By Natalie Pappas.
Cary Leitzes, founder of Leitzes & Co came up with the concept of a 'giving' program called Re:Purpose in 2016 . Mission asked Leitzes where the idea originated from. "I was having lunch with David Kelley one of the founders of IDEO a few years back. The concept of waste and how there’s useful waste in every industry got me thinking about our days in publishing. I remember when Kerry Diamond and all of our beauty editors did beauty sales. The proceeds would go to a chosen charity and the left over products would be thrown out. That sparked the idea. I loved that this concept of industry over production could be allocated for a need. So while I noticed it in beauty because of my work and understanding of the sector, it can really be applied to every industry." Leitzes & Co is a creative agency specializing in strategic partnerships that bring brands and creatives together to drive business and create cultural relevancy.
The program aims to reduce waste in U.S. landfills by collecting unused beauty products from bloggers, influencers, brands, and magazine editors, and donate them to those in need. Equally as important, it promotes confidence and empowerment in women trying to turn their lives around and re-enter the workplace, as it provides them with cosmetics, skincare, and toiletries they could otherwise could not afford.
Leitzes started her company in 2005. Using her years of experience working in the fashion publishing industry, with titles such as Jane, W, and Harper’s Bazaar became the foundation for her consultancy firm. It created a resource for retailers and brands to connect through art, fashion, and culture. Olivia Combemale, who works with Leitzes as head of business development, says Re:Purpose was created as Leitzes “knew how much product was being sent to editors for editorial review. After a magazine internal beauty sale, much of the product was still leftover, so Leitzes wanted to create a place for that product to go to, instead of going to waste.”
As well as gathering beauty products for women, Re-Purpose has officially partnered with Universal Standard. Universal Standard is a plus-sized brand making quality and beautiful essentials for sizes 10-28. A program they run called Universal Fit Liberty aims to reduce the anxiety women have buying clothes when their weight fluctuates by allowing them to exchange and replace clothing sizes up to one year after purchasing. The lightly worn items that are exchanged are laundered and donated to Re:Purpose. The collaboration started after Leitzes met with one of their co-founders. Combemale stated, “We have had great success in getting women beauty and personal care products, but it was a dream to be able to bring someone on board that could provide clothing that isn’t just sample size.” Together they are working with charities and providing struggling women with support and products that will assist them in re-shaping their lives.
Also collaborating is the on-demand transportation company Lyft. The company came on board to help Re:Purpose deliver products to philanthropic organizations such as WPA (Women's Prison Association), Hour Children, and First Step, the program run by the Coalition for the Homeless. This partnership has been key bringing the program to life. Future goals for Re-Purpose is to “hire a logistics partner (like an Amazon) to be able to get closer to a B-to-B way to fulfill the needs of the organizations we work with. And get products to more women efficiently and quickly,' says Combemale.
First Step helps homeless and low-income women obtain the necessary skills and experience to work in a living-wage job. Their goal is to assist women in creating better lives for themselves and their family, placing students in internships and offering mentoring by professionals. Combemale stated, “Cary heard about the Homeless Coalition’s First Step Program through her friend, Bettina Prentice, who was working with them at the time, and felt that beauty and personal care products were a perfect addition to give these women confidence as they prepare to go to interviews and re-enter the workforce.” Re:Purpose work with WPA and Hour Children with the “aim to scale and serve more organizations providing women with the resources to build a successful future,” said Combemale.
Leitzes and Combemale hope to expand the program further by collecting a wider range of products such as clothing, electronics, books, toys, food and self care items in the near future, “Personal hygiene should be a right rather than a privilege. While we’ve been fortunate to get incredible donations in the cosmetics space, our next step is to lock in partners that can provide shampoo and conditioner, soap, moisturizer, tampons, and toothbrushes/toothpaste to ensure the women we support can have clean hair, skin and teeth,' states Combemale.