Love Thy Neighbor: How Faith and Fashion Inspired a Post-Retirement Entrepreneur

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Age is just a number for Agnes Scott.

"I don’t think about age," she says. "I think about how I can pass on what I’ve learned to others."

As a post-retiree serving as a "one woman band" of her newly-realized nonprofit venture, NeighborH.O.O.D., Scott rightfully has much to pass on.

Founded out of her own entrepreneurial success following her employment in the automotive industry in Detroit in the 1980s, Scott is the founder of NeighborH.O.O.D. (Hands on Our Destinies), a fashion and design trade and arts school built around a 15-month cooperative entrepreneurship curriculum that includes business and entrepreneurship courses.

The curriculum uses the performing, literary, decorative, graphic, plastic, visual, and performing arts as backdrops to spark creativity and innovation, promote social cohesion, spur academic performance, and heal and unite the community.

This nation does not have the luxury to dismiss the need for the underserved to be advantaged.

“Its mission is to bring forth the latent talents and abilities of Nashville’s underserved population via theory, application, and self-advocacy skills,” Scott says, “using hands-on cooperative entrepreneurship principles to shape their destinies.”

A partnership with Lipscomb University’s SALT (Serving and Learning Together) Program has accelerated NeighborH.O.O.D.’s launch date; the inaugural class, which began classes at the end of September, will graduate in winter 2018.

At last count, 11 students were set to enroll.

“This nation does not have the luxury to dismiss the need for the underserved to be advantaged,” Scott says. “So, in order to avoid increases in the dire economic, social, and educational woes of that population, which negatively affect the well-being of this nation, both domestically and internationally, steps must be put in place to change the dire statistics for this population."

Tuition is almost entirely subsidized by those sponsoring NeighborH.O.O.D., but students are expected to provide a proof of household income and contribute a reasonable portion for participation in the program.

Agnes Scott

Agnes Scott

‘THIS ORGANIZATION IS NEEDED’

So why focus on a fashion and design trade school to equip the underprivileged youth Scott feels called to serve?

Easy: because an element of fashion and design is attractive to the average person, and, as Scott points out, for the last five years the industry has shown significant growth in Nashville.

It’s the best of both worlds.

Because, as Scott notes, the Davidson County 2010-2014 Census shows at least 25-41 percent of Nashville’s District 17 (NeighborH.O.O.D.’s target area in Edgehill) lives in poverty. The organization was created with communities like this in mind.

What sets the organization apart is that NeighborH.O.O.D. offers to a number of individuals (at one time) through cooperative ownership a better way of life through education, entrepreneurship, and employment principles.

Cooperatives can help change the statistics.

This is Scott’s inspiration—to shine her light and push back against the darkness.

“This organization is needed,” she says, “because disadvantaged young people are at higher risk of marginalization and social exclusion than other youth (International Labour Office, 2011, P5).

“Cooperatives can help change the statistics.”

IMPACTING 'MY FELLOW MAN'

Scott is a rare Nashville native in a time when an estimated 100 new Nashvillians are moving to the city each day.

“All of my quests can be viewed as experiential learning, experiences to educate others,” Scott says. “However, over the last ten years, a spiritual aspect has been added to my goals and objectives, and I think about how what I do impacts my fellow man.”

Most recently, Scott completed the Nashville Institute for Faith & Work’s Gotham Program, a nine-month intensive emphasizing the integration of faith and vocation that ends with its signature “Cultural Renewal Project” aimed at shining light on an area of darkness in participants’ workplaces.

All of my quests can be viewed as experiential learning, experiences to educate others. However, over the last ten years, a spiritual aspect has been added to my goals and objectives, and I think about how what I do impacts my fellow man.

NeighborH.O.O.D. was Scott’s project, and it was born out of a desire to impact those in her sphere of influence across the generational divide.

“The greatest joy in working with those in different age generations,” she says, “is to see their thirst for learning and to learn from them.”


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