Students’ project donates money and mittens made from upcycled sweaters
Rikkea Roberge, Vanessa Gomez, Lindsay Penny, Britney Blomquist and Mary Douglas (not pictured) are Public Relations diploma students created Thrifty Mitties for their BUSN 201 Mission Possible project.
Lindsay Penny admits to feeling a twinge of dread when she heard the news that she would be teaming up with four of the 160 students in her BUSN 201 course to come up with an idea for a product or service, create a business and raise money for charity.
“All I could think about was getting it over with and hopefully ending up with some kind of profit to donate in the end,” says the first-year Public Relations student. “It’s amazing how much and how quickly that changed.”
In a matter of days, Lindsay and her teammates, Rikkea Roberge, Vanessa Gomez, Britney Blomquist and Mary Douglas, headed to a thrift store armed with a $25 startup loan. After scouring the racks for sweaters to use for their new upcycling venture, they worked together to cut and sew sets of mittens, take photos and launch Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts for Thrifty Mitties.
“We’re using our strengths to work on something that really matters, and we’re helping people in our community who are in need. Everything about that feels so good.”
The group had 16 pairs of mittens ready to go for the first BUSN 201 Mission Possible marketplace in October, and a plan to donate their profits to Boyle Street Community Services.
“We were so excited to have sold everything we had at that first marketplace that we had a team hug afterwards,” says Vanessa.
The excitement—and the work—didn’t stop there. Instead, the entrepreneurial students continued searching their closets (and those of their families and friends) for more unwanted sweaters.
“We’re turning sweaters that nobody wants anymore into mittens that are keeping people warm. We’re using our strengths to work on something that really matters, and we’re helping people in our community who are in need,” says Lindsay. “Everything about that feels so good. I never imagined I would feel that way about a school project.”
The team will be sewing and selling mittens until the last day of classes, when they’ll tally their profits and get ready to present the funds—and a batch of mittens—to Boyle Street.
“There’s some kind of special bond that happens when you get together to sew mittens for a good cause—we’ve become mitten sisters,” laughs Britney. “This feels like the kind of experience that builds lifelong friendships.”
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The PR students’ friendship isn’t the only thing likely to extend beyond the final day of BUSN 201. The Thrifty Mitties team members all agree that their social entrepreneurship venture may have a future outside of the classroom.
“This is a product and an idea that is viable, and something that we’re all really proud of,” says Lindsay.
It’s a message that School of Business faculty member Keltie Gower, who coordinates the BUSN 201 Mission Possible assignment (now in its fifth year), is happy to hear.
“We’re finding that students are being more and more adventurous as the years go by,” says Keltie. “The range of products that students are coming up with is getting more diverse—one group this year created a time management app and last semester a group was using 3-D printers to make their products. And students are connecting more with the community too, which is something we really encourage.”
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