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Real Story: She Invented A Coat To Help The Homeless And Did Even More

Real Story: She Invented A Coat To Help The Homeless And Did Even More

Veronika Scott possesses wisdom far beyond her years. Although she is only 26, Scott has already crafted her career path. She’s found her purpose and projects her sense of self-worth on to those in need of a gentle reminder. The Empowerment Plan is the brainchild of Veronika Scott. As founder and CEO, she empowers others to make a difference; a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.

College Assignment Turned Career Path

It all began while she attended college in Detroit. Scott was assigned a project that would soon change her life forever. The assignment was part of a product design class and the purpose was to create something that solved a real world problem. The point was to focus on something that was applicable to society.

It was at this time that a visionary idea came to light. Scott came up with a unique jacket design that would be given to homeless people during the harsh winter months. The idea was for the coats to be made of highly insulated yet lightweight material. The back section of the coat is double layered. This double layer folds down after being pulled down and extends into a fully functional sleeping bag.

jacket

    Jacket design by The Empowerment Plan

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    The success of her unique coat design was a real accomplishment. Scott was often times referred to as the ‘Coat Lady’ by complete strangers. It became evident that this class project was becoming something that was legitimately helpful to a multitude of people. As Scott moved forward in life and graduated, she never forgot this class project or any of the vividly lit up faces to which she had helped provide a ‘security blanket’ for.

    Scott asked homeless people in Detroit what they thought about her jacket design, firsthand. The majority were supportive and excited. It was during one of these accounts that a homeless woman yelled: “We don’t need coats, we need jobs.” This person who spoke up on the issue was completely right. And thus the real second wave of the Empowerment Plan was born!

    Phase Two of The Empowerment Plan

    This request was not ignored by Scott. She was on a mission to help however she could and the most ideal means were to help provide a place for homeless people to work. Upon graduating, Veronika decided to further her efforts and expand The Empowerment Plan. In an interview with The Great Disconnect, Veronika was asked:

    “What was the transition like from graduating to actually creating this business?”

    Her response:

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    “It was a gradual transition that started with a meeting with Mark Valade, the CEO of Carhartt. I showed him my first, very well-designed business plan, which didn’t have much content to it, but it was very pretty. He funded it and invested in the materials and machinery that I would need to get started.

    Because of that, I had to do a lot of things quickly. Stage one was finding a place to put everything that Mark had just donated to me. What was interesting is that we found a space in the NSO shelter building: it was a closet that we painted green and put up a wall of cork in. It was so small that we couldn’t even build a full coat in it! It was a great start, though.

    The next stage was realizing that I was never going to be a seamstress. It didn’t make sense for me to make one coat each week; it wasn’t a sustainable idea, and it sounded like torture. I found a sewing teacher, but then had to find people for her to teach so we could start making coats. When we started looking for people to hire, the head of the NSO shelter said, “You know, we have hundreds of people who would come to volunteer with you if they just had the opportunity to do something every day.” I interviewed five people the first day, which was a surreal experience because I had never been on the other side of the interview table! A few people showed up; one woman came two hours early. I hired two people: Sig Sig and Elisha. They are both amazing individuals, and the work they did in the first six months pushed the company to become what it is now.

    Aside from financial support from Carhartt, we had only been funded by a tiny PayPal donation button on the site—that helped pay for both of the ladies’ salaries for nine months. I never had to ask for money; people contributed, and it was amazing. I didn’t get paid, but those two ladies did, and I had enough gas money to get to the shelter.

    It was astounding to see what Sig Sig and Elisha did with each of their salaries. They both worked the same hours and got paid the same, but Sig Sig didn’t have any children or family; Elisha did. Within three months, Elisha had moved out of the shelter permanently, found her own apartment, got it furnished, had her three kids enrolled in a charter school, and started her youngest on learning Japanese. During that same three-month period, Sig Sig was kicked out of the shelter, sleeping in her car, and had stopped showing up to work. I’m not saying anything bad about Sig Sig’s character; I had hired her right after she had gotten out of a decade in prison, and she was having a hard time adjusting.

    That experience made me think about who I needed to hire. I had to hire somebody who was going to show up to work not just because they needed money, but because they needed to put food on the table for their kids; someone who needed to know where they were going to sleep that night so that they could take care of their family. People told me, “You’re never going to get a homeless person to show up to work,” but I did. I did it by hiring parents who wanted a better life for their kids and, at the end of the day, that was the motivator for them. We now employ 15 women who were all previously or are currently homeless.”

    Scott proves that people in unfortunate situations can turn their lives around. She decided that simply creating a jacket that helps the homeless brave inclimate weather was not enough. At that time she decided to give these people what they truly desired: a chance at rejoining the workforce. A chance at regaining the comforts many take for granted; a fresh start.

    Nonprofits can lower crime and homelessness rates through the help of communities and the creation of jobs. This was the forefront of an expansion of The Empowerment Plan.

    Ideas like The Empowerment Plan are excellent ways to help those that are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. These types of nonprofits are great alternatives to the circulatory nature of homeless shelters and may even segue into effective alternatives to incarceration. Those individuals don’t need to be criminalized that’s simply hurting not helping. They need consistency and a realistic job that pays a livable wage.

    Veronika Scott is not any ordinary entrepreneur, she’s a social entrepreneur who’s main focus has remained constant since that motivational college project. Her kind heart and unique ideas have created a useful item that has since gained much reach across the United States and Canada. The Empowerment Project has produced over 6000 coats this year and have made over 9000 since 2011.

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    Upon reflecting on the incredible achievements of Veronika Scott, I was highly motivated to make a difference in my own community. The following are some ways that anyone can help through volunteer efforts.

    1. Volunteer Your Skills

    Everyone has some type of hobby or special skill that they enjoy. Do you shred the guitar? Consider giving free guitar lessons to youth in need. Do you love reading poetry? Project that to the world and organize poetry workshops in your free time. It doesn’t matter what the skill or hobby is; the special knowledge you possess is something that can fuel desires of those who are unfamiliar with what you love to do. Who knows, maybe people will be so motivated by you that they will one day love your favorite hobby as much as you do?

    2. Volunteer Your Time

    Sometimes people don’t want to focus as much on their unique skills for volunteering. In some cases simply volunteering your time is the most helpful approach. Tasks like directing traffic/parking at nonprofit events, serving food at soup kitchens, or spending time with animals in need at animal shelters are all ways to delegate your extra time. Sometimes these tasks may seem monotonous. Just know that when you volunteer your time, you’re helping complete tasks that usually are in deficits. A little bit of your spare time really goes a long ways.

    3. Random Acts of Kindness

    When was the last time you did something completely random and unselfish? Some ideas of random acts of kindness include: putting change in a strangers expired parking meter, buying the person behind you in line at a coffee shop their drink, or leaving a friendly note to a coworker on a whim. It can also be as simple as giving someone the type of day that they deserve. Random compliments are also great, when delivered in a tasteful and appropriate manner.

    4. Open Your Doors To Those In Need

    This is not the easiest thing to do, as most people really need their own space in order to stay mentally healthy. However in times of genuine need, opening your doors for someone to live with you temporarily and get back on their feet is extremely helpful and kind. Keep in mind there is a big difference between helping someone and being taken advantage of. It’s also important to make sure that you’re not getting yourself in an unwanted or unsafe situation. Keep couch surfers reserved to close friends and relatives in need.

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    Robert Parmer

    Freelance Writer

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    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

    If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

    Example 1

    You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

    You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

    In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

    Example 2

    You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

    People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

    You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

    Example 3

    You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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    The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

    Example 4

    You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

    Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

    If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

    Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

    • Understand your own communication style
    • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
    • Communicate with precision and care
    • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

    1. Understand Your Communication Style

    To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

    In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

    Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

    2. Learn Others Communication Styles

    Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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    If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

    “How do you prefer to receive information?”

    This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

    To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

    3. Exercise Precision and Care

    A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

    On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

    Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

    I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

    I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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    In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

    The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

    Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

    4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

    Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

    In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

    “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

    Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

    Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

    It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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    It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

    It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

    Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

    Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

    The Bottom Line

    When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

    I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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    Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

    Reference

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