By Jamie Leary
AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– A Colorado company and an Aurora non-profit are coming together, helping people sleep a little lighter by employing some of the vulnerable from its community.
“Everything from cut, sew, stuff, package and ship, is all done in-house at Mile High workshop,” said Steve Van Diest, founder of the EverPillow.
Van Diest never intended to have a typical business model. He wanted to create a “product with purpose.”
“I wanted to mix a business with non-profit that impacted people and impacted the community.”
At the time, Van Diest worked in the mattress industry. His manager then was Andy Magel also wanted to help his community. Magel left mattresses for the non-profit world and created Mile High Workshop.
“For about a year, as we were prototyping pillows… Andy goes, can we please do the production here?” asked Van Diest.
It was exactly what Van Diest was looking for.
Mile High Workshop was created to give employment opportunities to community members looking to rebuild from hardships. Three years into the program, EverPillow became part of the production.
You will find Van Diest in the warehouse nearly every day. While he can tell you all about the natural products inside the pillow, he is most passionate about his employees.
“I love ’em! Last week they all went to the Rockies game and I couldn’t go so I said, ‘I want to buy you all hot dogs and soda.’ I want to be part of their lives. To me, going to work is not just about making an income. It’s about interacting with people and then having a longer legacy outside of what product or how big your pocket book is.”
Van Diest has worked with Mile High Workshop for just over a year. He says his biggest risk is losing employees to better paying jobs. That’s also his greatest reward. He has seen so many excel to the point that they are making his product better.
“They’re going, ‘We think it would be done better this way’ and ‘It doesn’t feel right,’ so now they’re becoming thinkers, they’re becoming leaders.”
It’s been just over four years since Mile High Workshop was created. In that time, the recidivism rate is just four percent while the average statewide is 50 percent.
Van Diest says he hopes other businesses see the impact and jump on board.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.