In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Nick Pearce, the CEO and Co-Founder of HoMie – a social enterprise that aims to break down the stigma associated with homelessness and those experiencing it rough on the streets. They do this through their ultra cool fashion label, HoMie, their upcycled ReBorn range and their Pathway Alliance Program that helps disadvantaged youth kick start their retail career. In this episode we go on a journey with Nick on how he went from studying Journalism and being a Manny (yes, a real life Manny) to creating a business with purpose that is today known as HoMie. We also dive into the unique size guides that HoMie uses, the tools they use for online accessibility and why saying no to opportunities has opened up better doors than saying yes.
“Retail is the biggest employer of young people, and youth homelessness, it’s the most represented group of people who are experiencing it, so it’s the perfect marriage to make.”Nick Pearce
Questions answered in this episode include…
- How does the HoMie trainee program work?
- How do you approach the process of partnering with brands?
- How can retailers create opportunities for young people?
An invisible problem
“Homelessness is a really interesting term in that if someone’s at risk of homelessness, they’re considered to be experiencing homelessness on the census. So, people can actually be in a temporary accommodation situation – couch surfing, sleeping in cars, and that’s probably the biggest insight is that most homelessness isn’t on the streets. So there’s about 7,000 people who live on the streets or are living rough, but there’s over 113,000 who are couch surfing, sleeping in cars, temporary accommodation, et cetera. So the biggest issue is actually invisible.
And within that number, I think it’s now over 60% of people experiencing homelessness at 35 and under and over 40% are 25 and under. So, the reality of it is it’s not an elderly person with gray hair and beard. It’s actually a young person who just can’t get out of this vicious cycle. And if it continues for an extended period then the likelihood of them actually experiencing it chronically just increases tenfold.”
Amazing brand partnerships
“The Disney collection obviously launched prior to Christmas. It’s just incredible really to think that we’ve been able to reach out to Disney and to be on their radar. And the way that was connected was via REBORN. Someone from Disney saw that, loved it, hit us up, and we thought, “Oh, well, Disney’s one of the biggest brands in the world. If we can just get some noise happening, and to be seen to be working alongside them and have access to those assets.”
It’s an incredible opportunity. It gives us credibility, but obviously also hopefully there’s a great experience for their team, and they undertook the empathetic employment training with us and that was awesome. So, a really good deep connection.”
The HoMie experience online
“It is a challenge because with an in-person experience, you’re going to get all the feels and there’s more senses that are heightened through a direct exchange, because if you come into our store and the program’s running, not that we have advertised on our staff. It doesn’t say young person experiencing homelessness undertaking program, but you know that that’s what we do. And that often when you’re being served face to face, the person who is serving you is benefiting not only from your purchase and the contribution, but also just the actual learning experience in which is that customer exchange. So, how do you replicate that feel good component?
The content side of things is so important in terms of what we create and what we communicate. And as much as possible, obviously sharing the stories of the successes. It’s so important to capture that, but to do it in a really dignified manner.
The other thing that we do, I think, which is quite unique is that a lot of our models and shoots and ranges they often include a lot of diversity, but also a lot of the time our young people in our program. That’s amazing for them to be like, “Oh yeah, that’s amazing. Not only am I going to work today in the shop, but I’m going to be part of the shoot, and be online to see myself as part of this brand.” That’s awesome. And obviously we don’t actively promote that. That, hey, this person in this photo is from this background, but that’s what we do. So, as much as possible, it’s providing those outlets and those opportunities for our beneficiaries to really be front and center.”
Links from the episode:
- Launch Housing
- General Pants
- Shopify Plus and Rollie Nation (sponsored)
- Signet and Free to Feed (sponsored)
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