“I have always had a passion for helping those in need,” says Maxwell Perry, founder of Beantown Blankets, a new charity that helps Greater Boston’s homeless population keep warm.
Originally founded as part of a class project at Babson College just one year ago, Perry and 11 other college students set up the business as an exercise in entrepreneurship. “Part of the class project was to learn to close our business down,” Perry says. But when he saw the potential beneficial power of the company, he relaunched Beantown Blankets this past September. “Currently, Beantown Blankets is run solely by myself, with help from my parents when necessary.”
The premise of the company is simple. The customer purchases a waterproof blanket that is perfect for outdoor sporting events or picnics, and a duplicate blanket is donated to a homeless person, helping those most in need manage the often difficult and dreary Massachusetts weather.
While this is not his first foray into entrepreneurship, this is the first business with a community service focus. “Something was missing,” he says of his other business ventures. “With Beantown Blankets, I knew I wanted to do something for the betterment of the community and truly make a difference in the lives of others.”
When designing his product, Perry noticed that homeless shelters lock their doors at a certain time, keeping some people from a dry place to sleep. “The idea of a waterproof side was a must for protection from the rain [and] the fleece side offers them comfort and warmth.”
Perry partnered with the Fall River company, Northeast Fleece, to produce the blankets. “They strongly support our efforts to help the homeless,” he says.
The gift of a blanket also holds special importance to the Perry family. “My mom had always told me her story about when she was four years old and she gave her prized possession—a very worn, threadbare blanket that went everywhere with her—to the African missionaries at her church because they didn’t have [anything].”
Perry, who is currently a sophomore at Babson, says that balancing running a company with his schoolwork has been “challenging” and relies on “properly managing my time and prioritizing.” Waking up at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning to answer emails, send invoices, buy inventory, and carry out other tasks necessary to run a business is a regular occurence. This early start allows him to devote the rest of his day to school and homework.
When the business first started, Perry and his classmates were delivering the blankets to the homeless themselves, but “as Beantown Blankets begins to grow, and more blankets now need to be donated, we wanted to be partnered with the largest homeless shelter in New England” to maximize the amount of people the blankets could reach. This lead Perry to reach out to Pine Street Inn, an organization that partners with homeless individuals to help them move from the streets and shelter to permanent housing.
“Pine Street Inn does so much good for the Boston area,” Perry says. “ I did not initially have ties to Pine Street Inn, but after hearing what our organization was doing, they loved the concept of a partnership. They have the capacity and ability to help thousands of homeless in Boston and are the perfect partner for what we want to accomplish.” A shipment of blankets is typically delivered to Pine Street Inn bi-weekly, and those in need can pick up a blanket when they visit.
“Many people are beginning to help by mentioning our outreach to their companies, contacts, and friends. Employers can give blankets to their customers as promotional items, or to their employees as gifts. This gives the employee and customer an opportunity not only to get a gift of a blanket, but also to make a charitable donation to someone in need.”
This holiday season, consider giving a gift that both warms your body and soul and improves the life of a stranger with a Beantown Blanket.