Since 2017, Darren Maxfield’s Swan Graphics in White Swan has created screen-printed T-shirts, sweatshirts and posters, as well as embroidered logos on jackets, hats and other clothing.
But Maxfield, 48, sees his company’s true mission in producing self-sufficient young people capable of making a positive contribution to their community.
A former accountant, Maxfield operates Swan Graphics as part of Sacred Road Ministries to provide vocational training to youths in the White Swan area, giving them the skills to break out of poverty and overcome trauma.
Maxfield and his wife, Susie, employ eight other people in the program, which operates out of a church basement.
Maxfield has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Washington and a master’s degree in taxation from Golden Gate University. The Maxfields have three children, Emily D’Orazio, Rachel Maxfield and Yesenia Garcia.
What led you to create Swan Graphics?
Swan Graphics is a part of Sacred Road Ministries, a church in the Presbyterian Church of America denomination. The Lord led us to join Sacred Road Ministries in March 2015 to help begin an economic development part of the ministry. After a couple of years of determining the approach and transitioning from our home in a suburb of Seattle, we determined we wanted Swan Graphics to be heavy on education and mentorship.
In addition to hands-on training in graphic design, screen printing, embroidery, website maintenance, invoicing, purchasing, quality control and e-commerce, we also facilitate financial literacy classes, job preparedness classes, driver’s education tutorials, and character skill training. While all of this is important, we wanted to be able to do this in a Christian environment in which we serve one another and grow in our knowledge of who Christ is and what he has done for us. Not every employee has to agree with us, but they do see our heart and love for God and for them as people.
What were some of the challenges the youths you work with have to overcome?
Any young person today struggles with developing a work ethic and necessary soft skills (such as public speaking, professional appearance and behavior, and being able to sell services). At times, this can be more extreme with youth in White Swan. Many of the youths in this community come to Swan Graphics with trauma in their backgrounds. Through working, they also learn coping mechanisms, how to deal with handling money and some of the stress money can put on relationships in their lives.
Can you tell us about some of your success stories, particularly with the youths who work there?
One of the requirements we have at Swan Graphics is that if you are in high school, you have to attend school to work on a given day. We also require at least a C grade-point average to keep working. So far, all employees who have started at Swan Graphics are still working with the business (except one who received a promotion at another job and is now working more hours with that company).
We have employees who are gaining public speaking skills, mastering their assigned roles and learning how to train others. Four youths have passed their written driving test to obtain their driver’s permit and one has now passed the driving test.
What is the most important lesson you believe the people who work for you learn?
The most important lesson they learn is who Jesus Christ is. In addition to practical job skills, the other lessons they learn are to not fear failure, that it is important to always be learning new things, what employers require from them in terms of workplace behavior, and to treat people with kindness and respect.
Do you believe other business people should take a role in helping people become financially stable and independent?
We all have different callings in life. Different gifts and abilities that have been provided by God to serve others. Not every young person has an adult in their life who takes an interest in their well-being and growth — whether the youth is in White Swan or West Valley.
But we can all make an investment in a young person we know to help provide resilience and guidance to young people in our spheres of influence. Ours just happens to be in White Swan.
• If you would like your business featured in Take 5, contact Donald W. Meyers at 509-577-7748 or email@example.com.