REFLECTIONS FROM THE FOUNDERS
A note from Michael and Sam.
We’ve recently had a number of customers ask more about the people behind Hippy Feet, so we thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on some of the things we’ve learned in the years since we started.
[Michael] In October 2015, during the fall semester of my senior year of college, I took a fall from my skateboard, hitting my head. This fall had caused a number of fractures and a traumatic brain injury that forced me to take a semester of school off in order to recover and heal. During the months of recovery that followed, I had read that socks were the most requested and least donated article of clothing at homeless shelters. Combine this fact with my personal love for fashionable socks and the soul searching that happened during this moment of adversity, and the idea for a sock company that helped the homeless emerged.
[Sam] Right before I graduated college in May 2016, I got a call from Michael. We didn’t really know each other well, and I think he had gotten my number from a mutual friend. He said that he had an idea for a company called Hippy Feet and wanted to sit down to talk about bringing it life. I showed up for what I had expected to be an hour long conversation. Six hours later, I left excited about the idea and wanting to work with Michael make it possible.
[Michael] The chemistry that Sam and I had from day one was one of many initial sparks that allowed us to realize the potential impact that we could have through Hippy Feet. Throughout the summer of 2016, Sam and I worked together to prepare Hippy Feet for its initial launch. That fall, in September of 2016, we officially introduced Hippy Feet, a buy one give one sock company to the world. During the first few months of Hippy Feet’s existence, our mission was simple: for every pair of socks that we sold, we would donate another pair to a person in need.
[Sam] We would go out on the streets of Minneapolis and to homeless shelters and give away socks. Every time we went out, there was a follow up discussion about how we should be doing more to help. The people we gave socks to seemed genuinely appreciative. We worked to build relationships and learn more about the community we serve. If they ever offered to share, we listened to the stories of how the people we met became homeless. We heard of a wide range of issues that led to a person experiencing homelessness, but the one we felt we could address was a lack of opportunity. We wanted to provide transitional jobs, but didn’t know how to do it.
[Michael] After just 6 months of being a business, the next step towards our vision to employ the homeless presented itself. While I was setting up one day at an event in St. Paul, a homeless man had approached me asking for some change. I told him that I didn’t have any money to offer as a hand out, but that if he wanted to help me carry a few boxes away from my car I’d happily pay him a few dollars. The man was more than eager to help out and seemed to genuinely appreciate the fact that his money was earned, rather than given. This exchange sparked an idea. Later on that day, Hippy Feet employed a homeless women named Tammy to assist us at our sales booth, Tammy was paid $10 an hour to package socks and ended up working with Hippy Feet for 5 hours that day.
We realized from our encounter with Tammy that this was our chance to have a deeper, more meaningful impact. Taking what we learned from this experience, we began to develop what is now our Pop-Up Employment program, a program in which Hippy Feet offers jobs to homeless youth ages 16-24 to package every pair of socks that we sell. As of November 2018, Hippy Feet has expanded this program to now create employment through our embroidery and screen printing processes as well.
[Sam] The past couple years have taught us that it takes a community to bring an idea like Hippy Feet to life. It’s something that we couldn’t do alone. We’ve been lucky to have friends, family, and many others who have come together to support Hippy Feet’s mission. When we unite around a shared sense of empathy and desire to make a difference, truly amazing things can happen.
[Michael] Going forward, the main focus for Hippy Feet is to continue to create jobs and opportunities for young people experiencing homelessness. We aim to act as a support system for those who aren’t fortunate enough to have one of their own. When I was in recovery from my head injury, I recognized that the only way that I was able to get back on my feet was due to the people that I had around me, supporting me at each and every step along my path to where I am now. Having worked with the homeless community for the past 3 years now, its apparent to me that one of the largest causes of homelessness, is the lack of this support system. When we first set out to start Hippy Feet, we did so with the intentions of filling in the gap, and creating a culture and community that was capable of supporting those that needed the support the most.
Thank you for your support.
Michael & Sam