Olivia Partenfelder, a student at Pathways High School, writes about a school project she initiated with three other students to benefit people in homeless shelters.
Mke Socks is a “one-for-one” sock company that strives to better Milwaukee. By purchasing socks from wholesalers and making a profit on the sales, the business can buy socks to donate to homeless shelters.
Mke Socks was founded in 2017 when four Pathways High students found out that socks are the most needed, yet least donated, item to homeless shelters, according to The New York Times. We knew that we wanted to change that, and lucky for us, our school, Pathways High, a project–based charter high school in downtown Milwaukee, was able to help us.
Pathways High partnered with the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center at UW-Milwaukee for our entrepreneurship class. In this class, we learned the steps to create a business using the Business Model Canvas process. We were then asked to create a business model for a business we were interested in. Everyone in the school had to create a business, but we were lucky enough to have met a business mentor at our Student Pitch Event for the community during Wisconsin Startup Week. Our mentor encouraged us to continue working on the concept, and create a real business out of it. Another Pathways High student who had been learning the Adobe Software Suite in graphic design class designed our business logo and packaging.
We stayed in touch with UW-Milwaukee, which also helped us start and expand our business. We started a GoFundMe page to help with the startup costs, and with the help of our families and community members, we were able to raise enough money to buy and sell socks. The first time we sold the socks was at Milwaukee’s Christmas Market at Denim Park on Dec. 16, and we sold over 100 pairs of socks! We were able to donate the same number to a local homeless shelter and Pathways High community partner Guest House of Milwaukee.
The next time, we sold at our school’s mid-year exposition night, where we got to show off what we had done throughout the first semester of the school year. We sold 25 pairs of socks and donated another 25 pairs to the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. We also sold on May 1 at the UW-Milwaukee Innovators Expo. There we were able to talk to UWM students who had, like us, participated in “the UWM Student Startup Challenge.” This challenge was a super cool experience for us high schoolers to participate in, as we learned a lot and got to meet some innovative and interesting people. We were the only high school students participating! At the Innovators Expo we were able to see what all the other students had come up with. There were so many good ideas and it was amazing to see all of the businesses that the other young minds had invented. Plus, we were able to sell, so we could get more socks to donate!
Since the beginning of the school year, we learned so much with this business. I personally have learned how to manage my time, money and ideas better. I’ve learned numerous tactics to run a successful business, including how to talk to people as I market MKE Socks. I am 14 and have already learned extremely useful life skills.
With Mke Socks we are able to say that while we are in high school, we have created a successful startup. All in all, this year, and especially this business, has been an amazing experience. I’ve learned so much, met so many people and done so many cool things, all while still in high school and being a normal teenager.