GRANT COTHRAN M ’17
Cothran has created a haven for sustainability with his creative reuse center
“I’ve always been eco-conscious,” says Grant Cothran, founder of ReCraft Creative Reuse Center in Greenville, South Carolina. “However, so many action items for sustainability focus on what we shouldn’t do. Creative reuse focuses on what we should do.”
And creative reuse is what ReCraft does best. The facility is part donation-based store, part craft center and part community makerspace with a mission to promote artistic expression, environmental education and community resourcefulness. The ReCraft team accepts donations, including gently used art supplies, leftover fabric, classroom staples, and surplus from local manufacturers, retail shops and households.
“In our makerspace alone, we have over 100 different kinds of materials and tools available where kids are invited to craft anything they dream up,” says Cothran.
Cothran came up with the idea of ReCraft — which is one of about 125 creative reuse centers in the country — while earning his Clemson MBA in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Cothran joined the program sponsored by his employer as long as he centered his studies on an initiative to innovate his workplace. But Cothran’s safety net gave way after his first semester; his company cut their continuing education program that was paying for his classes.
“I wanted to continue to invest in myself and my education,” he says. “However, if I was paying my own way, I wanted to focus on a new project that I connected with more personally.”
Cothran relied on his background as an artist and environmentalist to develop ReCraft and began researching other reuse centers firsthand, making it his mission to visit every center he could as he traveled for work.
Despite Cothran’s efforts and vision, his reuse center concept initially fell flat at the MBAe program’s capstone business pitch competition known as the EnterPrize awards.
“I lost, and I lost hard,” Cothran says.
MBAe Professor Matthew Klein remembers competition day: “The initial concern the judging panel had with ReCraft was its reliance on a two-sided market, which can be even more challenging to launch than other business models. What made the difference was Grant’s ability to reach out to both households and manufacturers for donations.”
And that’s exactly what Cothran did. After graduation, he quit his “perfectly good day job” and founded his 501(c)(3) nonprofit at the start of 2019.
He operated out of a borrowed pickup truck and spread the word about creative reuse at schools, craft fairs and local organizations willing to partner. He opened the first brick-and-mortar ReCraft in a repurposed basement on Haywood Road in February 2022. The shop hit over $100,000 in sales by the end of the year and diverted more than 35,000 pounds of waste from landfills — all while creating a joyful spot for children, artists and makers to gather and craft. In June 2023, Cothran and the ReCraft team moved to a new 10,000-square-foot location in the Marketplace Shopping Center on Laurens Road.
“When I first moved to Greenville,” says Cothran, “there wasn’t a creative reuse center within 200 miles. Now, we’ve created one in the center of town.
“We’re taking waste and turning it into a candy store of possibilities,” he adds. “Creative reuse is just one small part of a larger sustainability solution.”