While attending the College of Creative Studies in Detroit in 2010, Veronica Scott was challenged to create a product that filled an actual need in her community. Veronica took to the issue of homelessness, and after five months of working closely with individuals at a local homeless shelter, she had designed a heat-trapping jacket that could transform into a warm and weather-resistant sleeping bag.
At the end of the semester, Scott continued to work with the homeless to create other prototypes and to improve the quality and design of the jacket. While visiting a shelter, she was approached by a woman who voiced that it wasn’t clothing the homeless needed, but more importantly, jobs. This was a pivotal moment for Scott; it shaped the model that she would soon apply to her business practices.
In 2012, Scott founded The Empowerment Plan, a non-profit organization focused on permanently elevating families from homelessness. The company’s strategy is to hire single mothers from local shelters and provide them with training and full-time employment as seamstresses, offering a stable income so that, in turn, they will be able to find secure housing.
According to a press release, the company has, since its inception, offered full time work to 30 women. They have distributed over 15,000 coats to the homeless across 39 States and 7 Canadian provinces, impacting 75 children now growing up in stable homes.
The Empowerment Plan is largely supported by philanthropic funding from private individuals, corporate sponsors, foundations, and community leaders. But it’s important to note that they also look for the support of local partners that are critical to making it all happen. The Coalition On Temporary Shelter (COTS) assists with employee recruitment as well as childcare needs. Humble Design provides the women with suitable furnishings and amenities for their new homes as they successfully transition from homelessness. Pro-Literacy Detroit, Level One Bank, and 2-Way Communications LLC provide supplemental programming, including GED courses, financial literacy classes, professional development seminars, and more.
But let’s not forget the coat itself: The EMPWR Coat is water-resistant, durable, and fitted with special insulation materials generously donated by General Motors. The coat can transform into a full-sized sleeping bag, and then it conveniently folds up into an over-the-shoulder bag when not in use.
Although The Empowerment Plan mainly sends coats to U.S. and Canadian organizations, Scott often remarks about others adopting a similar model to aid the homeless in their own community. For now, she still remains focussed on the matters at hand in Detroit. In a recent interview with the Global Thinkers Forum, Scott was asked about her plans for the future.
“We are currently exploring a few new opportunities that will present our team with opportunities to further themselves both personally and professionally. We believe that by integrating education into the workplace and offering workshops and seminars on topics varying from health and wellness to resumé building and public speaking, that we will be best able to equip those that we hire for future growth, whether that be at The Empowerment Plan or elsewhere.”