Kevin McCracken is the co-founder of Social Imprints. Launched in 2008, based in San Francisco, Social Imprints is the go-to printer for Silicon Valley elite such as Dropbox, Pinterest, Fusion, and Venmo. They recently collaborated with Levi’s® and Outerknown on a limited-edition Wellthread trucker jacket, which features a Hokusai-ish wave on the back. Kevin will be twenty years clean and sober in November. He has a strong empathy and compassion for people having a rough time of it, and he’s made it his mission to bring that to his work. I caught up with him at the SI HQ to get the lowdown.
Tell me about Social Imprints.
We’re a full-service custom merchandising company, so we provide merchandise for a lot of clients, some big, some small, and with that we’ve decided that we were going to make both a good business and a good social enterprise. So we generally hire people that need a second chance, so people that are either formally incarcerated or are in recovery from substance abuse. And then we train them in how to do whatever position we’ve hired them for. We don’t really have any limits in what we will hire people for. It can be anything from working in the warehouse to accounting. Our social mission is our primary reason for being in business. The fact that we’re now in the top 2% of our industry is icing on the cake. Almost 80% of the people we employ come from our social mission.
So great! I can’t tell you how much I respect that. And jumping over to the collaboration, tell me about your work with Outerknown and Levi’s® on the trucker jacket.
We were part of the first class of the Levi Strauss & Co.® Collaboratory with the crew from Outerknown. The Collaboratory is a fellowship program designed to bring together entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs in the apparel industry to collaborate on social and environmental solutions for their organizations. So John [Moore] was there, as was I, doing the projects around water conservation in the apparel industry. This project came about through the fact that John was working with Una [Murphy] at Levi’s® to create this product, and then they needed it printed. So Una came to us and said, “Hey, Levi’s® and Outerknown are doing this great jacket, do you guys want to print this thing? There’s only going to be 20 of them in the world.” So I said, “Sure! Yes! Awesome!” Part of the reason she came to us is that we’re very, very creative in terms of how we print. And it was a pretty difficult print because the jacket was already assembled, so we had to figure out how to get it perfectly inside the back panel of the jacket. So she thought being who I am and being who we are that we would figure it out. And we did. It was such a great collaborative project between the three companies—the right project, the right energy. It was fun for my team to work on something so interesting in terms of artwork. We used a water-based ink on it. And everything just flowed together for the whole project. It worked out great.