Purposeful Design grew out of Wheeler Mission, where board member and businessman David Palmer spent several years doing Bible studies with mission residents. He rejoiced as they grew in Christian faith, developing good habits to replace bad ones. Sometimes a breakthrough came when a man saw his addiction to alcohol or drugs was a crutch, or even an idol that needed to be replaced with worship of the true God. One of the biggest challenges was helping them find jobs. Sometimes an arrest record closed a door to employment. Or disciplined work habits were missing after years of addiction.
Palmer launched Purposeful Design in 2013, starting with a few men to fill custom furniture orders. Retired firefighter Dan Mayes, who had several years of woodworking experience, joined as a supervisor. “Men were designed to work,” Mayes says. “One of the most spiritual things God creates man to do is to serve others through work.”
Sales jumped from $36,000 in 2014 to almost $1 million last year. At the bottom line the company is close to breaking even, with 12 employees. About half the revenue goes to men’s salaries, and the rest to administration, materials, supplies, and delivery of orders. Large Indianapolis companies, including Salesforce and Lilly, have bought products from Purposeful Design, which is legally a limited liability business under the ownership of the nonprofit Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis.
Purposeful Design is expanding out of a small, old church building to a larger warehouse, adding a program to train more men in woodworking skills along with the core business of making custom furniture. The plan is to have a more permanent workforce for furniture-making. Then, in the company’s “School of Woodworking and Discipleship,” skills training could become available to 50 to 100 men who can go on to other jobs.
Since Purposeful Design almost breaks even, Palmer is pleased to keep an eye on another important bottom line—men free of opioid abuse, growing in faith, working, and sometimes rebuilding marriages and families.