Q&A with Sackcloth & Ashes Founder Bob Dalton

Borne from its founder’s close, personal experience with homelessness, Sackcloth & Ashes is a company that creates and sells uniquely beautiful blankets—and donates another blanket for every purchase to a homeless shelter. When we became aware of its mission to donate blankets to those in need, we knew that we were uniquely suited to help Sackcloth & Ashes with its purpose. Throughout the holiday season, you can purchase a Sackcloth & Ashes blanket in any of our stores nationwide, and know that a blanket will be given to someone in need.

In this Q&A with Founder Bob Dalton, we discover the powerful motivation behind the brand, and learn what’s next for this inspiring company.

Can you explain the inspiration behind Sackcloth & Ashes, and when was the brand launched?

In 2014, my mom was living on the streets. This personal experience completely changed the way I view the homeless community because she is the hardest working woman that I know. She has two college degrees and she raised my sister and me by herself.

I was always the guy that drove by homeless people and whispered under my breath, “Go get a job.” So when my mom became homeless it taught me that not all people choose to become homeless, but that some people just need a second chance. I was inspired to call my local homeless shelters to ask what they needed—they all requested blankets.

That’s when I came up with the idea of Sackcloth & Ashes. For every blanket that someone purchases from our company, we’ll donate a second blanket to their local homeless shelter. I wanted to give people and businesses an opportunity to make a difference in their own communities.

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When you started Sackcloth & Ashes, how were you able to create awareness?

In the beginning, all I knew about business was the power of perception. Perception meaning, getting people to see, hear, and become aware of what I was doing. My plan was to get into as many shops as I could the first month so I could put them on my website and create the best photographs I possibly could. This would allow my website from day one to look like I knew what I was doing.

We launched sackclothandashes.com on June 1, 2014, and also began posting one high-quality image per day on Instagram. After five months of doing that, Instagram reached out to me. They loved what I was doing and wanted to feature S&A on @instagram (at the time they had 42M followers). The post went live the day before Black Friday and we grew what would become the platform on which we’d build our social media following. They shared our mission to the world, and to this day I’m very grateful for that as it was one of the biggest days in the company’s history.

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Can you tell me about your partnership with Cost Plus World Market?

On June 1st, 2018 Sackcloth & Ashes launched its first major campaign called Blanket the United States. Our goal is to donate 1 million blankets to shelters by 2024. Cost Plus World Market was one of the first businesses to step up and participate in our campaign. They bought 5,000 blankets to sell in all of their locations, and because of that we are able to donate 5,000 blankets to homeless shelters in the state of California.

 

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Can you tell me a little about the blankets?

The fabric is made in Italy. Once the fabric is shipped over to our facility we have a team of refugees that helps us with our production. They cut and sew to get the products ready to be shipped out to our customers. The blankets themselves are made of 100% recycled materials and are created with eco-friendly dye. They are a wool blend, and soft to the touch.

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What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned along the way?

The power of belief.

  1. Believe in something greater than yourself
  2. Believe in yourself
  3. Believe in your idea

If you only believe in yourself and believe in your idea, but you don’t believe in something greater than yourself, you will become self-consumed, and whatever you create and build over time will eventually fail. This is a life of no legacy.

If you only believe in something greater than yourself and believe in your idea, but you don’t believe in yourself, nothing will ever get done. This is a life of wishful thinking.

If you only believe in something greater than yourself and believe in yourself, but you don’t believe in your idea, you will become unsure and unfocused in all you do. This is a double-minded life.

If you believe all three, you can do anything with your life.

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How many blankets have you donated since the launch of Sackcloth & Ashes?

50,000, and by the end of the year that number should be closer to 100,000.

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What is your ultimate goal with Sackcloth & Ashes?

The ultimate goal is to fulfill this first campaign to donate 1M blankets and then move on to blanket the world.

My personal goal is to use this platform to share my story of how I used to judge people on the streets and how I’m trying to change that. My hope is that, through being authentic about where I’ve come from and what I plan to do, it would inspire others. Princeton University did a study and found that when most people drive by the homeless they process them as objects. My goal is to change that. We need to start seeing people as people—ensuring that everyone deserves dignity and respect simply because they are human. My goal is not to solve the issue of homelessness, but to inspire the person who will.

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26 Comments

  • Marla

    I bought one of these blankets for my husband for Xmas and it is SO soft. I wish World Market would have had more signage that a blanket is donated, I was told at check out but didn’t know until then. I was so happy to learn about the donation and company behind the product. Great job! So glad I looked up the company!
    Thanks!

  • Maddie

    Does the box we fill with our donated items have to be returned to a store by a designated date?

    • World Market Editorial

      Hi Maddie – We stand corrected, yes you may drop off your filled box to your local World Market by next Friday, November 23rd. Thank you for your kindness and for helping serve people in your community.

  • Kay

    Although I am not Native American, I have become aware of how important it is to recognize tribal artists who put a lot of effort and meaning when creating tribal designs in their work. I hope these blankets were designed with consultation with Native Americans, who are also a community greatly affected by poverty and homelessness.

    Nevertheless, these blankets are pretty and look comfortable. I am glad they are doing this for a good cause.

    • World Market Editorial

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. We have forwarded your comments to our partner, Sackcloth and Ashes and our merchant team.

  • kat high

    I notice you use Native American designs – and even call one Tribal Moonlight. Are you Native American? I read the fabric is made in Italy – are any of the folks who are “refugees” Native American? Do any of the blankets go to the homeless Native Americans in the cities here in California?
    How about some fine Italian designs?

    • World Market Editorial

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. We have forwarded your comments to our partner, Sackcloth and Ashes.

    • Victoria

      I couldn’t agree more! Although the intent is very noble, the brand should be sensitive to appropriating Native American designs without partnering with Native American designers or weavers. Additionally I hope this brand is sensitive to the legacy of government issued blankets given to impoverished native Americans as well as the use of germ warfare, ie small pox infected blankets, given to “rebellious” tribes that protested forced relocation, poverty and homelessness etc. there are a ton of great resources and Native American advocates who could better help shape your strategy. I would be happy to point you in the right direction. Otherwise I suggest creating unique new motifs that support your mission. And Yes I am a registered tribe member.

      • World Market Editorial

        Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback. We have forwarded your comments to our merchant team.

  • kristin Teed

    I saw these in my local World Market yesterday. They are absolutely gorgeous blankets!

  • Someone

    I loave the idea but you spend $100 and they give away a cheap $5 blanket that’s not very warm…..

    • World Market Editorial

      The blankets given to homeless shelters by Sackcloth & Ashes are warm, soft, cozy, and very much appreciated by the recipients. This program is all about giving back so when you make your donations of warm blankets to your local shelters it sure to be well received.

  • Galina Coleman

    Happened to be in the store today and immediately noticed these blankets…In a word, they are “Beautiful”. The concept behind them makes them even better. The blanket, even if kept for one’s self, is a Gift in so many ways..

  • Roberta

    So, this is what I found on world market site, blankets measure 60×72 cost is $99.99.raf

  • Robbie Barroll

    So how do I purchase one?

    • Roberta

      Go to Cost Plus World store or online.
      I would like to know the cost of the blankets we purchase and the measurements, please!
      Thank you in advance. Happy Fall!raf

  • Sandy

    Love the idea. By purchasing a blanket(s) we can help those less fortunate than ourselves. There is a song that I would sing (I was a pastoral musician with guitar) called “The Tears of God.” I’m sure that by purchasing just one blanket, we are helping to dry the tears of God.

  • Linda

    What an inspiration! So glad this idea has become a real happening. The blankets are beautiful.

  • World Market Editorial

    We agree, Tina!

  • Ronn Davila

    Most have heard the phrase,….”It is better to give than too receive.”

    To invest in humanity has, and always will always pay dividends beyond measure.

    God Bless this company with such a great mission.

    Ronn Davila,

    • World Market Editorial

      Thank you, Ronn. We are so very proud to be partnering with Sackcloth & Ashes and supporting his mission.

  • Karen Scott

    I have had the pleasure of knowing Bob Dalton in his younger years. I’m so proud of what he has accomplished and continues to do . He has always had empathy for others. These blankets are not only warm and cozy but, a beautiful reminder how important it is to give back ❤️

  • Tina Hunt

    Beautiful – a great lesson for us all – believe in something greater than yourself. Thank you

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