BY MICHAEL ELLIS
Hope Tank is an inspiring social enterprise gift store located at 64 Broadway, selling gifts that give back. They opened in February of 2012, and started off selling handmade products by local artists who donated a portion of their sales to a charity of their choosing. Since, they have expanded their inventory to include products from all over the world from companies that are philanthropic and environmentally responsible. Every purchase in the shop has an impact in the world and with the idea of that impact inspiring people to take action.
With this in mind, owner Erika Righter has coined the term “Hope Slinger.” Say what? “A “Hope Slinger” is someone who embraces the idea that “hope” is a powerful currency, one that we must use generously. We want to inspire, educate and activate our community to SLING HOPE in ways that matter.”
Going to school to become a social worker, Erika had the fortune of working in the juvenile justice system, the foster care system and with low income senior citizens. She learned early the power of advocating for someone in need and the impact it can have on one life.
“I saw a huge gap between the work we were doing in the community, and everyone who actually lived in that community. There was a sense that unless you had a whole lot of money, you couldn’t really make any impact. I had lots of ideas and suggestions about how we could connect those people to our causes, and as most of us who have worked in nonprofit, began to dread the words that would inevitably come… “we don’t have capacity.”
In 2011, Erika worked for an adoption agency that closed, finding herself out of work. Having just gotten married, finding out she was pregnant, and her husband was also laid off, all in the same month, she knew change was on its way. “I figured that this was the opportunity to take the plunge, and try my hand at for-profit business for good. I opened Hope Tank, a for-profit social enterprise here in Denver in 2012. Every item sold in the store supports our twenty local nonprofit impact partners, and comes with a sticker that says which nonprofit is being supported-that way, if you give a gift, the person who receives it will know the impact as well. We are able to engage the community about important issues, while doing something super fun – shopping!”
Hope Tank also hosts events for all kinds. With seating for up to 30, they’ve had people do private shopping nights, workshops, record podcasts, fundraisers, you name it. But the obvious thread in the shop is Erika’s passion for connecting people and brands to authentic organizations they would otherwise never have collaborated with. “It is AWESOME to connect a group like Superfly who produced The Grandoozy, to small, grassroots nonprofits who could really benefit from an alliance like that. I like pushing City of Denver, to use nonprofits and minority/woman-owned businesses and nonprofits for their catering, swag, photography when they do events like the Mayor’s Awards. I work with organizations where one person can make a difference and where they don’t necessarily need to write a check to see that difference happen.”
Erika hopes for our city leaders to support small businesses in concrete ways like they do for giants like Amazon. “I am being crushed by the outrageous rent that we’re paying and I don’t see Denver residents rallying around us all the time. They shop during the holidays, but shopping local can happen every day! Take an inventory of where you spend money every day. I guarantee there are lots of opportunities to spend differently.”
We can do our part to help support this woman-owned business and others by shopping Broadway. Erika is also working on what she has coined “The Hope Slinger’s Guide,” which is an Inclusive Business Directory that is free and open-source and features businesses that are owned by Women/Minorities/LGBTQ folks, and businesses that give back. As it evolves, it will also feature places of impact and historical social relevance in Denver that people don’t know about, like the spot where the Gang of 19 laid down in the street to demand our public buses be wheelchair accessible.
“I hope that we show people that you can have FUN and also do GOOD in the world!”
We hear you, Erika, and we are grateful for your mission.