Evolving Our Impact - 50% of Profits Donated
We started Hippy Feet because we believed that businesses have the ability to make the world a better place. To really make a positive impact, we needed to have a clear sense of values that guided everything we did. Doing a good thing in one place but cutting corners somewhere else wasn’t an option. We committed to 3 values that would guide everything we do:
- Use environmentally friendly materials and practices whenever possible
- All of our products would be made in the United States
- Most importantly — we would serve as a support system for people in need
Shortly after launching the business, we added a 4th value to that list. We need to continually improve what we’re doing and take steps towards being the most responsible company we can be.
These values have led to the exciting announcement we’re making today. Our mission to serve the homeless community is taking its next step forward as we launch a new program that will make an even greater difference for even more people. We’re committing to donating 50% of profits to 501(c)(3) charities that are serving homeless youth.
Over the past 3 years, our sole focus has been providing transitional employment opportunities directly to young people experiencing homelessness. This turned out to be the learning experience of a lifetime. We had the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with the people we were serving and learn more about the complexity of homelessness and housing insecurity.
Let’s take a look at how our mission has grown to this point and how this new development is going to make an even greater impact for even more people.
Buy One, Give One
Hippy Feet started in 2016 under the Buy One, Give One business model popularized by TOMS Shoes. At the time, we had learned that socks were one of the most requested but least donated clothing items at homeless shelters. Combine that fact with our love of colorful, stylish socks, and it made sense that a socially responsible sock company could help address this issue.
Thanks to your support, we got off to a great start. We were able to donate over 20,000 pairs of socks to shelters across the country. In many cases, we were going directly into shelters ourselves or handing out socks on the street. As we returned to these locations week after week, we started to recognize some familiar faces. We were giving socks to the same people every week, but their situation hadn’t changed in any meaningful way.
We began to realize that donating socks was merely addressing a symptom of homelessness. We needed to come up with a new way of giving that could help people get back on their feet and break the cycle of homelessness altogether.
Homelessness is complex. We realized that there were many facets to the issue that we weren’t in a position to address, but we had an idea. If we could use Hippy Feet to provide employment opportunities, then we could step in during someone’s moment of adversity and act as a support system. We started working with a number of individuals that we were connected with through our non-profit partners.
By working with Hippy Feet, these folks were able to earn a safe form of income that could help them get into transitional housing, turn a cellphone back on, or take the other steps to get back on their feet. The idea was working. We continued to develop an employment program that would help set up each person for success.
At the beginning of 2019, we decided to double down on our employment program. At this point, we chose to focus on serving young people ages 16-24 — an age group that is considered “opportunity youth”. By focusing on this age range we could intervene before the cycle of homelessness became too severe.
We dropped our Buy One, Give One program so we could focus all of our attention and efforts on the employment program. Our non-profit partners welcomed us directly into their drop-in centers, providing a safe and convenient place for these young people to work.
As the business grew, we found more ways to provide employment opportunities. Eventually, we started hosting young people at our facility in Northeast Minneapolis for a 6-month internship program. The youth in our program received basic job training, a steady income, and other resources from our non-profit partners such as counseling and bus passes.
In total, we were able to work hands-on with over 160 young people in this program. The support from this employment program allowed many of the people we employed to get full-time jobs outside of Hippy Feet, move into stable housing, and access resources that weren’t previously available. We can proudly say that there are young people no longer experiencing homelessness because of this program.
This program was also a great learning opportunity. We learned the story of each individual, what led to them experiencing housing insecurity in the first place, and what they needed to get back on track. These different stories brought one thing to light — there’s no simple solution. Homelessness is complex and there’s a wide range of reasons someone may become or stay homeless.
Donation of Profits
The hands-on learning experience operating our employment program has led us to this point in the evolution of our mission. Our goal is to have the greatest impact on the largest number of people possible. We believe that donating 50% of Hippy Feet’s profits to non-profit organizations will be the most effective way to do this.
Different non-profits have different areas of specialization. No organization, Hippy Feet included, can be an expert at every facet of a complex issue like homelessness. Instead, we can empower the experts in each area and give them the resources they need to do their best work. Through this donation model, we’ll be able to allocate resources to different programs, such as mental health and addiction counseling, transitional housing, job readiness, and more.
This will help more people. The organizations that we’re donating to already have the structure in place to effectively serve their communities. By providing them with more resources, they can serve their existing programs to more people.
This decision also helps us better meet the unique needs of each community. When we originally launched, we gained traction in Minnesota, so it made sense that our mission was focused here. Now that we’re a national brand, we need to make sure that we’re having a positive impact across the country. That way, when you support Hippy Feet, you’re directly helping people in your own community. People experiencing homelessness in different parts of the country face different challenges. The non-profits in each area are the experts at addressing the unique challenges in that area.
Over the past 5+ years, we’ve learned that real change is possible when a passionate community comes together. Together, we can make a difference. We hope you’ll join us on this next chapter in our mission as we work to support young people in need.
Peace and Love,
Sam, Michael, & The Hippy Feet Team