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Meet Wanona Satcher of Mākhers Studio in West End

Today we’d like to introduce you to Wanona Satcher.

Wanona, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
A few years ago, I was working for city government in North Carolina, and out of 300 cities nationally, I was a finalist for a civic innovation grant provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Although not chosen as a top five grant recipient, the idea to re-imagine blighted properties for equitable and sustainable redevelopment stuck with me. After resigning from local government and moving back home to Atlanta, I founded my second startup Mākhers Studio LLC in 2017. I changed my focus to re-purposing shipping containers as innovative housing and commercial spaces. Our design-build turnkey approach allows us to deliver quality market-rate and affordable housing, community services and entrepreneurial spaces in half the time and cost. I want people to live, work, play and thrive where they are without the fear of being displaced. It’s not just about creating a house, it’s ultimately about creating a home, and literally building the change I want to see.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Nope! It has not been a smooth road but we’re always learning. You have to be willing to gain more knowledge. We are not only disrupting conventional construction methods but zoning and permitting standards, real estate and construction financing, community engagement strategies and space development. What we’re doing isn’t an easy narrative to sell, even though every major city across the globe suffers from a housing crisis. In any business, you have to build it before they believe it. I think that the resources are out there to help startups like ours scale, but too many with access to resources aren’t always as innovative  or  invested in truly making a difference. I often find that many with resources will waste more time writing reports about community issues, don’t truly understand the actual problem and fail to support proactive approaches.  Running a business isn’t easy, especially when your platform is driven by social impact. Real change has never been about comfort, and what I find is that too many people would rather be comfortable by discussing progress, but not necessarily wanting that progress in their own neighborhoods, right next door. We’re redefining what it means to be inclusive and equitable by not just  talking about it but practicing it. What makes my job easier is identifying those clients that align with my company’s mission. As CEO that means you have to know my own worth, understand your company’s true value and develop impactful metrics of success.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Mākhers Studio story. Tell us more about it.
Mākhers Studio LLC is a social enterprise design-build company that provides innovative modular turnkey solutions for commercial and residential spaces. We customize shipping containers as both permanent and temporary market-rate and affordable spaces. What sets us apart is that our team has over 30 years in landscape architecture, urban design, affordable housing financing, public policy, city planning, and community engagement. Our work resides at the intersection of sustainable construction, site design, real estate development, product design, and governance;  we are quickly becoming a one-stop-shop for our clients. It’s definitely rare to see an African-American woman-owned design-build company, especially one that specializes in shipping containers. We’re proud to be a leader in helping communities see the world differently, 8 feet at a time (our containers are 8ft wide). I’m not in this business to empower anyone. However my mission is to inspire others to empower themselves. I’m excited that we’ve positioned Mākhers Studio LLC to hire locally, women-in-trades, refugees and communities of color to build the change they want to see.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I can definitely say that being an Atlanta native, my family is originally from SWATS (Pittsburgh neighborhood to be exact), I’ve been both the recipient of the negative impacts of gentrification, and I too am a gentrifier. I’ve come to terms with this and it has given me a more well-rounded understanding of how I can positively impact communities of color; to know the system well enough to create a new one. I’m lucky to have been born and raised in such a dynamic city- a city ripe for solutions to the growing inequities we see here today. I’ve lived both sides of the coin. And as someone who worked for city government I can honestly say, that politically, I know how the game is played. No matter how hard that lesson is, it has been quite beneficial in making better decisions for my business, asking better questions and helping communities do the same.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Lauren Liz Photo, Zoe Pictures

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