Locally made scrunchies support people in South Africa

Ottawa County

ALLENDALE, Mich. (WOOD) — One West Michigan woman’s simple hobby is now making an impact all the way across the world. 

“It’s turning into much more than I originally kind of dreamed of,” said Jennifer Sipe, of Allendale. 

Back in March, after battling postpartum depression, Sipe decided to start making scrunchies. It quickly became her outlet.

“I did it just quietly to myself and then one of my friends saw them. She was like I will totally take one so I just gave her one then it kind of just went and I took a shot in the dark,” said Sipe.

She made 57 scrunchies and created an Instagram page. The first launch sold out in four minutes. That’s when Sipe realized Jennie+Co could serve a much bigger purpose.

A collage of scrunchies made by Jennie+Co. (Courtesy Jennie+Co)

“I have a good friend in South Africa, his name is Jeremy. Five years ago I was able to chaperone 12 high schoolers to South Africa for two and a half weeks. He was our tour guide. We met him, him and I and his wife and two boys have stayed in contact this entire time. There was some political unrest going on in South Africa and I knew the violence and the looting was getting close to their home. I just kind of reached out and said, hey, are you guys safe? How’s it going? He said no, we’re not, it’s really bad,” Sipe explained. 

She asked if there was anything she could do to help.

“When he said yes, we need help, I knew it was legit,” said Sipe.

She created a Facebook post explaining the situation. In a short period of time, Jeremy had $260 in his PayPal. Sipe then decided to put out another call on her Jennie+Co Instagram page. 

“Overnight there were over $1,500. We saved his house from being repossessed, his car had already been taken. In talking with him I  just said I don’t think we can stop. I approached him with the idea of Scrunchies4ACause and it took off.”

Sipe had the idea of Scrunchies4ACause in the back of her mind when she started making them but wasn’t sure what the money should be used for.

In talking with Jeremy, she learned that 38% of the girls in his area don’t go to school simply because they don’t have proper feminine hygiene products. He asked if the proceeds from Scrunchies4ACause could help with that. 

“Part of behind Jennie+Co is women empowerment and that’s when I said yes this is… it felt so right,” Sipe said. 

She plans to launch Sister Scrunchies on Sept. 6. The mission is to provide girls in Cape Town, South Africa with sustainable feminine hygiene products so that they can remain in school. 

A Sister Scrunchie purchase will get the customer a scrunchie, send a matching one to a girl in Cape Town and provide them with a reusable product. 

“I knew something good could come of this because of just how much they in a sense saved me. With everything going on in the world, even if it’s a scrunchie, people deserve the good,” Sipe said. 

Sister Scrunchies will be a permanent part of Jennie+Co.

In addition to that, she plans to have several Scrunchies4ACause fundraisers to raise money for people locally. The next one will happen in mid-November and the proceeds will provide Christmas gifts for kids in Grand Rapids-area homeless shelters or safe houses.

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