Hood College Enactus has been awarded a prestigious Volpe Scholar award to continue its work with the Backet, a cross-functional piece of apparel for homeless people that combines a backpack and a winter jacket. The Volpe Scholarship provides funds for exceptional students to take part in unique, experiential learning opportunities.
The group earned regional and national recognition in 2016 for creating the Backet, and the students have now developed a business model that includes hiring and paying the homeless to manufacture the product. Enactus president Joe Hutchins ’18 applied for a Volpe Scholarship on behalf of the group and was awarded $5,000 to purchase the materials needed to produce the Backet.
“Without the scholarship, we would not have been able to purchase all of the materials necessary to actually produce the Backet and pay the homeless individuals at the same time,” Hutchins said.
The scholarship money has greatly reduced the need for fundraising, and it covered the costs of Backet production. It has allowed Enactus to focus on developing the product and production process to ensure the homeless individuals are helped to the fullest extent.
The next steps for the project include further production of the current model, developing a prototype of a higher-end model and creating a marketing campaign for the product.
“The development of the higher-end model will allow for sustainability to be achieved if we can get sales under way in local boutiques and through e-commerce,” Hutchins said.
Pictured: Joe Hutchins at the National Exposition in St. Louis, Mo.