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Tink Knit: Collaboration to Help Homeless Mothers

Catherine Souza '18, Contributing Writer

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“Coming into Brown I knew that I wanted to make a difference throughout my time in college.. Something meaningful something that will make lives better around me,” said Julia Xu, Co-Founder of Tink Knit. Julia Xu and Julia Zhuofei Xu are Brown University students who started Tink Knit in December of 2014. According to the Tink Knit website, their business is “a social venture run by 50 students from Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design, Tink Knit helps single mothers earn an income while they are at home.”

The pair saw many homeless people not as they expected: a “guy on the street- a middle aged man who is unemployed and looking for a way to survive in society.”  Instead, they saw “kids running around laughing as if it was not a place with no hope but a place filled with hope.”  This is where their idea stemmed from. In fact, in the United States alone, 600,000 families with 1.35 million children experience homelessness every year, which is 50% of the homeless population (National Alliance to End Homelessness).  The pair of college students wanted to find a way that they could help the single mothers make money without having to pay for daycare. Julia and Julia thought a lot about how to accomplish their goal and create a lucrative business both for them and the single mothers. “I was never a knitter but I thought it would be the easiest way for them to do something valuable, while at home, without too much skill, and investment ” said Julia Xu about how the idea of knitting came about.

Their next step was to create a business model and figure out how they could best expand their business. The college students contacted the Rhode Island School of Design which is right down the street from Brown university. “Rhode Island School of design had a knitting professor and some design students were able to help me get a much better sense of knit accessory design.”  The two parties worked together to create several hat designs that could be sold in the Brown Bookstore.

As their small hat business grew so did their ambitions. Tink Knit has expanded to “single mothers empower single mothers to rise above poverty in the long run.” Tink Knit now hosts resume workshops for the mothers at the Brown Careerlab on the weekends. They have also partnered with a local lawyer to help the mothers with their legal issues.

The Tink Knit workshops have become a social event for the mothers. According to Julia the single mom “can meet other moms, mingle with others and bring their kids and learn something meaningful” while earning some money. One mother who is a graduate of the Tink Knit program, meaning that they have found housing outside of the shelter and have a job said, “I liked the idea of doing this because i’m very good with my hands.” “It gives you the opportunity, I think it’s really positive to be able to do this.” This small business has helped single mothers going through a hard time find hope and earn an income.

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Tink Knit: Collaboration to Help Homeless Mothers