News and analysis
January 05, 2016

Veronika Scott: How a Coat Becomes a Bed

Brian Kelly

Veronika Scott (left) started a nonprofit that has made more than 10,000 jackets so far.

Veronika Scott, 26
Founder and Chief Executive, The Empowerment Plan

Veronika Scott was a 21-year-old art-school student when she got an assignment that would change her life: Identify a community problem and design a product to solve it.

For five months, Ms. Scott spent three evenings a week talking with homeless people at a shelter in a rough part of Detroit. Her big idea was a winter coat that turns into a sleeping bag.

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In 2011, she started the Empowerment Plan, a nonprofit that employs homeless women to make the coats — more than 10,000 jackets so far. The design is always changing; there’s now a version in which the sleeping bag can be removed from the coat and carried as a bag.

Some of the alterations are based on feedback from the women who make the jackets. A recent redesign reduced the amount of time it takes to make the coat from roughly five and a half hours to an hour and 40 minutes.

"My team is badass," says Ms. Scott. "They’re very skilled, they’re very driven and motivated, and they make a very good garment."

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