Alumnus launches collegiate blanket line to help homeless
SMU alumnus and former swimmer Josh Helland ’00 founded the non-profit A Good Night Sleep, an organization that has delivered over 1,500 beds to people who are transitioning out of homelessness. Since its founding in 2010, Helland has launched another organization aimed at helping the homeless.
Conceptualized in 2012, With a Purpose is a social impact brand whose first product is a line of collegiate blankets. For every blanket sold, one is donated to local charities.
“Blankets are a huge need of people who are homeless especially as it gets into the winter,” Helland said. “We wanted to help fulfill that need.”
After gaining inspiration for the business model from Toms Shoes, whose creator attended SMU around the same time as Helland, Helland knew he wanted to have a one for one product line that helps people.
“We tried imagining what it would be like to not have a blanket to keep us warm and how we could help people who deal with this very issue on a daily basis. And this is what we came up with,” Helland said.
Rather than build a brand from scratch, Helland decided it would be more efficient to use university logos and sell the blankets near college campuses. The organization launched at seven universities this fall, one of which was SMU. Other universities include University of Kansas, San Diego State, Oklahoma State University, University of Oklahoma, Tulane and Louisiana State University.
The SMU blankets, sold at the Whole Foods on Park Lane and in Lakewood, provide donations for Austin Street Center, Genesis Women’s Shelter, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance and Family Gateway.
“The main goal of the program is to support local non-profits in the region of the university. We call this ‘Buy Local, Give Local.’ So we have partnered up with four non-profits in the Dallas area,” Helland said.
Helland hopes to launch blankets at 25 more colleges next year and eventually in pro-sports leagues. Blankets for all schools are available on the With a Purpose website.