When I received a phone call from Chris de Santos, VP of Sales at CBR Products asking me to share the Safehaven – Mark Mueller relationship with you, their blog followers, I was indeed honoured. CBR Products has always supported us with donated products when asked. I believe the best way would be to share this with you is to write the never been written story about how this Blessing came to me.
IN THE BEGINNING
In 2001 after the lack of industry confidence encouraged by 9-11 and the lumber softwood dis-agreement between Canada and the USA (40% of our business was in lumber wrap and covers) I found myself unemployed from a well paying job. One year later on January 1, 2003, I made the decision to establish and develop the child care division of my brother’s Curved Space freeform furniture company and concentrated my activities primarily in the Toronto area.
Of all the markets I could have picked none could have been more life-changing than the child care industry. Truly an industry so filled with pure love. One segment of the market which we knew our high quality bean bag chairs were well suited for was that one serving the people with special needs. Safehaven Project for Community Living being one of the established leaders for respite care in the Greater Toronto Areas (Toronto, Etobicoke, Woodbridge, Aurora and York), were to become very important Customers, especially from the perspective of further strengthening the brand in Toronto.
|The moment I first visited the Safehaven facility at Bloor Street I could feel the love and could see the great things they were doing. They had a huge heart hanging along the side of the building – kept getting damaged so the decision was made not to direct funds in constantly repairing it. Since I finally made it to being President (albeit of one) I made it my mission to get close to the Customer to best understand their needs by Volunteering. I learned that by laughing and singing with these kids who are classified as non verbal, we can break this barrier: for when they express their laughter and smiles they are indeed verbalizing and we are communicating.
Beautiful too that by opening myself up in this manner I was able to endear myself with the staff and administrators also. This is how it all started.
SUPPORTING A WINNER – THE BEST
As a not-for-profit organisation I also saw how their Administration was so efficient being that only 5% of all monies raised goes to the Administration and that the other 95% goes directly into caring for the children. I also saw how Safehaven is built by the Community and sensed it would be so amazing to participate in this activity.
Since I was producing this furniture with access to the Curved Space quality production process (can’t build a business attending to repairing bean bags when offering a one year warranty on all seam and zippers in a child care environment – did anyone say no jumping) I was able to provide favourable pricing when needed. For me I revelled in Volunteering and was there to help in the trenches as best I could. Being with those who served the children with special needs I opened my cost structure to the care-givers so that were they to identify a child that needed our product yet couldn’t afford the premium price that the specialised production process warranted, we could get it to them at cost and or subsidize it if we were experiencing good sales or could find someone to donate what was necessary. Totally radical behaviour from a capitalistic focus, especially for someone starting a business. And yet it was the most loving thing to do. I believe since I was connecting with the Safehaven loving energy I was learning how to become the hunter and gatherer I wanted my “company to become”. Unbeknownst to me at this time I was on the start of my journey to test and explore the sales hypothesis: If people buy from you because they like you, what happens when they Love you?
One fabulous project I was involved in was building Christopher’s bed: a bed that needed to be opened in any of six ways at the sides. One of the Occupational Therapist’s father enjoyed wood-working and was very skilled at it so with me as his helper we built it for Christopher. On a personal business level this was a success because as a hunter and gather we asked CBR and they donated the wood finish and adhesive plus the cost of shipping. The power of the Community at work! A custom built bed at a fraction of a retail price.
Being close to the Customer means that when purchase opportunities become available you are in the forefront of the decision-makers’ minds and since they knew of our past success of delivering and servicing quality furniture I was in a good position to win the order. Plus since I was a Volunteer here it made sense to ensure I had the best pricing for value – it was imperative for me as a president to ensure that all bean bag chairs at Safehaven are in fact the best – the best being Curved Space bean bags chairs: even though I am no longer developing this market I do still have access to the process– which means I can be helpful in maintaining their investment when need arises.
Over the years Safehaven has been one of my greatest supporters – both business-wise and emotionally as a friend. (A very special friend because as an entity of it’s own it contains many beautiful people with whom I share a common bond of serving Safehaven with). Recently they commissioned me to build a Sensory Room at one of their homes. They have hired me to paint rooms, repair furniture, etc. They have also been helpful to my friends giving them opportunities to earn income.
Without a doubt what really put me into overdrive in my passion to serve Safehaven and in fact has been instrumental in my business’ evolution to serve the Community was when in 2007 they honoured me with being their Volunteer of the Year. I was at Safehaven just the other day and saw my name engraved on the Catherine Zoe Whittaker Award – the year after my Safehaven Hero: Tony Zingaro, received the award. Having received this distinction instilled in me an intense passion and desire to always live up to this. What is magnificent is that our relationship has blossomed and their leadership has made me a better person and my company has a stronger sense of purpose and direction.
When I first entered into serving people with special needs someone told me that the children have so much to teach us. For me one of the nicest lessons they teach me is to slow down and experience pure Love. So often I will have my busy agenda planned that will include a stop at Safehaven and my unplanned interactions with the staff and children will put a beautiful smile into my day: stop and share in some laughter yoga and guide us in some breathing exercises and stretching.
Of course when I visit I have to say hello in the office. The loving and caring of this great organisation stems from the incredible leadership of Safehaven’s CEO: Beverly Gordon. She has been so helpful to me – always there to share a smile or talk about my “great visions” and share in my successes and offer counsel re. my challenges.
I was even given the opportunity to apply for a care-givers position when I considered pursuing full-time employment – made it all the way to being invited to participate in an observation shift. It was here that I saw my role was a marketer – a hunter and gatherer. After this experience I have even greater respect for the responsibilities a care-giver at Safehaven has – I was never one for needles let alone applying them plus feeding tubes make me queasy. Since I would have been serving the sickest children in Toronto (and Ontario) the attention to detail, ensuring proper medications and dealing with seizures (where proper response can determine life or death), I felt my skills would be best served in other capacities. Most importantly I had no experience and didn’t feel full confidence that I could perform this demanding role.
The timing of this opportunity and the outcome were indeed Devine as shortly after this I was to become the primary palliative care-giver with my Mom. What I learned during this observation shift and with my interactions serving people with special needs prior to this was very beneficial to me in my service with my Mom. Reflecting on this as I write, perhaps the greatest gift that helped me with Mom during her various stages is that despite whatever adversity life gives the main thing is to have fun and maintain a positive attitude of gratitude for what we do have and adjust to the communication levels as needed: “Oh here is a beautiful blueberry, yummmmm (encouraging to eat) and remember to smile when you swallow the blueberry.” I didn’t know it at the time but the reduced food intake was her body’s way of going into shut down mode. I like to believe my Mom had a graceful exit from this earthly plain. That this could be as it was and that I could serve her as I did was in super large part owing to all that my relationship with Safehaven taught and nurtured in me.
The path I am on now in 2013 is most beautiful. Safehaven has given me the opportunity to present what I believe will be an innovative twist to referral sales to benefit the Community and of course my beloved Safehaven – since what is planned is totally rooted in the Love the Safehaven manifests. We’ll certainly be celebrating this announcement here on the CBR Products blog.
And since we should take every opportunity to celebrate Safehaven relationships I should mention again my thanks (and Safehaven’s thanks too) for CBR Products supporting our efforts to successfully build less toxic environments for the children and staff whenever we have asked. Your support of the referral sales concept is encouraging. Thanks for being a great friend with Safehaven.
In closing I encourage everyone to volunteer – wherever you passion fits best. Should you be within geographic range of any of the Safehaven facilities stop by their head office and respite location (I like to call it the country club for the kids: there’s an awesome straight-away where you can drive the wedge (racing car) with the child strapped in at high speeds – and you’ll both be laughing so hard you break the non-verbal classification barrier – like breaking a speed record.) Every time I leave (remember you have to leave in order to come back) I feel like the wealthiest person in the world – and pumped to strive to do great things.
Should you not be in close proximity to Safehaven I encourage you to volunteer in your communities. May your time devoted bring you much joy and strength as my relationship with Safehaven has brought me. Naturally I have to add if your are looking for a not-for-profit organisation that will put your tax-deductible donation to very good use I strongly encourage you to choose Safehaven for this is a place where children, who for the most part can not see, speak, hear nor walk (run, skip or jump) learn to laugh and smile and communicate and oh yes – boy do we dance at our yearly Gala. Moving mountains is so much fun!
I invite your comments and feedback as per below. Be sure to visit the Blog entry about how we built the least toxic sensory room for Safehaven’s Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada home. As well I am re-launching my flagship website www.MTMSales.com and have a Home page set up with many more pages to follow soon. Please contact me when I can be helpful Toll free in Canada and the USA: 1.888.668.6248 or in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area: 416 769-7700.
Mark Mueller, B.B.M.