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.
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.
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.
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.
What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned along the way?
The power of belief.
- Believe in something greater than yourself
- Believe in yourself
- 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.
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.
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.