We came up with some questions we thought people might be wondering about when we launch, and here are our answers!
- Why did you decide to change your name?
After 11 years under the name Povertees, we felt that we had outgrown the name and wanted to choose a name that reflected our evolution as a wholesale merchandising company. We had been having trouble conveying our company changes to people who had known of us for a while, and we felt that it would be easier to communicate who we are under a new name.
- Is anything changing within the organization or your programs?
Although most of what we do isn't changing, it might seem like a change to those who haven't been updated on how things have been going the last couple of years! We still employ women transitioning out of homelessness in-house, and we are focused on creating an environment that provides our staff with opportunities for growth and self-development. We call our program Mindset, and it includes education/growth strategies in mindset development, financial planning, interpersonal communication, problem-solving, and work training. We also provide paid yoga, paid therapy, and paid in-house tutoring for those who want to take us up on it!
In terms of our business, we are primarily focused on making custom, branded merchandise for other companies/organizations. We'll have seasonal retail items for sale on our website (and sent to our monthly subscribers), but our main focus is on galvanizing the business community.
- What’s the relationship between art and your org? You mentioned art residency, can you explain that further?
We treat our employment somewhat like an art residency. In an art residency, an artist is invited into a supportive environment where they can create work and build their resume under an established company or professional. We do something similar in that we welcome employees into an environment designed to promote work development and personal growth.
A large portion of our business involves making sure that the merchandise we produce is of the highest quality possible, in terms of fit, fabric, and aesthetic. We focus on art and aesthetics so that we can create brand apparel that makes it into people's weekly wardrobes, rather than into their trash or the growing pile of old clothes in their closet! Also, our CEO is a professional artist, so that helps!
- How much of your business income is from sales and how much from donations?
Roughly 75% of our income comes in from sales and 25% from donations.
- Are you going to sell any of your own product?
Each season we'll have new retail products online and for our monthly subscribers that we design and/or make in-house with our employees. For our 2019 Spring Residency, we have crewneck sweatshirts, hand-painted tote bags, and handmade bath balms.
- What made you decide to switch from retail to wholesale?
We wanted to involve other companies and organizations in our mission, both to create more awareness of homelessness as a societal issue and as a platform where people could use their need for merch to benefit those in need.
- And has that been successful?
Yes, we are having great success with it!
- What's coming up for Residency?
This year our goal is to double our business and double our staff/employment. We want to work on systematizing and honing our Mindset program, and we want to develop a wider network of resources that can benefit our employees. We'll have new retail and monthly subscriber items each season. We're going to do a better job of keeping our monthly subscribers up to date on what's going on in the organization and we want to provide Mindset materials for anyone who wants to try it out. We'll be writing and speaking more too.
- Where do you see the business in the next 5, 10 years?
In 5 years we want to be the largest merch producer in LA. We want to have a state of the art Mindset facility that provides in-house Mindset training, including paid yoga, paid gym-use, paid therapy, and paid tutoring. We want to open a second facility in another area of homelessness, or a mindset resort. Also, full benefits for all staff members.
- What would you say are the core values of Residency?
Treating everyone like a well-adjusted family; Personal Accountability and Influence; Purposeful Work as personal development; Business as Outreach; Honesty and Transparency.
- You mentioned mindset, could you elaborate further?
Mindset is our self-development program that we offer to all staff members. It includes education/training in areas of greatest need for those transitioning out of homelessness: mindset, financial planning, health, problem-solving, interpersonal communication, and work training. We also provide paid-yoga, paid-therapy, and paid-tutoring.
- Would your future facilities be open to the public?
Not entirely. We want certain aspects open to the public, and all of our policies, strategies, and practices transparent and open to scrutiny, but we also want an environment that can be much more focused and selective than a public place. So we would likely have classes and events open to the public, but we would not be operating as a public program/space.
- What does a typical day look like for your employees?
We tailor work training to each individual, but we generally have daily tasks geared toward a person's career focus, and we offer a lot of time to work on personal (such as educational) tasks, and time to get personal affairs in order (like time to work on filing taxes, etc.).
- What are some of the biggest obstacles you face as an organization?
Like most organizations, we face the main obstacle of funding. Rather than focusing on fundraising to account for this obstacle, we pursue funding through business. As we establish our new name and brand, we believe funding will become less of an obstacle.
- What are some of the biggest obstacles your employees face during this transition in their lives?
Lack of a sense of community off of the streets, lack of previous education, lack of career opportunity, lack of convenient transportation, lack of affordable housing, lack of opportunities for permanent employment, and lack of mentorship/guidance. We do our best to account for as many of these obstacles as possible, and over time these obstacles diminish for each person.