It’s often the simple things that are needed to make life a little less difficult for the homeless, and now Austin is the site of a new endeavor to provide these people with aid.
Leading the latest effort to supply both comfort and new opportunities for Austin’s homeless is husband and wife duo Jim and Agata Scott. With their crowdfunded company Mitscoots, Tim and Agata have created a plan to provide much needed socks to those living on the streets, while also giving them the chance to get back on their feet with new chances for employment.
CultureMap: How long has Mitscoots been around?
Tim Scott: After a successful crowd-funding campaign through Indiegogo, my wife and I officially launched Mitscoots in September 2012.
CM: Was this your idea?
TS: Yes! Well, me and my wife Agata that is. When she and I both went to UT for our undergraduate work, we were both volunteering pretty regularly with the needy community. We primarily would work with an organization called Mobile Loaves and Fishes that would take food trucks stuffed with sack lunches and donated clothing and stop under overpasses and in low-income housing around the Austin area.
While going from place to place, we found that, right after food and water, the next request was always for a clean pair of socks. It always struck both of us as such a small thing to have such a large need. In any case, we would typically run out of socks before anything else and we never felt right about it. We both thought to ourselves that there had to be a better way to sustain the donations that were obviously needed around the Austin area.
We got wrapped up in our own lives for a few years and kept the idea in the back of our heads. We got married, each got our graduate degrees and started our lives in Austin doing what we thought was supposed to be the road to happiness. After a while of working, the idea kept growing. We both love our careers but really wanted to do something more.
We finally made the jump and started trying to figure out how to make our idea a reality. A lot of phone calls, late nights, and loving frustrations later, we started our Indiegogo campaign and haven't looked back.
CM: So homeless people help ship and package your socks. Have you met some of the people doing this? What has been your biggest lesson in meeting them?
TS: Yes, we meet them all the time and love spending time with them. You could say they are the soul of our company. It's always a humbling experience to spend time with them, and it helps to remind us that we are all just people on a journey and need a little help from time to time.
I would say the biggest surprise to us so far has been to see how close so many people are from being in similar situations to those we help. In many circumstances, a large portion of people are really only one paycheck away from being homeless. We all can fall on hard times and poverty does not have a particular look.
CM: So why lime green? And are there any future plans for more apparel options?
TS: We love the lime green. To us, the color is bright, positive and lets people know that the pair of socks they have on means something. We are totally on board to work with both new colors and styles down the road. In fact, we have a few things on the drawing board already.
We would love to make undergarments. That was always the next request right after socks. We want to make sure that what we are offering to the market is something that is needed by those less fortunate. With our same model, we are hoping to put a dent in some social issues by offering quality goods.
CM: How many socks have you sold and given away?
TS: To date we have had the privilege to give out about 1,500 pairs of Mitscoots to those in need around the Austin area and have sold about an equal amount to sustain that giving.
CM: So aside from the philanthropic aspect, what else is great about these socks?
TS: Our socks can keep up with the best out there. We figure if they can last out on the street they can handle a few laps around Town Lake. Our Mitscoots have a style to remember and a comfort to match. It's not hard to make socks, but it is hard to make good socks and even harder to make socks do good.
CM: Have you always had a philanthropic side?
TS: I think we both have what you might even call a giving complex. After being in the Air Force I have looked for another way to give back. My wife currently works as a pediatric physical therapist for children with special needs, so we are both pretty big proponents for the idea of doing better and more for others first.
CM: Is it important to you that the company has its roots in Austin?
TS: We are proudly started from and based out of Austin, Texas. There are plenty of individuals that need help in central Texas and it just made sense to start right here. This is a giving city full of some of the best people we have ever met in our life. There is nowhere else we could have ever imagined starting our company.