Companion & Co. is a social business co-founded by Will and Kareen Durbin. Collaborating with migrants and former refugees (now living in Auckland), together they create furniture and textile items. We are honoured to stock Companion & Co. in our MANE Project pop up shop in Newmarket, Auckland.
What inspired you to start this company?
Well, we were initially introduced because both of us had spent time engaging with former refugees now resettled in New Zealand. On siting down for a coffee though, that subject didn't even come up because we realised we had both used a Masters as the means of exploring Social Enterprise but from totally different angles – so that was that chat.
All of this to say now we are married; it was inevitable that we connected the dots and begin a social business pivoting around engaging with migrants / former refugees. (Will was making product prototypes from weetbix boxes on our honeymoon!). And so we started Companion & Co. in which we cross-culturally co-create furniture and textile items.
What is Companion & Co.'s vision?
New Zealand should be a place that welcomes refugees. Meaningful employment that recognises the skills carried here in migration is a part of that. Another hope is that New Zealanders more broadly will get to experience an aspect of just how great it is to be becoming increasingly diverse – creatively we stand to gain a lot. Also, personally we just want to have an excuse to form diverse friendships.
How has Companion and Co impacted the community you are working with? What benefits have you seen with the people you work with?
In conversation with those with whom we are collaborating, we find ourselves humbled by their gratitude for having creative expressions valued (monetarily and otherwise). For some in particular it is very important and therapeutic to engage with craft skills informative of cultural identity.
Equally, Companion is providing an option for people to participate positively in the face of the ever increasing and overwhelming refugee crisis. Purchase something you want / need anyway, and support the employment (an aspect of the successful integration) of former refugees. Easy.