High Hopes Hammocks helps the homeless
Connor Moynihan spent ten days last summer trekking the Appalachian Trail by day and sleeping in a hammock by night. It was then the junior from Grand Haven realized hammocks could benefit those afflicted with homelessness.
From that idea, High Hopes Hammocks was born with the promise that for every hammock sold, one will be donated. Recipients could be the homelessness, refugees, victims of natural disaster, or those living in shelters with poor bedding.
The idea for the company and its social-service outlook was fleshed out during a six-hour meeting at Kaya Coffeehouse in November. There, Moynihan met with his soon-to-be partners: Spring Lake senior Georgiana Klem and Wyandotte graduate student Christian Cullinan.
Together, the three students resolved to participate in the New Venture Competition, something Moynihan had wanted to do since he was a freshman. On Friday they were awarded $10,000 as the "Best Social Venture."
"At first we meant to just work on an idea for New Venture, but it has become so much more than that," Cullinan said. "(High Hopes) is our lives. Because of our goals and passion for this, New Venture has become more of a milestone than a destination."
High Hopes has been a functioning business that sells product since November, when they launched a crowd crowdfunding campaign called Kickstarter. They recently sold hammock No. 300, with the aqua blue as their most popular design color.
One of the hammock's most useful features includes Velcro at the top, which cinches the sides together like a cocoon. This is supposed to keep the user dry and will also provide protection from mosquitoes — the malaria-spreading scourge of nations worldwide.
The three business partners expressed a feeling of duty tied to helping solve social problems around them.
"I've always felt successful businesses have a social obligation to help people," Cullinan said. "I don't think it should be government-mandated or anything — but the first idea for our business wasn't that it was just going to start a hammock company, it was going to start a hammock company that gives back."
Hammock donations include partnerships with three different organizations.
One partnership is with a church in Georgia that wants hammocks for the youth center they are building in Mombasa, Kenya. Moynihan said a project leader from Coastal Community Church had been relieved to find them after praying for a cost-effective way to provide bedding for the ministry.
Roof Top Mission is another group partnered with High Hopes that wants hammocks for orphans and missionaries in Kenya. A group in Michigan, the Muskegon Rescue Mission, also plans to give hammocks and survival kits to those on the streets in Muskegon.
Klem said she and Cullinan are both working three jobs if you count High Hopes, where she finds the most reward even without a paycheck for her efforts.
"I love my other jobs, but our business is just much more meaningful at the end of the day," she said. "Right now we are not paying ourselves, but we can continuously see where it can go and the most amazing part is it's our decisions that get to dictate where it ends up."
Some of those decisions involved where production would happen. After much internal wrestling, they decided to manufacture in China where they could make their product out of nylon.
"We wanted our product to be equivalent to competitors," Klem said.