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Lowell, MA Apparel Company Helps Empower Single Mothers

February 22, 2011

Sewing machines in textile factory A small factory in Lowell, Massachusetts is giving underserved single mothers an opportunity to improve their standards of living.

According to The Boston Globe, MoJo, which is short for Moms and Jobs, is a newly formed for-profit company that makes and sells clothing to college campuses, corporations and consumers. Their products are popular on college campuses and among big corporations trying to beef up their social entrepreneurship. What makes the company different is its goal of helping to improve the lives of poor single mothers by offering its employees pay that is slightly higher than minimum wage, while also covering the entire cost of health care and daycare. Additionally, single mothers receive valuable career training as well as free courses in money management, marketing and business planning, noted The Daily Orange.

"MoJo is selling you products, but not doing it for the money, but to change lives," said Valerie Schaffner, longtime friend of MoJo co-founders Darr and Tom Aley, writing instructor at Syracuse University and director of business development at MoJo.

Schaffner explained that all of MoJo's products--such as mittens, scarves and hats--are handmade by single mothers from Lowell. The company started with just 25 stitchers, but according to The Boston Globe, plans to expand to cities where most single-mother households live below the poverty line, such as Detroit, Oakland and New Orleans.

"If we could deliver child-care coverage plus career services and provide a steppingstone for people on or near the welfare line, perhaps we could provide a more sustainable livelihood and perhaps a chance at a new career. And a better opportunity for the children," Tom Aley told The Boston Globe.

According to the company's website, single mothers are disproportionately represented among the poor. Thirty three percent of single mother households live below the poverty line. In comparison, just 12 percent of male-headed families are below that threshold. Furthermore, overall, women with dependent children make up 67 percent of the poor population. Co-founders Darr and Tom hope that by providing these mothers with stable salaries, a career path and freedom from paying for child care expenses, they will stay in the work force and be able to support themselves and their children.

However, The Boston Globe noted that MoJo does not discriminate in their hiring process. Cara Aley, Tom and Darr's sister and chief operating officer at MoJo, said that although single mothers are strongly encouraged to apply, men do work at all levels within the organization. The company plans to grow its staff of 21 to 160 by the end of the year.

"It is one thing to say, 'Make the world a better place' and another to entirely set an example," said Schaffner to The Daily Orange.


Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin

Sources:

"A fine weave of family, work," boston.com, February 22, 2011, Jenn Abelson

"Connecting threads: Apparel company benefitting single mothers sells products in bookstore," dailyorange.com, January 20, 2011, Colleen Bidwill

"Our Mission," momsandjobs.com

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