The Story behind MKE Outfitters
Last September we were about to turn 30, my step-daughter had just gone back to Rhode Island for the school year and we had finally paid off all the stupid credit card decisions we had made earlier in our twenties. We were ready for something new. As we looked around for what was next, it seemed logical to keep working on our finances. We found the Dave Ramsey plan and it was just what we were looking for.
We had two cars, medical bills from our son's birth, and the all encompassing, never ending, always hated, student loans, (which we still aren't done with but hope to be by the end of this year). As we have been digging out from under of our little mountain of debt, we started looking for ways to make some extra cash.
After work we started playing with different ideas and designs and eventually, MKE Outfitters was born. Well, kind of. We got the designs finalized, website created and we sat on it. Weeks went by. And then months. Something just wasn't quite right. But I couldn't put my finger on it.
The most rewarding part of digging out of our debt has been the giving aspect of the plan. We had been missing that before and when we started making giving part of our family plan, it changed our lives. So we give first. The blessing that it has been to us has far surpassed anything we could have asked for. (Seriously, try it. You'll never go back.)
Then I read "Start Something that Matters" by Blake Mycoskie (The founder of TOMS). It clicked. This was what was missing with MKE Outfitters. We didn't just want to sell t-shirts. Lots of people do that. We wanted a mission that meant more. We wanted it to be at the core of what we do and who we are. Not just a side initiative or a thing we do sometimes. We wanted to give. Always. Totally and for a purpose we believe in.
We have two beautiful children. My step-daughter, Jayla, is 10 and my son, Theodore, just turned 1. Being a mom is the most amazing, challenging, and beautiful part of my life. I've always loved kids, but man, these two make me a softie. I spend lots of time pouring into them - telling them everything I know about how to build a life that will make them happy.
I knew before I put that book down that the mission of MKE Outfitters would be to help kids in Milwaukee. But how?
We thought about percentages, dollar amounts, and all the other ways we could set it up. But I kept coming back to the One for One model. It was so impactful. We decided together that one shirt donated to a local kid in need for every shirt sold was what we wanted to do. It fit. We wanted to have bold styles that would make bold change.
So, when you buy anything from MKE Outfitters, we will donate a shirt from our MKE STRONG collection to a local kid entering foster care.
Why a shirt?
Kids going into foster care are all too often taken from the only home they know with just the clothes on their backs. They are dropped off with foster parents they don't know. It is an extremely difficult situation which can be made more difficult by the lack of necessities like clothing. We want to provide for this need. It's a practical solution to a practical need. But we think it is really more than that.
Why MKE STRONG?
Childhood for these kids is hard. It shouldn't be and that sucks. We can't change the things they have gone through. But because they have gone through hard things, they also have strength and resilience in spades. Being strong is something that will serve them well in life if they can work hard and apply it.
So we picked a shirt from our collection that will remind them of that strength every time they wear it. We want them to remember each time they see that shirt that they have a bright future ahead. Regardless of where they are at now or where they came from. We want that shirt to give them a little ray of hope and a smile each time they see it.
We want to tell kids that they are not alone. There are others who believe in the beauty of their potential and who will stand with them.
In our house we have a special love for the foster care system and want to start there. Our goal is to eventually have a MKE Strong shirt for every kid in foster care in Milwaukee so we can move on to other kids who are in need of some support, hope and encouragement. It's a big hairy audacious goal, but we think it's possible.
When these kids do succeed (and they will succeed), we will all get the benefit of a brighter future for the city that we love as these kids grow up to become amazing entrepreneurs, teachers, leaders and role models.
So we hope you will join us in spreading the word and supporting our mission. We hope you love the MKE Outfitters bold style for bold change. Thanks for taking time to read our little story about our little company in Milwaukee.
Niki & Aaron