UPDATE: Higher Trail had a successful season. We were able to donate over a hundred pairs of mittens, and had one heck of a time doing it. Thank you to everyone who supported the project. We have suspended it for the summer and will reevaluate what to do with it next fall.
LAUNCH DATE: October 15th
It all started over one year ago, in the fall of 2015. My friend Andy had the idea for a charitable mitten project, and in all honesty, I was not impressed. The buy-one-give-one model seemed oversaturated and uninteresting. However, over the tumultuous year it took for Higher Trail to get off the ground, my opinion changed, and here’s why:
First, what is Higher Trail? What does it mean to be a “charitable mitten company”? We sell mittens made in Duluth, MN out of 100% acrylic. Initially, we are only offering them in blue (options are overrated). For every pair we sell, we donate an identical pair to a local homeless shelter, starting with Sharing and Caring Hands in North Loop, Minneapolis. We are selling the mittens for $20 a pair. This price represents a low profit-margin, for we are paying for the production of two pairs for every one purchased (in addition to patches, tags, packaging, and all the rest). Sure, we would love to sell them for less, but at this point our margins cannot stretch any thinner.
Why do I believe all this is a good idea?
When looking at other BOGO companies such as TOMS, Warby Parker, or Love Your Melon, I believe there is a hole in this market in need of filling. The comments I have are in no way meant to detract from the great work these groups do, but rather, to point out gaps that are waiting to be filled. For starters, none of the BOGO companies actually donate an identical product that you, the consumer, are purchasing. In many ways, this is a practical measure: for instance, if TOMS donated the same pair of designer boots you just bought to a village in rural Africa, they would be less useful than protected rubber shoes. However, the concept of donating an identical product to the one you are buying sends a powerful message; something we plan to do. Furthermore, many of the BOGO groups do not have results as tangible to you, the consumer, as Higher Trail does. Although they do plenty of good, these companies make donations that are not always specific in nature and that do not directly affect your community. Whether your donation is aiding endangered animals or putting clothes on the backs of orphans around the globe, these charitable acts (although they are super important) do not create results for people to see in their own community. It can be easy to forget that you don’t need to go across the world to find people in need; odds are, there are many in your own neighborhood looking for help. We want Higher Trail to cater to those people. We look at the geography of our mitten purchases in order to decide where to place our donations. Minneapolis is where we are starting because that is where we foresee the majority of our early sales coming from, though down the line, we hope to expand all over to where our mittens are selling. Thus, when you buy a pair of our mittens, you are directly aiding your own home, neighborhood, and community. Here in Minnesota and the rest of the north, warm wear is one of the most in-demand items for shelters, and we hope to provide them with a high-quality product made right here at home, and essentially donated by consumers like you.
So who are you? We need people to join our cause who are deeply invested in their communities, starting in the Twin Cities. We need people who are not embarrassed to wear the exact same product as the homeless woman on the street, but rather, who celebrate the fact that this commonality can be a symbol of the love in their community.
And this is just the beginning.
There is nothing Higher Trail wants more than to entrench itself with your homes, beginning right here at our own. Blue Minnesota-made mittens are just how we’ll get started. Who knows where we will go from here. However, first things first, if Higher Trail is getting off the ground, we need your help. So please, check out our website, follow us on social media, share our message, maybe buy a pair of mittens, and above all else: care about your community (especially if you live in the greatest one in the world, the Twin Cities).