Inside the Launch of Hands and Feet

We’re not all math people, but here’s an equation we know well:

Good Idea + Great Story = Success

In today’s competitive marketplace, it isn’t enough to just have a good idea; you need a great story to go along with it. As an example, which company would you rather utilize to purchase branded tee shirts?

A) An apparel company that creates branded tee shirts; or
B) An apparel company that creates branded tee shirts and donates fifty percent of its proceeds to local non-profit organizations who are committed to ending childhood hunger in the United States.

It’s a no-brainer. When someone has a good idea and a great story like this, we want to help them share it. That’s why we created the Member Morning Series – a bi-monthly morning of connection and learning at the Studio/E Clubhouse. What began as space for members to share stories about journeys they embark on has evolved into an invaluable pop-up consultancy. Most recently, Eric Elwer shared his story of launching Hands & Feet (option B above) with his wife, Susan. After hearing his story, the audience provided feedback on three issues he has faced moving his idea forward, resulting in probing questions, suggestions and connections. Here is an abbreviated look at this beautiful journey, as told by Eric:

The Genesis

Susan leaned over in church one day and showed me what she had written in her notebook: “2016 resolution – start apparel company.” She delivered this news to me and we spent two or three days talking about it. But the idea died after that. We just stopped talking about it.

The Turning Point

Fast forward one year. Susan was a teacher’s assistant at a preschool and found out that a boy in her class had been going without lunch for the first three months of school. It stirred up a lot of emotions for her because she grew up on welfare. Her dad left when she was two. She used to make herself scarce at the grocery store because she was ashamed that they were paying with food stamps. This gave Susan’s initial idea a purpose.

The Launch

Once the purpose for the idea showed up, we decided to do this thing. In August of 2017, Hands & Feet was born. Step one was to just start. Through connections we ended up having a cool dialogue with Second Harvest Heartland. The conversation made us think about what it really takes to create apparel. They asked us questions we hadn’t thought about yet, and it forced us to take the next step. We met with designers and screen printers, and they asked more questions, leading us to take more steps.

The Climb

A year ago we knew nothing — how to produce apparel, how to solve hunger, where to begin. But I can’t think of a problem we have encountered where we don’t know someone who is smarter than us to talk to about it. Studio/E teaches us to explore, and that’s what this has been all about. Being a woman-owned business has opened a lot of doors for us, too. We’ve decided that Susan isn’t going back to work at the school next fall, and she will be 100% Hands & Feet. We are curious explorers and we continue to explore and launch new ideas and navigate forward.

The Payoff

Every Sunday night Susan and I write down what we’ll accomplish the following week. When we look over our Google doc, we see what we’ve accomplished in the past year. It’s insane. We created 18,000 meals in 2017 — meals that otherwise wouldn’t have been created. It’s was really humbling to look back at and see what we did last year, and that fueled our conversation about what we’ll do in 2018.

The Goal

This year we’re aiming to create 100,000 meals. And one day we’ll look back and say, remember when we were aiming for only 100,000 meals?

Get ready for your success, Eric and Susan. It’s coming.

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