial teaches students how to reuse and/or upcycle common objects by turning them into something new. Would you say this is an obscure idea by today’s standards?

Luckily, I think the idea of reuse is becoming more and more prevalent! Thanks to online resources like pinterest and a ton of DIY blogs, lots of folks are being turned on to the exciting world of upcycling. Unfortunately, America’s culture of carless consumption is still pretty mighty. There are a lot of people who buy new and toss the old without blinking an eye. Hopefully, we can get them into Perennial and empower them to live more creatively and sustainably!

Tell us about your background. Where did you go to college and what did you study?

I studied Sculpture at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Art at Washington University. Graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from there in 2009. I’m also a CAT. . . which stands for Community Arts Training. It’s a fellowship program run by the Regional Arts Commission that I completed in 2011.

There are probably a number of things integral to running a not for profit business. Can you talk about how an organization qualifies as a not for profit? What are some of the biggest challenges and benefits?

To become a non-profit your organization’s main purpose must be for the benefit of the community. Everything we do at Perennial works toward our mission of building a creative culture of sustainability in which discarded items are transformed into valued and cherished resources. As a non-profit, Perennial is held accountable to the community through a board of directors and all our activities (financials included) are available for anyone to review.

One of the biggest challenges as a non-profit is that it’s much harder to make quick decisions. There is no ‘owner’ who can just sign a lease or set up a bank account when they think the time is right. Our staff and board work together to make sure everything we do is right for the organization. This takes more time and planning, but I think it also helps us be successful and responsible in all our activities. So, I guess it is also one of our biggest benefits.

For those that may be reading from afar and who are not in St. Louis – are there other not for profit organizations that deserve a shout out? Was there any one organization in particular that inspired you to start Perennial?

Perennial really came about pretty fluidly through ideas, sketches, partnerships, and great advice. We are always looking for other organizations similar to us. While we haven’t found any that are quite the same, there are a few that I’ve stumbled upon that are pretty great: Rebuilding Exchange in Chicago http://rebuildingexchange.org/, Elsewhere in Greensboro http://www.goelsewhere.org/, The Girls Guild in Austin https://www.girlsguild.com/ (this one isn’t very similar to Perennial at all besides the education component, but I LOVE what they do.)

Where are you from originally and what keeps you in St. Louis?

I’m originally from Dallas, TX and moved to St. Louis in 2005 to go to college. The trash keeps me here… along with the amazing people, adventures, and buildings.

Is it confusing for people that there is another company in St. Louis with the name Perennial as well?

It’s not too terrible. We just get a call about once-a-week asking what we have on tap. I look at it as free cross marketing!

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Drillbit is a star. Everybody likes Drillbit. Where did he/she come from?

Drillbit was actually found at Perenial Ales. (Adding to the confusion. I know.) He kept showing up at their tasting room for a few nights. When it looked like rain, an employee couldn’t help but take him home. The next day (not knowing a local cat was in need of a home,) I posted on our facebook page about how a cat would have fun at our shop with all the yarn. In the comments was, “I just found a cat at Perennial Ales! Do you want him?!” A star was born.

What’s something easy that we can make at home with materials that are already lying around the house?

A travel mug! It’s a jam/pickle/salsa jar with the lid. BAM.

Check out this page for some more creative small projects.

What’s Drillbit’s best piece of advice?

Never stop begging for attention. It always pays off.

What’s your best piece of advice?

Whenever you think you need go out and buy something, take 5 minutes to brainstorm how you could make it from something you already have. I bet 80% of the time you’ve already got something at home that you can use for that new purpose!