Meet the Maker – Maurice Grimes – Drexel University Co-Op Sales Coordinator
Seemingly no one walks away from Philadelphia’s Project HOME without being deeply moved in some way. Maurice Grimes, a current Drexel University student and Lower Merion native, is no exception. Grimes says working alongside the Project HOME residents who have experienced homelessness has been nothing short of transformative.
“I hear their stories. They’ve lived a life that not many do, and it’s an unfortunate one. It makes you feel grateful for anything you have and you see their gratitude for what they’ve escaped. And it’s real. That’s what Project HOME does.”
Grimes has been working at Project HOME since early September as part of Drexel’s highly esteemed co-op externship program. From September thru March, Maurice’s university coursework moves off-campus as he works full-time as a paid employee of Project HOME in a position that is directly related to his major, interests and abilities. Already this term, he has had a near brush with Pope Francis at Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, and he is pacing ahead of his sales target goals for the holiday sales season.
A Sales and Marketing major, Grimes says he saw the opportunity for growth in a non-profit environment. Maurice’s co-op placement is within the Social Enterprise Department: a group of small businesses created under the Project HOME umbrella to provide jobs for residents who have been homeless so they can gain job skills, confidence and experience to prepare them for competitive employment.
Indeed the 21 year old has been given a surprising amount of responsibility over the course of a relatively short period of time. As Sales Coordinator, he manages a team of four residents and volunteers leading sales and visibility throughout the tri-state area and online. Maurice and Sales Crew staff and volunteers promote HOME Made Gifts, Project HOME’s line of handmade goods that create income for residents, many who have serious mental illness. Grimes knows his colleagues are depending on him, “If I don’t find sales and sell cranberry sauce they lose a lot of money. There’s a sense of urgency, which I like.”
From a business perspective, Grimes has learned the art of cold calling, the importance of scheduling, and how to develop a winning sales pitch. While at Project HOME, Grimes has also learned how to be efficient in a fast paced and ever changing environment. Since working at Project HOME, Grimes’s personal philosophy has shifted, noting, “Sister Mary is now one of my idols. She’s proven that it doesn’t take fame to have a big impact. I’m realizing that more and more.”
Grimes admits that going back to the college grind will likely be a challenge. He’s gotten used to his Monday through Friday schedule and enjoys the comradery of the office. Grimes’s day at what he has deemed his “first real job” begins at 9am. Like most people his age, he checks his e-mail first thing in the morning. However, the similarities end there. Next, Grimes responds to sales leads and follows up on orders while also pitching with marketing strategy.
Weekly, Grimes prepares and leads the sales team, meeting mapping out a schedule for the coming weeks. He schedules staff for sales events and prepares inventory. Grimes recognizes and admires the “do it yourself” mentality that permeates the organization and which Sister Mary models herself. As Grimes eloquently noted, “In general society puts a stigma on the homeless, that they have no value. Here, everyone has value. Everyone wants to do better, even when it hasn’t been easy.”
When Grimes’s co-op is completed he said he’ll miss the people of Project HOME the most. Regardless of what path he chooses to purse when he graduates in 2017, Grimes hopes to remain involved with Project HOME as a volunteer. As with so many, his time at Project HOME has “exceeded his expectations.”
Kindly support Maurice and the entire social enterprise team by visiting the HOME Shop.