veronika

Her inspiration:
More than 20,000 people in Detroit are homeless. Veronika Scott, 24, a product designer, wanted to help, so she created a winter coat that converts into a sleeping bag to protect the homeless from the cold. When she brought her first prototype to a local shelter, the women there were not impressed. "We don't need coats," one told her. "We need jobs."

Her big idea:
Scott quickly realized that "you need to invest in the person rather than the product," she says. She started a nonprofit, The Empowerment Plan, to provide on-the-job training for women living in Detroit-based shelters. The women learn manufacturing skills from a professional seamstress and produce Scott's coats, which are distributed to homeless populations nationwide.

Results:
Scott now employs 10 formerly homeless women who will soon be able to produce at least 600 coats a month. Next year, she plans to hire more workers and distribute as many as 8,500 coats. "I'm known as the crazy coat lady," Scott says.

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