Photo Credits – Mitscoots
Few things are more impressive than a company who puts people first.
Tim and Agata Scott, Founders of Mitscoots Outfitters, spent years volunteering along the streets of Austin Texas, when they discovered that after food and water, clean socks were the most desired item. They were surprised that something so simple could be in such high demand, but sure enough, the request for socks was a consistent one. So they started driving around the city, handing out socks to the homeless at streetlights. But sooner than later, the reality set in that they could only support this mission for so long. That’s when the idea of Mitscoots Outfitters came to life. They launched a successful crowdfunding campaign and founded their company in 2012.
They loved the TOMS one-for-one model, but wanted to see how they could take it even further; Tim and Agata didn’t only want to give to the homeless, they wanted to see them thrive. That’s what inspired their three-way model of Get+Give+Employ.
People get high-quality (and super cute) socks & gear that are 100% American made, and for every item they purchase, Mitscoots gives an equal item to someone in need. And to top it all off, they also employ the transitioning homeless to do all their packaging.
Sounds too good to be true? Check out this interview with Founder Tim Scott, for deeper insight into the philanthropic backbone of Mitscoots.
I’m completely inspired but what you do and why you do it. Can you please tell us how Mitscoots came to life?
My wife and I volunteered a lot with the transitioning homeless when we were in college. We worked with a non-profit organization and would go out onto the streets to give supplies. They would always thank us for food and water, but the next question was always, “do you have any socks?”. We were surprised to hear that’s what they really needed; it almost seemed trivial that socks were so important. But they explained to us that it’s hard to have warm clean socks when there’s nowhere to wash the ones they have. So we started giving them away when we were at stop lights. But we were students and started wondering how we could support this. We loved TOMS’ one-for-one model – so we thought, ‘that’s great maybe we can do that’. We went ahead and did that, and then our team started to grow. We immediately went to the streets and started reaching out to non-profits, to see who we could hire. So now, our packaging is all done by the transitioning homeless. Sometimes it’s a young mother who’s come into a hard time and has been staying at a shelter for the last two months. We help her so she doesn’t have to deal with that.
How did you come up with the name Mitscoots and what does it mean?
It’s named after me being kind of an idiot haha. My name is Tim Scott and when I was a little kid learning how to spell, I would spell Tim as “Mit” and Scott as “Scoots” – so my teachers started calling me Mitscoots. I got stuck with this nickname and couldn’t live it down. It followed me through school and even in the military. I tried to own it but secretly, I kind of hated it. So with the company, I tried to turn my mistake into something good for other people. That’s why we called the company Mitscoots.
Tell us about your three-way mission of Get+Give+Employ.
In our opinion, it’s a way to push that one-for-one model a little bit further. It’s a sustainable way to bring the philanthropy through. People get quality items all made in the US, and for every item purchased we give an item to a person in need. We also employ the transitioning homeless. We didn’t just want to give a “thing”, we wanted to get at the core of some of the homeless issues; we wanted to supply them with employment and elevate them to the next level. We try to hire as many as we can.
Mitscoots prides itself on being 100% Made in the USA. Can you give us a little insight into your production and why you think it’s so important to keep it local?
I know that there are a lot of good ethically sourced products from all over the world, but we figured there’s also a large need for manufacturing companies in the US. We have the factories here, and we discovered that they produce awesome quality goods. We love them and they love us. The factories we work with are located in New Jersey, Upstate New York, North Carolina, and a little bit out of California. Each one has its own strength: socks, mitts, etc. All the goods get shipped to our facility here in Austin, Texas and we work with the homeless to package it and put it all together.
You’re clearly driven by an innate need to give and to serve. Do you feel like this contributes to your success?
Well it seems simplistic to say it really is better to give than to receive. If you put that towards business practice, we find that it comes back ten-fold. If you want to do something in your life that genuinely means something, then think of creating something good for someone else. The inherent philanthropy built in, makes you feel like you’re giving back. It has definitely been the best, if not the only way, that we would operate our company.
How do you define success?
Based on how much we get to give away and how many times in a year I get to go to a house warming party for someone who was homeless. We try to give away our stuff quarterly, so if there’s one period where we get to give more, then I consider it a success.
Did you meet resistance from the people around you when you and your wife decided to create Mitscoots Outfitters, and if so, how did you deal with it?
Yes, we did meet that kind of resistance. We got a lot of half-cocked looks like “that’s what you’re going to do? A whole company just about socks? You’re going to survive by doing that and giving them away?”. People looked confused and almost sad, “like poor guy doesn’t know he’s been hit by a car yet”. For that exact reason, we knew we had to keep pushing. If an idea doesn’t scare the crap out of you a little, it’s probably not big enough or new enough. So the fact that they looked at us that way told me it would be an exciting venture, that would actually make a difference.
You give away thousands of socks to people in need, employ the transitioning homeless and provide people with high-quality, locally produced – and fashionably sensible, socks. In your opinion, what is Mitscoots’ most profound accomplishment?
The day that Ellis, our first long term employee quit. He worked with us for 8-9 months. He was shy at first, but we would be super chatty with him until he opened up. We want to make sure the people we work with are ok; we’re always checking if they need anything. One day he came into work and was very quiet. I asked him if everything was alright, and he said “well I went to the job interviews that you guys had lined up and I ended up getting a great job. They want to give me a lot of hours and so I will have to quit here.” Two weeks later he moved off the streets and into his RV -after being homeless for 4 years.
If you had to describe your social enterprise in one word, what would it be?
Service (“service before self” would be the three words I would use).
How about your socks?
Heart (we put so much heart into the design of our products and into putting it all together).