A simple idea with big results. More than 100,000 women in 70 cities (and four countries) have received suits from this group, which helps them transition into the workforce.
Founder and executive director, Dress for Success Worldwide
New York, New York
FROM NANCY’S ORIGINAL ENTRY:
What specific issue are you trying to address?
Dress for Success helps low-income women reclaim their destinies by facilitating smooth transitions into the workforce. For many, this is a transition from homeless shelters, domestic abuse shelters and substance abuse programs, all while acting as their families’ sole providers. These women face a myriad of challenges, not the least of which is a lack of understanding about corporate culture and personal finance. Therefore, in addition to their core mission, Dress for Success has developed The Professional Women’s Group (PWG), a program designed to arm these women with the information, skills and support they will need to really succeed in the workplace.
What business principle applied?
A for-profit franchise, more specifically the Harvard Business School case study on Dunkin’ Donuts.
How did you put it into practice?
Simplicity! Simplicity! Simplicity! In order to grow quickly Dress for success kept the message and the mission simple and easy to understand: “Every suit that is donated is given away help a woman take control of her own destiny. These suits symbolize our faith in every woman’s ability to succeed.” This ensured they were accurately communicated across all the franchises to potential donors, volunteers and clients via word of mouth and the media. Rather than a Development Director, the first hire was a Communications Director to create templates, guidelines and messaging.
- Branding: A strong brand was essential for growth. Therefore, each franchise was closely monitored and assisted in program set-up to ensure consistency.
- Teamwork: Monthly conference calls and annual meetings were instituted to share information and encourage all local Executive Directors to network with each other to learn from their successes, failures, etc.
- Expansion based on need: Franchises must establish a need in the community they plan to serve before they are allowed to open. Similarly, Dress for Success has expanded programmatically based on the needs the clients they are serving.
How have you seen results?
Dress for Success has served over 100,000 women in 70 cities spanning 4 countries in just under 5 years and received the support of Fortune 500 companies and positive media coverage in such renown outlets as 60 Minutes, Oprah, New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and People magazine that helped to spread the word, grow the program and ultimately serve more women. For more information visit: http://www.dressforsuccess.org. More info FYI: Nancy Lublin, Founder and Executive Director Dress for Success Worldwide, an international non-profit organization that helps low income women make tailored transitions into the workforce. Prior to founding Dress for Success, Nancy attended NYU Law School, earned a Masters degree in Politics from Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar, and received a B.A. from Brown University. A little background: In the spring of 1996, when she was a 24 year-old law school student at NYU, Nancy received an unexpected $5,000 inheritance from her great-grandfather, an immigrant who came to America during WWI. Wanting to honor his memory and using his strong work ethic as inspiration, Nancy founded Dress for Success, a non-profit organization that provided interview suits to low income women seeking employment. Since 1996, Dress for Success has served over 100,000 women in offices in over 70 cities in 4 countries and expanded programming to include job retention and career development programs.