They say “necessity is the mother of invention” and in the case of the EMPWR coats, it couldn’t be more true. The water-resistant jacket, hand-crafted from top quality materials, doubles as a sleeping bag or an over-the-shoulder bag when not in use and is specifically made for those living on the streets.
The brainchild of the Detroit-based nonprofit organization The Empowerment Plan costs only $100 to sponsor, which covers all costs of materials, labor and expenses. With donated materials such as highly-resistant Cordura fabric from Carhartt (the 120-plus year-old workwear company) and upcycled automotive insulation from General Motors, both proud Michigan-founded and based companies, the EMPWR coats are useful as it is necessary.
Founder and CEO Veronika Scott was inspired to start the organization as a student at The College for Creative Studies in Detroit. While researching an assignment to create a product that actually fills a need in her community, she was approached by a homeless woman who said she did not need a coat – she needed a job. This definitive moment shaped the concept of The Empowerment Plan: hiring single parents from local shelters for full-time employment as seamstresses who can earn a stable income, provide for their families and regain their independence, all while making a product that will be a massive help for those unfortunate ones still living on the street.
The winning business model is not only innovative in its approach, it is a win for everyone involved. With 15,000 EMPWR coats already distributed across 40 states, 7 Canadian provinces, and a few international countries to date, the initiative is off to an amazing start. And what’s more is that all of the employees who work for The Empowerment Plan have successfully transitioned from homelessness themselves and broke the cycle of homelessness.
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