Shortly before starting his first year at Babson, Maxwell Perry ’19 sat at dinner with his mom, Shelley, brainstorming new business ideas. He was prepping for “Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship” (FME), knowing he would be required to start and run a business. As they chatted, Perry’s mom reminded him of a family story about a blanket.
His mom was just 4 years old when missionaries visited her church to talk about their work with children in Africa; she was so moved that she spontaneously gave the missionaries her much-loved (and tattered) security blanket to take to those kids. “My mom has always had a big heart,” Perry says.
Inspired by his mom’s act of kindness, Perry sketched plans for a business that would sell blankets to customers as a means to donate blankets to homeless people, a “buy one, gift one” model. He proposed the idea in FME, and his classmates loved it. Beantown Blankets launched in May 2016.
When coming up with a blanket design, Perry’s team wanted to make it practical for both consumers and homeless people. At first they considered using waterproof oilcloth on one side, making the blanket ideal for use at outdoor events and durable for people who live on the streets. But they couldn’t find oilcloth. Instead, they discovered a small, family-owned supplier in Fall River, Massachusetts, that offered soft, fleece blankets with a waterproof nylon backing.
The blankets feature traditional patterns, such as red and black buffalo check, green and navy plaid, and even a solid “Babson green,” with 10 designs in all. After the class ended, Perry decided to keep Beantown Blankets going and now runs it as a family business while working toward his degree. For every blanket sold, Beantown Blankets donates another to the outreach program at Boston’s Pine Street Inn, the largest homeless service provider in New England. By February 2017, the company had donated 800 blankets. Recently, Perry began to contemplate new products, including lightweight muslin baby blankets for swaddling newborns, which would allow him to donate blankets to an orphanage or program for at-risk families with infants.
One night last fall, Perry was in downtown Boston with his girlfriend when they encountered a homeless woman on a sidewalk. Perry happened to have several Beantown Blankets in his car, so he ran to grab one for her and was moved to tears by her thankful response. “It was so much more than a blanket to her,” he says. “The look on her face is my current motivation.”
To learn more, visit beantownblankets.org.