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Shop Small: How clothing label HoMie is continuing as a social enterprise

WORDS BY GIULIA BRUGLIERA

Shining a light on small business.

Introducing our new series Shop Small, where we invite big businesses to act as content partners, to make profiles on small traders possible. In this inaugural edition, Bank Australia has asked us to support HoMie, a local clothing label that diverts its revenue to supporting young people affected by homelessness and hardship.

“It’s still nice to do something for other people, even during this time of great uncertainty,” says Nick Pearce.

Nick is the co-founder and CEO of HoMie, a fashion label and social enterprise running social impact programs to support young people affected by hardship and homelessness, so he’s no stranger to altruism.

We’re talking about the repercussions of COVID-19, and specifically, how it’s impacting people’s capacity to help others. He recognises our physical isolation is making good deeds more difficult.

“You might be unable to help the person to cross the road, or help someone down the steps of public transport, because those things are becoming less and less allowed,” he says. “So to be able to provide a way to give to people still, when there are so many things happening, it’s really nice.”

‘Nice’ in this context is a gross understatement. As our collective anxiety climbs, and many of us feel a growing loss of purpose, acts of altruism help us find meaning and bring us joy. So ‘nice’ might be better replaced with a term like ‘incredibly rewarding and restorative’.

But with less face-to-face opportunity for random acts of kindness, and less financial capacity for donations, helping others can feel increasingly difficult.

Yet, through HoMie, Nick is providing an avenue for us to do so.

The brand exists under a retail model, using the sale of clothing to function as a social enterprise. Through buying a T-shirt, for example, an individual can make a big impact. 

Nick tells me HoMie’s approach is twofold. Firstly, it offers a paid retail training and education internship program, titled the Pathway Alliance Program. It’s designed to develop skills, prepare young people for practical employment and most importantly, build confidence. Through this program, HoMie has connected with retail businesses to progress graduates from its training program into the real world. Partners include Cotton on, Bonds and Champion, and the business is also in talks with Nike.

Secondly, HoMie also offers a VIP shopping experience at its Brunswick Street store, where it closes its doors and invites young people affected by hardship and homelessness to come into the store and shop for free. The experience also includes complimentary beauty services, and lunch with the HoMie team.

I ask Nick how it’s all going, given the current state of things. While realistic, his positivity shines through.

“We’re a pretty nimble bunch and have been able to come up with a great revision of our program for this year.”

Understandably HoMie has been hit by the current climate. Nick explains how the retail store has had to shut its doors, following health advice for the good of the local community, but marking a closure of a key revenue stream for the business. Similarly, its retail partners face growing uncertainty, meaning the employment opportunities for graduates of the Pathway Alliance Program are newly limited. “That real employment has been a really core part of the whole experience for young people,” says Nick. “So to take that away obviously is disappointing.”

Finally, the VIP shopping experience has had to pivot from being held in a physical space to a delivery model, where clothing is sent directly to the young person.

Yet both social impact programs continue, as does HoMie’s business, through a newly digital-first model.

HoMie has long had an online store and now it’s a core focus, explains Nick. To encourage consumers to visit HoMie online, the brand is currently offering 50 per cent off storewide.

The idea is to make ‘doing good’ viable for the many who may have lost a chunk of their disposable income. It’s also clearing the way for new stock, offering people “the best of the last”, as Nick puts it.

“It’s really because we’re reintroducing a new range, which is exciting. But of the same token, it’s having an option for people to still feel part of doing something, if that makes sense? Our discretionary spend has been affected, but HoMie still exists and the programs are still running and have been revised.”

I ask Nick about Bank Australia, who sponsored HoMie’s placement in Fashion Journal today. Nick banks with Bank Australia, and through HoMie has received one of the bank’s Community Customer Grants. I can almost hear him beaming through the phone. “Not only have they supported us financially, but also through sharing networks, or opportunities like this, anything. They’re on the front foot,” he says.

When I tell him it’s surprising to hear someone speak positively about a bank, he responds in earnest. “I really do believe that. I think they pride themselves on being the community bank but their actions certainly do echo that sentiment. They put their money and their actions where their mouth is.”

As we wrap up our conversation, Nick tells me the growth and longevity of HoMie can largely be put down to a series of learnings and overarching intuition. “I really think that what we’ve done has been largely common sense,” he says.

It’s hard to believe that launching and sustaining such a successful enterprise can be reduced to common sense, but whether he’s right or simply humble, it’s hard to deny that HoMie’s ongoing work just makes sense.

This article was made possible by Bank Australia. By supporting HoMie, Bank Australia supports its continued work of helping people and the planet, as HoMie follows health advice for the good of our local and global community. Doing the right thing is all part of clean money.

To see more of what Bank Australia is doing to support people and the planet, head here. You can support the work of HoMie and its social impact programs by shopping here.

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