In a world of cutthroat, corporate competition, bottom line chasers, and folks who are generally up to no good, there is Hope Tank. The business stands as a beacon of ethical enterprise on South Broadway in Denver, and it’s more than just a good-looking gift shop.
“I started out working in the nonprofit sector, and I was frustrated at the lack of ways for folks to connect to nonprofits that were doing really good work,” said Erika Righter, the mind behind Hope Tank. “There was sort of this feeling that you had to have a lot of money or a lot of time to volunteer in order to make change in your community. Being a caseworker, you know that’s not the case, but often, the biggest barrier for people is information, and Hope Tank was meant to change that.”
Unlike some businesses that do a charity participation event every year or have a special product that gives back, every single item in Hope Tank gives back to one of their partners. Anything you purchase in the store––from spending $5 on a card to dropping a lot of cash on baby clothes and gifts for everyone––benefits a cause. And, it’s not just any cause that the money goes to, because, as Righter points out, selecting the right charity is very important.
“The big thing I see with Denver specifically is that we have a lot of nonprofits, which means we have more than we necessarily need, and some of them aren’t doing good work,” she explained, “and so when it comes to giving back, I always encourage people to do a lot more homework than they usually do.”
However, that doesn’t mean Righter thinks that you have to have the big bucks to make a difference. Hope Tank is a small business, and Righter’s a single parent. What matters is that she does research about the companies she wants to give back to and has a strategy for how to be philanthropic. Righter also works with businesses that want to do better by the environment and the world, and that’s something she sees as missing from a lot of business strategies.
“I think the first thing you need to do if you’re a business that wants to give back is to put into a plan what your philanthropic values are as a company year-round,” she said. “Most of the work I do actually is in consulting with businesses of all sizes about their impact, so I typically look at where they’re spending money and what they’re supporting every day.”
In addition to all the good work Hope Tank does consulting with other businesses and giving back, they are also just an awesome place to shop. Located right off of the rainbow crosswalk on South Broadway, the store is full of queer-affirming, feminist, protest-oriented, and generally positive gifts. It’s also full of witty, cute items and things outside the norm. Most of all, even if you don’t have a penny in your pocket to spend, the goal of Hope Tank is to spread awareness about how change can be made.
“I think sometimes the term ‘awareness’ can be really loosely used, like some people just set up a booth and get awareness that way, and that’s not what we’re talking about. We have real conversations with real humans about trans issues and racism, and we have about 40,000 people coming through the store every year. So we have a unique opportunity to talk with lots of folks about pretty intense stuff in a space that is usually a little more laid-back.”
Whether it’s creating a community directory for businesses, working with other small business owners on sustainability, or giving back every day with their shop, Hope Tank is all about doing the right thing every day of the year, not just during the holidays, and not just during Pride month.
“I think people really underestimate brick and mortar in Denver,” Righter said. “If you really want our neighborhoods to continue to be diverse, you need to support small business.”
Visit hopetank.org to book an event or learn more about how to make a difference.