SUGAR HOUSE — After Spencer Hackett got a taste of service, he knew he wanted to serve more.
That desire motivated University of Utah student Hackett, 24, to create Help a Kid Somewhere, a backpack company based on the “buy one, give one” model with which TOMS has been so successful. Instead of shoes, he intends to give backpacks full of school supplies to children in need across the world.
HAKS, Hackett said, was a response to his Eagle Scout Project, for which he assembled 150 school supply kits to send with Youth Making a Difference. When he saw the photos of the children with the kits he donated, he knew he wanted to continue helping people and feeling the way he did when looking at that image.
“Through starting HAKS I could make a difference in a good way. That was the driver: I just wanted to be able to do that donation on a larger scale,” Hackett said. “Any purchaser of HAKS, they know that they were able to help someone in a real way. That’s what made me start the company was when I received the DVD from the YMAD trip and the kids with the bags. That was enough for me. That’s a feeling I think you only get through giving and seeing the results.”
Now, Hackett and his business partner, Wes Smith, are raising funding to start the company selling simple canvas and leather backpacks with a purpose. He said if it wasn’t for the service component to the business, it’s unlikely he would be pursuing it.
“I chose backpacks because of the cause behind it,” Hackett said. “I thought, if you’re going to be donating and trying to help kids in education, give them a backpack, put school supplies in it and they’re good to go. I thought that would be a good thing to match one-for-one. That was totally why I started HAKS. If it didn’t have a cause behind it, I wouldn’t be starting a backpack company.”
Hackett has made arrangements with orphanages in Guatemala and Mexico to donate the school supplies. Hackett and Smith have personal ties with both areas; Smith’s wife is Guatemalan, and her family still lives there, and Hackett has visited the Mexican orphanage several times with his family.
In addition to the donations, he is working with manufacturers in South America to assemble his products where he donates.
“My hope is that at least the bags we donate down the road can be manufactured in the place that we’re donating, that we can also support the local artisans,” Hackett said.
Though they are working internationally for now, Hackett said he would also like to address needs more locally.
His biggest hope, however, is to not just donate school supplies, but eventually build something more permanent.
“My vision leans toward the donating side of things,” Hackett said. “Potentially, (we would) be able to build schools and fill them with the necessary supplies.”
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