The Empowerment Plan Startup Clothes and Trains Detroit’s Homeless

By Amanda Lewan on January 14th, 2014 / Comments

Michigan has faced a series of harsh winters, but none worse than the fierce Polar Vortex we experienced earlier this month. Temperatures dropped to below zero degrees with harsh winter weather conditions all over the state.

Imagine being homeless and having nowhere to go during this weather? That thought is a driving force behind Veronika Scott, the twenty four year old founder of Detroit’s Empowerment Plan, a non-profit that clothes and also employs the homeless.

In Detroit, there’s an estimated 20,000 homeless people in the city. Veronika was studying product design at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit when she came up with the idea to create a coat for the homeless. The coat she designed transforms into a sleeping bag, as well as an easy to carry bag for traveling.

While researching and working on a coat, a woman confronted Veronika pointing out that the homeless in Detroit didn’t need just coats, but also need jobs. So Veronika began hiring homeless women, training them to sew and produce the coats themselves.SleepingBagFullCoat

The coat’s design has changed a bit since the beginning, now using a black canvas for the outer shell and red lining for the inner shell, both donated by Carhartt, along with a donation of recycled car insulation from GM for the insulating layer. The company has now hired 13 homeless women to work on in the coat’s factory, and made 3,000 coats last year. Their coats are created out of Detroit’s Ponyride, a maker space in the city.

How are they dealing with one of Michigan’s harshest winter? They’ve been preparing as best as they could since summertime.

“Over the summer, when the weather is warmer, there is less of a demand and we are able to produce a surplus of the jackets for our Winter Survival Program,” said Erika George, Communications Manager at The Empowerment Plan. “We produce the coats year round and do the best that we can to keep up with the demand.”

Veronika Scott was just a college student when she first embarked on her journey to start the non-profit company, and shares advice for any young entrepreneurs in Michigan:

Take risks, there is no better time than now to foster your creativity and turn your ideas into realities. You don’t need to work on some timeline that others have created and expect you to follow. You need to learn from your experiences and understand that although you will not know everything and you will face challenges, you will find people that have what you lack and that will help you learn as you go.”   – Veronika Scott

Check out more on their story, featured below as part of the AMEX Passion Project.

If you’d like to support The Empowerment Plan, any donation can help them further their mission. One coat can be sponsored with just a $100 donation, covering all materials and overhead.

Learn more about The Empowerment Plan online: www.empowermentplan.org. To stay up to date with the organization, check out the company on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Author

Amanda Lewan

Amanda Lewan

Editor @michipreneur. Co-founder Bamboo Detroit. Follow me @Amanda_Jenn. I love telling the story of entrepreneurs and innovators.