PAUL M HICKMAN
Founder | CEO
Paul Hickman is the visionary founder and CEO of Urban Ashes, a leading consultancy company in the urban wood industry. Starting with a 10-year background in the scenic arts industry then adding over 25 years of experience in the urban wood industry, Paul has been at the forefront of transforming reclaimed urban wood into high-quality, sustainable products.
Paul began as a sign painter for the family billboard company at 15, sparking a passion for design and fabrication. While studying at Arizona State University, he explored various mediums and pioneered the use of new and salvaged materials, blending them with painted and projected graphics, audio, video, and lighting. By 1992, Paul had became the graphics director for a national scenic arts production house where he built the foundations for his commissioned furniture designs that feature intentionally simple and timeless aesthetics, crafted from salvaged woods integrated with raw modern and industrial materials, resulting in rich organic textures.
Paul's passion for sustainable finishes, materials, and production practices led him to become a leader in the green building and local movements starting in 1996. During this time, he served as the retail sales manager for EcoTimber, a pioneering company in the field sustainable and urban lumber. His involvement allowed him to contribute to the development of the initial materials specifications for LEED certification, a widely recognized standard for sustainable building practices.
From 2000 to 2009, Paul established and led his own design firm, specializing in green, sustainable, and non-toxic finishes and materials for residential and commercial environments. His innovative approach and expertise in incorporating environmentally friendly elements into design projects set him apart as a pioneer in the industry. Throughout this period, he continuously pushed boundaries and championed the use of sustainable materials to create healthier and more eco-friendly spaces.
When the emerald ash borer was discovered in SE Michigan in 2002, Paul and a small group initiated the original Urban Wood Project, now part of the national Urban Wood Network. This project aimed to maximize the use of fallen ash trees and other discarded urban trees. In 2009, Paul founded Urban Ashes as a manufacturer of urban wood goods, including picture frames. Over the next decade, Urban Ashes expanded its reach to approximately 250 retail locations in 43 states. Alongside this growth, the company provided meaningful employment opportunities for individuals returning from prison and youth impacted by the justice system.
Under his leadership, Urban Ashes introduced urban wood into the picture frame world becoming a renowned national brand manufacturing picture frames and urban wood goods for a decade before transitioning to consulting in 2019. Leveraging his vast experiences and expertise, Paul now assists municipalities in building infrastructure to maximize the utilization of fallen trees and helps other companies develop urban wood products to expand end markets and raise public awareness.
Paul's commitment to social equity is evident in his focus on involving disadvantaged communities in the collection, processing, and manufacturing of urban wood products. By creating employment/business opportunities and fostering skills development, he empowers marginalized individuals and promotes economic diversity.
Environmental sustainability is also a core principle of Paul's work. Urban Ashes aids in the diversion of urban wood waste from landfills, advocates for responsible forestry practices, and actively contributes to reducing carbon emissions while conserving energy and preserving natural resources. He also advocates for urban reforestation initiatives, underscoring his dedication to a sustainable future.
Recognized as an innovative thinker and entrepreneur, Paul has been a sought-after speaker at conferences and events, sharing his insights on building circular urban economies. His visionary leadership has fostered successful partnerships and collaborations, expanding the national reach of the Circular UrbanWood Triconomies™ model.
Paul Hickman's impact extends beyond business as he advocates for social justice, environmental stewardship, and economic prosperity. Through Urban Ashes, he continues to inspire individuals, businesses, and communities to embrace sustainable practices and contribute to a more equitable and sustainable world.