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Ted Sikorski of Goodwill Industries discusses a proposal by student
Maria Gorecki to add alteration and tailoring services to the
organization's retail stores.
Goodwill Industries of Delaware and
Delaware County relies on donations of clothing and household items to
achieve its primary mission of creating jobs, but not all of those goods
find buyers in the nonprofit organizations retail stores.
In fact, Goodwills warehouse near New Castle, Delaware, contains 6-7
million pounds of unsold clothing at any given time clothing that
will end up packed into huge bundles and sold at a low per-pound price
to companies that ship the bales overseas. International markets
fluctuate widely, and every bulk sale is a financial hit for the
organization, which works to improve the lives of people who have
barriers to self-sufficiency.
Weve been dealing with this issue for years, said Ted Sikorski,
vice president for marketing and development at Goodwill Industries in
Wilmington, Delaware. The goal for us is to take what we currently have
[in the warehouse] and find a way to use it to create jobs. Making
money is good, but given a choice, wed rather create jobs.
Now, University of Delaware students have been asked to help.
In what Sikorski expects to be an ongoing, interdisciplinary effort,
Goodwill has reached out to UD for ideas of creative and sustainable
solutions to the problem of what to do with unsold textiles.
The first phase of the partnership occurred this semester, when a class in the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies
came up with some proposals, which they presented to Sikorski and a
group of business leaders who are members of the departments Industry
Goodwill was looking for proposals to help them do more with the
things they cant sell, creating more jobs and becoming more
sustainable, and we were looking for a real problem for our students to
work on, said Abigail Clarke-Sather, an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies.
An engineer who specializes in product design, Clarke-Sather turned
to fashion and apparel studies students to begin addressing the issue.
The class came up with ideas and will later help develop business plans.
We think this is a way for us to develop a stronger connection with
the University, Sikorski said. The brain power is here, so we at
Goodwill are very excited about this, and weve talked to our national
organization about it.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
A bundle of unsold clothing from Goodwill is temporarily stored on campus so that students can analyze the sample of items that failed to appeal to customers.
The students looked at the problem from a variety of perspectives.
Erin Murphy, for example, proposed recycling the fabric from unsold
clothing into a completely different product rag rugs. Her plan
suggested that the idea could create as many as 1,600 jobs after
Goodwill invested in sewing machines and employee training, and her
research found that such rugs sell online for between $25 and $300
depending on size.
Another student, Mollie Lewander, designed a training plan for
Goodwill retail store employees to give them more information and
guidance in identifying items and brands customers might be persuaded to
Ive been in contact with business students and with Goodwill, she
said. Once we were given this problem, we really dove into it.
Student Maria Gorecki proposed that Goodwill hire and train workers
to do alterations so that customers could buy less-than-perfect items
and have them tailored to fit at the store. Gorecki did some of her
research by sorting through a large bundle of unsold items that Goodwill
supplied to the class; she found 70 items that she thought could
benefit from tailoring and become more appealing to customers.
A two-student team devised the idea of a mobile app that would
educate consumers about the life cycle of pieces of clothing and help
showcase items available in specific Goodwill stores.
We were given a real problem to solve, so we were working with a
purpose, said Lindsay Hynes, who worked on the app proposal. Her
teammate, Retura Claar, called it a great experience and a great
Later this semester, students in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics
will present business plans to Goodwill. In the fall, some mechanical
engineering students will look at the problem from their perspective.
Im hoping this is just the first of many times we work with UD,
Sikorski said. Here are four groups of students who looked at the same
bale of clothes, and they came up with four very different ideas. Im
sure well continue to get more great ideas from other students, too.