For my third spotlight piece, trying to highlight others that inspire, I would like to share an amazing social enterprise, Mitscoots.
I stumbled upon Mitscoots about a year or so ago when I was trying to find a gift that had a little more meaning and was local (I lived in Austin, TX at the time). They were cute socks but they also gave more. For every pair of socks you buy, a pair is given to someone in need. They also employ people transitioning from homelessness to package up your purchase, which helps even more. Not only did this make a great gift, but now my favorite pair of socks is actually from them: the Ginny. I’ve kept my eye on this business for a while now, even though I’m no longer local, and this month, they started a 31-Day Pattern of Giving Challenge. Their blog invites us to the challenge with “Join us as we start a movement of giving to show the world that if you see a problem, there is something we can do about it.” And that’s what it’s about – small, positive acts that can change the world. Can you imagine if everyone participated?
I had the privilege of speaking with Tim Scott, co-founder of Mitscoots, earlier this month. He gave me almost an hour of his time with just a few days notice of me requesting to interview the business; he also gave me his blessing of this blog post without censorship or reading what I wrote (although he did read what I wrote, too, before I posted this). From our conversation, it is very clear that Tim genuinely cares, is very passionate about what he does, is smart, and truly wants people to like his product. He’s honest, funny, and serves others with care and dignity.
During this interview, Tim said, “Give without expectation of return. Help those who need it.” Mitscoots helps those who need it, one pair of socks and one story at a time. This social enterprise began out a car window, later production began in Tim’s garage before they found some warehouse space to rent, and finally, they recently opened up a retail space. Here’s a little more of the story being a business that is doing well and doing good in the world.
L: Where’d the name Mitscoots come from?
T: When I was a little kid, I spelled my name mixed up for two weeks at school [Tim Scott as Mitscoots] until a substitute corrected me. My teacher thought it was cute and would call me “little mitscoots.” When we started this company, I wanted to make this [Mitscoots] name mean something good – to show that the greatest mistakes can be turned into something good, like what we’re showing our workers. Our mistakes can add value to us as a person.
L: How did you start this social enterprise?
My wife, Agata Scott, and I volunteered a lot back then and still now with the homeless community. We’d volunteer with different groups and kept hearing the same three requests: food, water, and socks. There’s a very high demand for new socks, especially if you have to wear the same pair every day. We thought this was a silly problem – to not have clean socks—and we started buying socks back when we were students, along with food and water, and began handing those items out through our car window. I wondered if there was a business like TOMS but for socks, and there was not, so I thought about it. We knew that if we could sell socks (instead of just handing out what we bought), then we could give more. A few years down the road, my wife and I started this business while working our full-time jobs until it grew and could sustain a few employees. Mitscoots officially began in August 2012, so we’re about to have our four-year anniversary. Mitscoots is definitely a work passion project for us; to fill a need in the community that had no capacity to be filled otherwise.
I went back for a Masters in Advertising after being in the service, and I am able to use those skills with this business. My wife has her Doctor of Physical Therapy and works with special needs children; she still works in physical therapy and at Mitscoots in office management. We wear a lot of hats.
L: Numbers at your Austin location: How many staff do you have transitioning from homelessness? How many staff help run the business? How many socks have you handed out so far this year 2016?
T: Our team is typically staffed around 12-14 people, including satellite professionals, depending on the season. Of that 12-14, 3-8 staff are homeless and working on a rotation 2-3 times a week. So far this year we [Mitscoots and national giving partners*] have handed out 14,000-15,000 socks and 2,000-3,000 beanies.
*Our national giving partners are organizations who are already working with individuals experiencing homelessness. We wanted to give things to people who know how to solve this issue and are already working on it.
L: Where is Mitscoots looking to expand its packaging productions, to help employ more individuals transitioning from homelessness?
T: It is our long-term scenario for expansion. We’d like to have satellite spaces all over large metro areas with transitioning homeless working there. Mitscoots is a model that could be used anywhere – it’s just a matter of logistics. We don’t have a number of years with our timeline for this.
Our goal is to address what new things are needed on the streets. We provide socks; we added beanies, scarves, gloves, and moisture wicking shirts. Our giving partners, especially in Austin, share what the need is. I go out on truck runs, too, and we actually ask the population we serve what they need. This stuff eases the burden so that transitioning homeless can focus on the larger issues of homelessness.
L: What opportunities does Mitscoots have for individual or groups (in Austin) to volunteer or help in some way?
T: At least once a month there’s a volunteer opportunity, such as to create care canisters. We’ll get together in our production space, put on some great music, maybe have some snacks, share our story, and make the care canisters. If you’re interested, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
L: What’s something we (i.e. public) should all know about Mitscoots?
T: Most people don’t know the story of our name. Also, that we want to share what homelessness is versus what it is not. It’s not just the stereotype of a grisly guy on the corner – it’s many different kinds of people, including women and children. I mean, there’s going to be that guy, but that’s just not most of the population.
L: How does Mitscoots help change the story of homelessness (in Austin or overall)?
T: We’re showing self-actualization of individuals. The key word is transitioning homeless. You’re going to get through it – it’s transitional. We show a side [of the homeless population] that is actively trying to improve their situation. Now working at Mitscoots is not a long-term solution; these individuals have more talents than that.
L: What’s something most people don’t know about you (that you’d like to share publicly)?
T: Personally, for one of my jobs, I used to be a Chick-fil-a cow holding a sign “Eat Mor Chikin.” Sometimes, people would throw cokes or beer at me.
L: What inspires your team?
T: Getting someone into housing. When our team gets invited to a housewarming party to an individual who has transitioned [from homelessness], totally beat the odds, and had the amazing heart to invite us.
L: What has been your most recent act of kindness that either you gave or received?
T: We’re actually in the middle of our Pattern of Giving – it’s 31 days for this month, which is however long it is to make a habit and then longer to keep it. Today [8/9/16] was to call a loved one. I called my parents. They are wonderful people but not super lovey. I said I love you to them and they said it back.
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Mitscoots/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/mitscoots?lang=en
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/mitscoots/
And if you’re local to Austin, TX or just visiting, check out their new retail space at 2505 East 6th Street.