As an college Academic Adviser I had the privilege of working with an extraordinary young woman, Veronika Scott.
Veronika was a Product Design major and starting with her freshman year it was obvious she had the talent, intelligence, creativity, drive and persistance to be highly successful. Her junior year included an internship in New York and her goals included grad school at Harvard or MIT and a career as a successful designer in New York. I am certain she could achieve just about any goal she set.
A unique class assignment changed her path. The assignment was to develop a design to address a social need. It could be a product, system or service. This lead Veronika to volunteer 3 days a week at a homeless shelter in Detroit and design a coat which converted to a sleeping bag, keeping the user warm and dry. To develop and prototype the coat, she first needed to learn how to sew. She was fortunate her mother had the skill to teach her, but the first coat took 80 hours to complete. The materials include Tyvek and old army blankets.
When she tried to introduce the coat at the shelter, she was yelled at and informed it was not a coat they needed, it was jobs.
Veronika took her coat design to the next level and created a proposal for the Empowerment Plan, a nonprofit company manufacturing sleeping bag coats for the homeless and employing homeless individuals to sew the coats. Her persistence was tested over the next year, trying to get the company off the ground. She met with many individual and companies, writing business plans, marketing plans, researching insurance requirements and on and on. With every road block and dead end she persisted. Finally the college provost introduced her to the CEO of Carhartt and the right connection was made.
Carhartt started things off by donating materials, used industrial sewing machines, and providing the training needed to teach the first small group of woman how to sew. The Empowerment Plan and Veronika have since received many awards, including one from Caroline Kennedy and much attention in the media, all well deserved. Veronika was 20 years old when she started the project, she has since graduated with a BFA in Product Design and at 24 is the company CEO.
With her success, other companies and individuals have stepped forward to donate materials and money. The design of the coat has changed and the company is humming along. As the company has grown, she has hired and trained more woman from shelters, helping them transition into having a place of their own. She has plans for expansion to include training for sewing machine repair and 3D printing.
Recently the Today Show profiled the company and partnered with Walmart to provide a special Christmas surprise to the employees of the Empowerment Plan. I hope you take the time to watch the Today Show video, sorry but you have to watch a commercial first. Please it’s worth it. It will bring tears to your eyes, it did for the reporter.
Merry Christmas and best wishes for a Happy New Year