How Defining Mission Became One Person's Purpose
Social Entrepreneur Garrett Underwood Helps At-Risk Youth Develop Their Sense of Worth and Purpose
Devin: What do you see as your superpower?
Garrett: I love that question. You always ask this in your interviews. I think my superpower power is finding what matters for that person, finding and creating a purpose for other people, a purpose bigger than themselves.
Garrett Underwood is a social entrepreneur and nonprofit leader who focuses his energy on helping people find their path out of homelessness.
“I started way, way back in 2012, started a faith-based clothing company where what we did is for every purchase, we gave away a hygiene package to someone in need on Skid Row or different homeless shelters,” Garrett begins.
He continues, “It kind of evolved into an employment program where I started Save a Penny, which is a way for individuals to share their story through jewelry making and employment at the same time.”
“We provide housing for youth that are experiencing homelessness, and we also provide the employment piece to Under One Roof,” Garrett says.
That employment comes from helping youth tell their story to help sell products and even create nonprofits to help others.
Once with a young person experiencing homelessness, “we picked up a penny,” Garrett says. They noted that many people had walked by it and ignored it, believing it wasn’t even worth the effort to pick up.
“I’m basically the same thing as that penny,” the youth said to Garrett. Making pennies valuable became a powerful metaphor for helping humans discover and experience their intrinsic value.
So, the products are built around pennies, as Garrett explains:
“We go to different programs, different shelters, and have each youth engrave their name inside the penny. But along with that, the necklace is attached with a story, so they have a little story that they share on the necklace.
We also have candles that they make, so they make candles and they put the penny at the bottom of the candle. So when you finish the candle, you can find out who made the penny along with their story.
They also go through this extensive entrepreneurship program to teach them how to really build out their story and turn it into a nonprofit that helps other people.
The story and the mission of a new nonprofit connect a young person to a sense of mission or purpose that help to define who they are.
Defining a Mission—Building a Nonprofit
An early-career experience drove home the importance of living with authenticity.
“I went to school for kinesiology. Graduated. Was not what I wanted to do at all. But everyone was saying, hey, go for this job because you’re going to make a certain amount of money,” Garrett says.
With that foundational experience, he has developed a process to help young people find and define themselves, create a sense of mission or purpose and build that into a social enterprise or nonprofit. His tools are available publicly here.
“So, a part of my curriculum with the program that I have, which is a 90-day program to transition your story into a nonprofit or a social cause, is really digging deep into finding out what your truth is,” he says. “So we go through so many different assessments from Myers-Briggs to creative expression to even your flow state chart, your human design, all these different things to really break out what you are actually like.”
Next, Garrett helps people find and define their story, breaking it down into key components to create a compelling narrative.
Another piece is assessing the need for a nonprofit or social enterprise to fill. Garrett says, “Looking at all the other organizations and different programs, what is out there? Are you creating something that’s already there, or are you creating something new?”
The last part of Garrett’s program is helping them develop a funding strategy. “We have a whole roadmap map of the funding map of how to fund your actual program and get things started.”
This process for helping other people define their mission has become Garrett’s superpower.
How to Develop Helping People Define Their Mission As a Superpower
“When you dive into something bigger than yourself, you’re tapping into a mission,” Garrett says. “And my goal is to teach others to find their mission because I think that’s what brings longevity as a person.”
He notes that emotions can become a distraction, especially when that emotion is fear. “If [your mission is] something bigger than you, you’re willing to conquer those fears. And so my goal and my superpower is helping people to find that mission for themselves.”
Following the model above is key to creating authentically aligned mission statements.
“When you do something that’s bigger than you, it’s very scary,” he says. And sometimes you need somebody in your ear telling you you’re the perfect person to do this because you had the story, you have the experience to do it.”
Garrett shared the story of how he found and developed his personal sense of mission and purpose:
When I first started the faith-based clothing company and started working out in Skid Row and going to these different places, I'd never experienced, communicating as much with people that are experiencing homelessness.
Someone invited me out there to give food out and talk to people and pray for them. And that was really uncomfortable for me at the beginning because I'd never done that.
But I will say that when we put ourselves in those uncomfortable situations, it sparked something that's kind of magical where you feel a little bit different and a connection with the cause or purpose. And I felt this connection with that person.
Following your joy is really following those connections where you feel excited about doing something for someone. My biggest thing in life is that we need to focus on how we can help others and not ourselves.
Let me encourage you to take the time to write down the source of your sense of purpose. What were the experiences that helped you define your mission?
If you pair your experience with Garrett’s process for defining mission, you can make it a superpower that will help you help others.