Veronika Scott is the epitome of a Leading Lady. She built one of the most important Detroit nonprofits today, as a result of her compassion, creativity and drive to make the world a little bit better. It has been a true labor of love, and one that has changed the lives of countless people. 

In the fall of 2010, in response to a class assignment to design something to fill a social need, she reached out to the homeless community in Detroit. After five months of working with individuals at a local homeless shelter, she made a heat-trapping jacket that can transform into a self-heated and waterproof sleeping bag. At the end of the semester, it became clear that it wasn't just a project for a grade – this was something the community truly needed and she had to find a way to produce more of these jackets. 

Veronika wasn't satisfied with just figuring out how to create more coats. She wanted to tackle the underlying problem – getting the population her coats were made for out of homlessness. 

So this idea for a class project evolved into a full-fledged non-profit organization, The Empowerment Plan, that collaborates with many other organizations to give "second chances to those who want it, and providing warmth to those who need it." Their mission is simple and inspiring: 

"Our goal is to help build a better life for those that have become trapped in the cycle of homelessness. We mostly hire homeless parents from local shelters to become full time seamstresses so that they can earn a stable income, find secure housing, and gain back their independence for themselves and for their families."

To date, they have given out 1500 coats and pulled 34 single parents from homelessness through employment.  And people have taken notice. In 2012 Veronika became the youngest person ever to receive the JFK New Frontier Award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.  In 2016 she was named a CNN Hero. The accolades and recognition is certainly well deserved!

With such an inspiring and important job to do, we know there are countless struggles behind the scenes. We wanted to know a little bit more about Veronika and how she deals with the crazy ups and downs of running a business without completely getting lost in it. Read on to hear how she does it, and manages to look as beautiful on the outside and she is on the inside. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     *Photo Credit: Brian Kelly

{SS}: What is your current profession? 

{Veronika}: I am the CEO/Founder of The Empowerment Plan, a Detroit nonprofit focused on elevating families from homelessness through employment and educational opportunities.

{SS}: Tell us about your typical day.

{Veronika}: Honestly, no two days are the same. We have a very small management team and because of that we all constantly get pulled in various directions. Some days I’m in the office all day interacting with the team, others I’m in back-to-back meetings, and sometimes I am traveling for weeks at a time speaking at different events or attending conferences. At the end of every week, however, I know each day was spent with the same focus of helping those we have employed from the shelter develop into confident, capable leaders within the community.

{SS}: What are some of the current projects you are working on for the company?

{Veronika}: We are entering a phase of high growth so I have been focusing on the execution of our strategic vision and how we can scale our mission.

{SS}: Can you share some information about your Crowdrise campaign? Congratulations on getting Diane Von Furstenberg (one of our leading lady crushes) to match! Can you tell us about the process and how that came about?

{Veronika}: Seven years ago Diane created the DVF Awards to honor and support amazing women who have the courage to fight, the power to survive, and the leadership to inspire ( In 2014 I was nominated for and won the People’s Voice Award. I was invited to attend the award show at the United Nations in NYC and found myself in a room with Sarah Jessica Parker, Gloria Steinem, Chanel Iman, Alicia Keys, and many more influential female icons. Diane and her team continued to stay engaged with our mission afterward and I attended the award show again as a guest of theirs in 2015. As we look to hire more women on to our team we approached Diane about leading a match campaign for us and she immediately got on board. Diane has agreed to match all donations dollar for dollar up to $50,000. The $100,000 we have the opportunity to raise will allow us to pull two additional families from homelessness. Also, for every $30 contribution, donors are entered into a contest to win a DVF wrap dress. We are so grateful for her continued support and her shared vision of empowering women.

{SS}: What is your biggest hurdle in your industry/job or just being a woman in business?                  
{Veronika}: The biggest hurdle I face is having to prove that even though we are a nonprofit, we pride ourselves on running the best business we possibly can. A lot of times people look at nonprofits as charity and not as a strong, capable businesses. In addition to focusing on our mission and the social side of our work, we are very conscious of the large-scale impact we are having on Detroit’s workforce. Our goal is to eventually become sustainable as an organization so we will not have to rely so heavily on donations, but can focus on scaling through our own revenue stream and organizational reinvestment.

{SS}: What do you do to mentally prepare yourself to overcome those hurdles/daily struggles?  

{Veronika}: Although I spend a large amount of time focusing on the operations and business side of the company, my number one priority is helping the individuals we hire become independent, confident, and stable. You can’t even imagine some of the situations our employees are faced with. It can be hard to mentally prepare yourself to go from a very business mindset to one of empathy. You have to find a balance and know that although you will not be able to help solve every problem, sometimes simply being there and listening holds greater value than you may realize.

{SS}: What is the thing that you are awesome at – the thing that makes you happy and you know you are the best at it?

{Veronika}: I actually find the thing I am best at is not the same thing that makes me the happiest. Even though I am truly passionate about the Empowerment Plan and our work which is easily translated through my speaking engagements and meetings, constantly being on the road leaves me feeling disconnected from the team and the day-to-day excitement of the work we do.

What makes me happiest – even though I know I’m not the best at it – is interviewing potential new hires, and actually getting to offer a job to someone. When I am present at the organization and get to talk with the ladies on the floor and celebrate in their achievements no matter how small, I am my happiest and best self.

{SS}: Who inspires you and why?

{Veronika}: Diane von Furstenberg truly inspires me. She and her family have been through so much, yet she embraces and embodies her story in everything she does.  She is the definition of a strong, independent woman and I admire that she has created a classic brand that has stood strong throughout the years.  

The wrap dress has become recognized as a timeless piece that women around the world wear and without fail, feel badass in.  


{SS}: What are your words to live by? 


{SS}: What do you do to make yourself feel beautiful, confident and ready to take on anything?

{Veronika}: Outside of the work I do, which I am extremely proud to say makes me happy and confident in who I’ve become as a person, I like to relieve my stress by going on a run and listening to music.

{SS}: What is your “Style Archetype?”


{SS}: What is your power song?  

{Veronika}: Roar by Katy Perry

{SS}: What is your power outfit or accessory (the thing you know you look and feel your best in, whether its for work, staying at home, playing, etc.)?

{Veronika}: Rag & Bone Black Heel Booties


 {SS}: Please share with us any of your favorite local stops in Detroit

{Veronika}: Selden Standard, Detroit Institute of Bagels, D’Mongo’s, Belle Isle, Kresge Court @ the DIA, Honey Bee Market, Mudgie’s Deli, Astro Coffee, and Detroit is the New Black!


Notes from Editor: 

We are so moved and inspired by the talented, philanthropic, and beautiful Veronika Scott for letting us be apart of your journey and showcase your courageous flair on the world!  We cannot wait to see what else the future holds for The Empowerment Plan and we want YOU to be apart of this too! 

We hope you are inspired by Veronika's mission and to help spread the word of The Empowerment Plans Crowdrise Campaign and sharing it on Facebook and Twitter! 

*Featured photo credit goes to Mike McGregor of Reader's Digest