Enactus Ryerson is comprised of a variety of projects, created by students, which aim to make a difference to the communities and the students we work with. We want to share with you more information about our projects and show you how we empower others, so we sat down with Project Manager Anthony Garcia to find out everything you need to know about Restore and his journey so far.
Anthony Garcia, a fourth year Accounting and Finance student at Ryerson University, founded Restore in 2017, and has since been working with Enactus Ryerson, Ryerson University, and the Social Ventures Zone to grow and raise awareness on the housing crisis in Indigenous reserves.
What is Restore?
“Restore is a social venture that aims to tackle the housing crisis in Canada. We are currently working on trying to alleviate the housing issues on Indigenous reserves. What a lot of people don’t know is that 1 in 5 Indigenous people live in homes that are overcrowded, mold infested, and just unsafe to live in. Restore is a company that helps to bring affordable houses, but also couples it with construction training, and different transferable skills; so that people are well equipped to maintain the homes as they live, and to ensure that they not only have these opportunities to a house, but they also have these different skills that they can put towards their own lives and better their entire lives altogether.”
How did the idea for Restore come about?
“The idea for Restore came when we were put in contact with a community here in Ontario called the Mississauga New Credit First Nation, where we had the initial meeting to talk about how Enactus could help them with their different issues. The concept of housing kept coming up, and then we started to really talk about how bad the housing is on different Indigenous reserves across Canada. Together, we started figuring out different ways to figure out a faster, more affordable solution. Hearing about the different trends about how people are using shipping containers to create all of these really cool, innovative structures – we looked into it, we had constant meetings with the reserves to see if this was something that was of interest, something that works with the community and different people. Slowly, we started crafting Restore, our different business models, and figuring out what it is exactly that we wanted out of this project and that’s how it came together.”
What do you do as a project manager?
“As a project manager the main thing is keeping the relationships with our different partners. We’re currently working with a number of partners; we have Giant Containers, which is our main supplier of different shipping container structures. We’re also working with Ryerson University, Enactus, and George Brown College. So, a big part (of being a project manager) is keeping the communication with all our different partners, but also ensuring that the vision and the goals of the company is followed through, and to making sure that all the tasks we have are being done by all our members; making sure everybody has all the tools and resources that they need to complete all the different tasks. It’s also a lot of creating different ways on how to move forward, how to tackle this issue in different ways that it hasn’t been tackled before, figuring out how where governments are going wrong, where they are going right and figuring out how we can really nail this issue at the roots – just to ensure that you know these people are living a proper life.”
Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
“No. I originally wanted to be an architect, and then when I got into Ryerson, I started studying finance, so I wanted to be a financial consultant or a strategic consultant. I don’t know how I ended up with entrepreneur – I think it was Enactus, just being more involved with creating your own things, not listening to people, and just doing it. That’s kind of what made me want to be an entrepreneur, which I never thought I’d say because I always thought entrepreneurship was something really scary, something for people who like risks, people who are okay with failing, which I’m not – I’m really scared, really shy. I prefer being at home just listening to someone tell me what to do, but, somehow, I ended up liking that feeling of creating something and feeling that you made something instead of just being a little pawn and working for someone.”
What was the hardest challenge with getting restore off the ground?
“The biggest challenge was to get people to take me seriously. A lot of people don’t take you seriously when you’re a student trying to do something; mostly when you’re trying to provide people houses. Since I’m not really a handsy person, I don’t think I could lift something up and put a house or something together, so it’s really hard to get people to take me seriously. Also, we’re trying to work with Indigenous communities, and the hardest thing is to connect with these people because you don’t fully understand exactly what it is that they’re going through. The way we overcame that is to partner with different companies and different people who are experts at what they do to ensure that we have those spaces covered. The other part that’s an ongoing obstacle that we’re still trying to figure out is how to properly connect with these different communities, how to ensure that we never overstep – that we’re always including them in everything and just to really ensure that you know that connection is there and to ensure that we do everything in the proper way that it should be done.”
What’s something you think you could improve on as a project manager and entrepreneur?
“I think the biggest thing is communication. I’ve always been a very shy, very reserved person. I think as time is going on I’m getting a little bit better; it’s easier to talk to people, and I think that’s something I’m constantly working on; public speaking and talking one on one with different people. That’s something that I can work on and continue to work on because as an entrepreneur, as anybody, you need to have proper communication skills, especially in this age when everything’s about communication, who you know, how you know them, and how you connect with people.”
What has been the most rewarding part of being a project manager for Restore?
“I think the most rewarding moment was presenting for the McCain Social Enterprise Accelerator Challenge. It was the first time that we ever kind of talked about our idea to these big, important industry people. Getting that feedback and having everybody really into it, and liking the idea, we moved past the first round. We ended up not winning, but we came in second place, which was really rewarding. I wanted to win of course, but the fact that we came in second and there’s people that believed in us, believed in what we’re trying to do – it was amazing to see, to be on that stage and have all these people look at us and be excited about what we’re doing, think that it’s something that could be done and completely support us; that was really exciting.”
Want to find out more about Enactus Ryerson and Restore Housing?