In October of 2015, Michael Mader suffered a traumatic brain injury when he fell off his longboard. The injury forced him to put his entire life on hold. He missed three months of school and didn’t have a clear path to making ends meet. Thankfully, Michael wasn’t alone. Surrounded by a support network of family and friends, Michael recovered and regained his future.
However, he couldn’t stop thinking about how easily things could have gone differently.
“I recognized that my fate could have been different if I hadn’t had that support system around me,” he says. “In the months of recovery that followed, that thought kept returning to me. And it’s what eventually led to him partnering with friend Sam Harper on an idea for a sock company that could help the homeless.
That idea became Hippy Feet, a company named as a nod to the support and love found in the counterculture of the 1960s and 70s, where helping others was viewed as essential. Their Minnesota-made socks are not just eco-friendly and mega-comfy, they also provide transitional employment to homeless youth.
“When we started we were doing a ‘buy one give one’ sort of model, where we donated a pair of socks to the homeless for every pair purchased,” says Harper. “But a pair of socks doesn’t change their situation. That’s when we created our Pop-up Employment Program.”
The homeless population is often viewed through a negative lens. It can be extremely difficult for homeless people to change their situation, due to perceptions about their situation and barriers to employment.
Hippy Feet’s Pop-up Employment Program, however, is a barrier-free option, providing immediate employment and income for up to 23 homeless youth at a time.
“This is transitional employment,” explains Mader. “We’re offering them immediate cash, basic job skills, work history for their resumes and potentially references for when they move on to seek permanent employment in whatever field they choose.”
As of October 2019, Hippy Feet has provided transitional employment to nearly 90 young people experiencing homelessness in Minneapolis and Duluth, Minnesota, as well as Chicago, Illinois.
The founders of Hippy Feet believe in making a comfy, quality product using recycled cotton. But they also believe in helping their neighbors. And, really, what’s more Minnesotan than that?
The Hippy Feet socks were featured in our Very Merry MinnBox