Hippy Feet Donates Half its Profits to Nonprofits Fighting Homelessness

Hippy Feet Donates Half its Profits to Nonprofits Fighting Homelessness

The Minneapolis-based sock company continues to evolve its model to better help youth experiencing homelessness.

Michael Mader and Sam Harper started Minneapolis-based sock business, Hippy Feet, with three core values in mind: All products would be made in the United States, they would use sustainable materials, and the business would give back to people affected by homelessness.

“Shortly after launching the business, we added a fourth value: Continue to routinely improve the way that we give back to the homeless community,” Mader said.

This fourth value has led to multiple iterations of the company’s philanthropic model over the years. This year, the way Hippy Feet gives back has changed once again. In January, the company pledged to donate 50 percent of its profits to nonprofits working to fight homelessness. This will allow the company to expand its impact to other parts of the country, including California, Chicago, Seattle, New York City, and Austin. The company has already donated money to The Link in North Minneapolis, ALPS Enterprises out of St. Paul, and My Friend’s Place based in California.

The company, a certified B-corp, has come a long way since it launched in 2016 as the co-owners worked on the ground to evaluate the needs of the homeless community.

When Hippy Feet launched in 2016, it used a one-for-one model inspired by TOMS and Love Your Melon, donating 20,000 pairs of socks. But it quickly became clear this model only met a surface-level need. “You’d hand somebody a pair of socks and they’d say ‘Hey, this is great. Thank you. I also need a house, healthcare, and a job,'” Mader said.

Next, they offered employment opportunities to youth experiencing homelessness, providing transitional employment opportunities to 160 young people. But Covid restrictions in 2020 made the program temporarily untenable. They pivoted again to offer a six-month-long job readiness program, helping 25 youth gain practical skills to help them land jobs from 2020 to 2021.

This program was impactful, “however, we have this desire to continually evolve our impact and we looked really hard at what we were doing and asked ‘Can somebody else do this better than we can?’ And the answer was yes,” Madder said.

Mader has a marketing degree. He doesn’t have a social work degree or background in the field. He said there were times it felt like Hippy Feet was trying to do the work of nonprofits by giving jobs to youth experiencing homelessness.

“Sometimes we just weren’t qualified for situations that arose during our employment program,” he said. “I mean these young folks are going through so many wild things in their lives and it’s something where we were able to provide them with income and some structure, but there were other issues arising that we were just not qualified to handle, so we decided to refer to the experts.”