The adventure begins! After years of planning, months competing for funding, and days of packing, we’re launching the prototyping phase of Help Desk Furniture Company! Meredith and I are traveling to Uganda to prototype furniture pieces, identify sustainable sources of timber, and make important community connections.
I first had the idea for Help Desk late one night in August 2011 while working as a construction manager and designer for Engineering Ministries International. I was impressed by the Ugandan carpenters and the beauty of the local hardwoods and wanted to share it with the rest of the world. That night and (dozens more since then) I laid awake thinking about the potential within this venture to help people by providing jobs, helping schools and strengthening the forests.
Back then I was too focused on leading the construction projects to devote much energy to pursuing this idea. However, in my spare time I built a simple chair with help from on of my best carpenters. The design was a slightly modified Jens Risom chair. I was thrilled with the result. Part of my motivation to build the chair was to show carpenters the simple beauty of Danish Modern styling- simple designs that highlight the intrinsic beauty of the material.
I left Uganda in 2012 to start a Masters of Architecture degree at the University of Minnesota. There I found many like-minded classmates and professors who believe in the potential for design to improve the lives of the poorest people on the planet. The support, guidance and encouragement I received has been incredibly helpful and humbling. In January of 2014 I started the legwork to launch Help Desk. I worked with the University of Minnesota’s Acara Institute– a social venture incubator- to develop a business plan. I applied for grants and fellowships to fund the pilot project and was awarded an Acara Venture Fellowship jointly funded by the UMN College of Design. This grant is funding my travel and expenses for the pilot project this summer.
The goal for this trip is to bring back a desk, a bench, and a coffee table that show Uganda’s enduring craftsmanship and incredible beauty. I am so excited for the opportunity to pursue this idea and hopeful for its growth into a self-sustaining venture with the purpose of changing lives. Please check back often to see how the work progresses.
-Brice Aarrestad, Founder