Welcome to the Behind The Scene series February Edition! The shortest month of the year has come and gone and somehow we have managed to cram A LOT into the last 4 weeks! From our new Hope Sweet Hope collection and thousands of products given to charities, to a few new team members and loads of planning progress for some exciting projects coming very soon, here’s a quick run through of what we have been up to this month. Enjoy!

Research, Research, Research: Exciting new plans on the way 👀

So this is very exciting and I probably need to be careful with how much I share... BUT ever since we introduced a Social Impact Department last year, a big focus for OutsideIn has been on how to educate each other about homelessness. We’ve also spent a lot of time improving our giving and really looking close and hard at how we can make progress in the ways that we give back year on year.

At the beginning of January we set our goals for the rest of the year and one of them was to work harder at achieving progress in the prevention of homelessness. Our Wear One, Share One giving initiative which has and continues to be a core part of OutsideIn, has seen over 60,000 products given out globally to those who need them most. And while we are so proud of the impact you have helped us achieve through Wear One, Share One, this year the team and I have been looking into what we feel is the next step forward: Employment opportunities for people experiencing homelessness.

This has been something we have always dreamt about doing and something we’ve even tried on a small scale. Just imagine the impact we could have if we not only gave back through products but if we helped empower people through a second chance at employment. By doing this we could train, help and return dignity to individuals who may be in a situation where finding a job is really difficult, and who need a little help getting back on their feet. Since we aren’t the first to look into this and many amazing companies have implemented a reemployment model before us, we went straight to the people who have done an amazing job at reemploying people who are experiencing homelessness.

First, we got chatting to the LA-based The Giving Keys, who have helped over 130 people transition back into society through employment over the course of 10 years. Their model has greatly inspired me over the years and what I really admire about them is that they’re never just focussed on the job or the task at hand but they take a holistic view of the situation, ensuring the right support surrounds each individual both during and after their time at the company. We also have been in conversation with Change Please in London. They are a coffee company that trains and employs people experiencing homelessness to be baristas and run coffee carts across the UK. Both companies have been an incredible help in giving us critical information and advice that we can implement and learn from as we begin to create our own reemployment system right here in Belfast.

My biggest takeaway in learning from both The Giving Keys and Change Please, has to be the holistic approach each has taken. A holistic approach believes that simply giving someone experiencing homelessness a job doesn't solve the problem. Instead, it encourages consistent and comprehensive support throughout the process which in turn truly empowers these individuals to remain on their feet. If we’re going to treat the issue properly, we can’t just see homelessness as an umbrella term. Instead, we have to recognise and appreciate every individual experiencing homelessness is unique and each requires support specially tailored to them and their experiences.

We are still in the very early stages of developing something here but we hope that once we have, it will be a model that will encourage other businesses to use in a collaborative effort to help support society’s most vulnerable. Research is key and February has been a massive learning experience, but we are so excited to see these plans materialise in the months to come!

Month of Hope: Products, projects and so much more!

As a team, we set out to make the theme of this year hope. Ever since we started in 2016, hope has been a pillar within OutsideIn! The whole concept of connecting with people on the outside of society has been shaped by helping them to see the value within themselves and helping them to hold on to hope. This word and its meaning have never felt more important than in 2021 as we wait for life to return to some sort of normality. The word first made its way onto our clothing in 2018 with a very special collection called Hope Sweet Hope and it has stayed with us ever since.

I remember being so close to making it a one-off kinda thing but after we had so many people embrace it and tell us how much it meant to them, we knew it had to stay.

It’s been a long time since we have dropped new variations of our Hope Sweet Hope products but like a London bus, you wait ages then 4 come all at once! This month alone we dropped 3 new sweaters and my personal favorite, our first ever Hope Sweet Hope fleece in mint! Right from production to the final photoshoot, the team did an incredible job at showcasing the meaning, the fun, and the joy behind the Hope Sweet Hope collection.

Another thing we love about hope is that it is something that everyone has their own story and experience of. For us as a company, it’s about sharing hope with those who need it most, be it through our intentionally designed products, our incredible giving partners or simply through the conversations we get to have with people experiencing homelessness. But these three simple words, Hope Sweet Hope, have helped inspire so many people in a unique way. Whether it be to encourage a loved one going through an illness, the expectancy for a new job, or the strength to believe for a change of circumstance, hope is for everyone. And at OutsideIn, no matter what we do we want to make sure that this word and its universal message are front and centre in everything that we do.

Team Growth: And you’re included!

It’s not something I’ve spoken about much before in this series but I very much have a vision for the company to be a globally recognised brand with the ability to give back worldwide. I love that we are based in Belfast, and I have no doubt we will always have a key hub here, but if travelling has taught me one thing it’s that homelessness is impacting countless lives all around the world. As our team grows, I also want our impact to grow. From the charities we’re able to work with, to the products we are able to give, I never want us to become complacent or to think we’ve done enough. And to achieve this, we need an ever-growing team that will bring fresh ideas that will help us to expand our reach and grow our giving.

And on that note, this month we introduced two new members to the team! Keris joined us as a Junior Designer and Erin stepped in as a Fashion Technician. I love seeing the Oi Fam grow and witnessing the new perspectives and new personalities this growth brings. It is so encouraging to see our collective passion expand as we all fight to bring the why behind what we do to life.

The reason we call ourselves the Oi Fam is because I want to create a place of belonging, connectedness, and something you’re proud to be a part of.  And this doesn’t just stop with our team here in Belfast, the Oi Fam includes YOU!  Yes you, the one reading this blog, the one who has supported us over the years, and the one who has helped spread awareness of who we are! I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has kept us going over the years. The whole team sees you and is grateful for you. From the encouraging DMs, stories, posts and emails, to every order we receive, we are so thankful for your support in helping us tackle homelessness one Oi step at a time.

So if you didn’t know it before, whether you want to be or not, we consider you part of the Oi Family. We got your back and we’re so thankful for how you have ours too.

Screen Printing Madness: New machinery for the win!

Quality clothing is SO important to us! Therefore, ensuring we have the best production facilities to create it is equally as important.

We recently introduced a brand-new screen printing machine to help us bring to life more exciting and creative designs in-house. Not going to lie, I have absolutely no idea how that machine works (see below) but watch out for our stories because it’s going to feature... A lot.

Giving: Why it matters & how it brings hope.

One of my favourite parts of each month is undoubtedly the giving! Already we have given 3,450 products to charities across the UK this month, as well as a very special charity all the way over in Greece too! I guess you may be wondering how our products make a difference and how they bring hope? Firstly, through feedback sessions and research, we create products that have been specifically requested by our partnered charities to ensure we are addressing their needs as efficiently as possible. At the moment, socks, gloves and beanies are the top three items requested by the charities we work with and so they are the items we work hard to produce for our Wear One, Share One initiative.

Once we know what these items are, we look at how we can produce the best quality possible for them. We can all agree that we love the feeling of having a brand-new item of clothing and whether we realise it or not, being able to rip off a tag is a real luxury. We want all our products to create this simple but special experience for individuals experiencing homelessness. We believe that just like you and me, they deserve well-made, brand-new products and high-quality products - they deserve the best!

Following these quality checks, we get down to the details! Whether it be the intentionally chosen colours our Fashion Team gives meaning to, the Tags of Hope added to each product or the specially selected materials that create the best experience for their wearers, every little detail matters. We care about everything from practicality to aesthetics to choice, and we want these details to make a difference in the lives of those experiencing homelessness. We are always so encouraged by the feedback we receive from our charities and we always make sure to implement it when creating new products. Some of the really positive feedback we’ve received includes things like: “Our service users never have had a new clothing item,” or, “They love the colours,” or, “They felt so empowered being given the opportunity to choose what item they could have!” You see, while it may seem silly, we get so much confidence from the clothes we wear. And people experiencing homelessness need that just as much as we do. They need hope, and for us here at OutsideIn, hope is in the little things, in the tiny details and smallest intentions.

And Finally...

You have made it to the end of my Behind The Scenes February Edition!

I know the news of lockdown extending even further has felt like running a marathon, getting to the finish line, and then being asked to go run it again… But for me personally and for us as a team, a tiny bit of hope is what keeps us all going. Believing that better days are ahead and that we are in this together, has helped us to keep on keeping on. I really believe hope is for everyone and although we all need it in very different ways, the need is there nonetheless.

I truly believe we can make a difference, not just here in Belfast, but globally too. I want to thank you again for your support throughout the past year, you really are a part of the Oi Fam, and you’ve helped us to accomplish so many of the things I’ve spoken about in this blog. This is why I created this series, to ensure you feel a part of the journey you have helped us walk. It’s by no means perfect and we are definitely learning a lot as we move forward, but we couldn't do any of this without you. So once again, thank you.

If you have any questions feel free to get in touch below and have an amazing weekend!


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