With a degree in architectural design and construction, Wanona embarked on the path of community redevelopment while working for a firm in Durham. As a young landscape architect and builder, Wanona had the idea to build innovation labs in underprivileged communities. She submitted her idea to Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York and was selected as a finalist to work with Bloomberg’s innovation coaches.
According to Wanona, this was the moment that set her firmly on her path.
“It was a rigorous experience working with Bloomberg’s innovation coaches,” recalls Wanona. “They pushed me to understand design in terms of community engagement and inclusion,” she added.
In 2016, Wanona founded ReJuve, a non-profit organization that reused shipping containers to build affordable community spaces. Soon, she was contracted to build out two spaces and the shipping container buildings started to create a buzz.
“After we built out these spaces people started approaching us to see how else we can reuse shipping containers. People asked if we could build clinics and houses in these communities,” said Wanona.
It wasn’t long until Wanona realized innovative spaces at an affordable cost was appealing to a large audience. In 2017, she launched Mākhers Studio, a design build social enterprise startup utilizing shipping containers otherwise known as pods.
Mākhers Studio is headquartered in the transitional West End neighborhood of Atlanta and business is good. The studio’s residential and commercial clients are elated by Makher’s customizable refurbished shipping containers. Developers love the flexibility of the product and ability to build in odd and small areas, especially in blighted communities.
“Through our ‘plug in pods’ we can build spaces in half the time for half the cost. We have better quality control now and we are delivering our product faster and cheaper,” said Wanona.
Makher’s products so far include 160 square foot micro offices and 320 square foot 1 bd/1ba houses. The company is currently working on attracting investment to get a manufacturing space in order to scale while continuing to build in half the time for half the cost.
According to Wanona, the sky’s the limit as to what you can do with the pods. The pods are stackable and can be welded side by side. Every individual building is customizable.
Though Mākhers Studio is for profit, the company is community driven and socially focused. Wanona touts the company’s pledge of hiring women and minorities (their chief welder is a woman) and she works with an organization to hire local refugees. The best part is helping the community at large.
“It’s important to me to build the change I want to see,” said Wanona. “Our product is the solution to the affordable housing crisis.”
For more information on Mākhers Studio: https://www.makhersstudio.com/
Photos credits to Lauren Liz Photography.