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Minneapolis businesses launch 'Empower' collection to support homeless youth and refugees

The Epimonia + Hippy Feet collaboration directly supports young people experiencing homelessness, as well as refugees, through employment opportunities.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — A pair of Minneapolis businesses launched a new apparel collection Thursday that furthers their missions to empower others through employment.

One is focused on helping refugees, the other on young people experiencing homelessness. 

"Collaboration, it unifies and tells a story of what we want to accomplish," said Mohamed Malim, founder of Epimonia

Malim, a former Somali refugee, started his fashion apparel and accessory company in 2018 while at the University of St. Thomas. Epimonia takes life jackets that were once worn by refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea and puts a piece of them into their accessories and clothing. Epimonia is dedicated to changing the narrative around the refugee crisis. 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
Epimonia takes life jackets that were once worn by refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea and puts a piece of them into their accessories and clothing.

"It's more than a signature. It's solidarity, it's hope... these refugees flee from civil war. They come to a new country with nothing. For us, it's about highlighting that significant part of that journey and how refugees come to a new country and they contribute a lot... diversity, economically, and it's a good thing. It's a beautiful thing, I would say," Malim said. 

Epimonia hires refugees as a way to empower through employment. 

In the same building as Epimonia's studio, the sock and clothing company Hippy Feet can be found also helping others find their footing through employment. Since launching in 2016, the company has provided transitional employment opportunities to more than 150 young people (ages 16-24) experiencing homelessness. 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
Since launching in 2016, the company has provided transitional employment opportunities to more than 150 young people (ages 16-24) experiencing homelessness.

Hippy Feet started as a "buy one, give one" sock donation company. They switched their efforts in 2019 to providing jobs for homeless youth. While they used to do popup employment opportunities, Hippy Feet has now shifted to an employment model that focuses on six month contracts. 

"Our mission is to not be a forever employer but rather to provide a kind of stepping stone-type pathway for these young people to find self-sufficiency after they graduate from our six month employment program," said Michael Mader, co-founder of Hippy Feet. 

Employees do everything from screen printing to packaging and fulfillment orders. 

Epimonia and Hippy Feet are now collaborating on a new limited edition collection that launched Thursday. 

The "Empower" collection features American made, eco-friendly socks and shirts. 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
Socks from the Empower collection by Epimonia and Hippy Feet.

"I think this collaboration was really born out of the understanding that there are so many similarities between refugees and individuals experiencing homelessness. Homeless individuals in the United States are essentially refugees from systems that have failed them. Things like the foster care system, mental health services or lack thereof, lack of proper and affordable housing," Mader said. 

Proceeds from the collection will help support each company's mission to provide jobs to people in need. 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
A t-shirt from the Empower collection by Epimonia and Hippy Feet.

Malim added, "It's a beautiful thing to collaborate with Hippy Feet that has the same mission of employment." 

You can shop the Empower collection, here

Know a local business we should feature for our Behind the Business segment? Email Heidi Wigdahl at hwigdahl@kare11.com.     

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