Skinnygirl® Cocktails sits down with Dress for Success CEO, Joi Gordon...
What do you hope to accomplish with our “Inspire Like a Lady” initiative?
Through the “Inspire Like a Lady” campaign, we hope to create a platform where women can share their stories about the women who have inspired them and how they hope to inspire others, creating a woman-fueled groundswell of positivity that transcends the internet into a real life movement.
What inspired you to get involved with Dress for Success?
I initially became involved with Dress for Success as a suit donor. I heard about the organization on the news and decided to donate a suit. While talking with the founder onsite, I learned that the organization needed an attorney to sit on its board. That same day, I joined the Board of Directors and now 14 years later I’m still with Dress for Success. When I was going to deliver my donation, I thought I was going to help change some woman’s life. I had no idea how much Dress for Success would change mine.
Can you give us some stats on the organization? How many women has DFS clothed/helped in how many cities and countries?
2012 marked the 15th anniversary of Dress for Success and in that time, we have served over 650,000 women worldwide. What started as a small New York City nonprofit has blossomed into an international organization with over 120 affiliates in 13 countries!
What can a woman expect when she walks into Dress for Success for the first time? What services are provided to her?
When a woman walks into Dress for Success, she is stepping into a world that does revolve around her. Our sole purpose is to help her along on her path to financial independence and we do that through encouragement, education and example-setting. Our staff and volunteer teams are some of the most positive and driven women you’ll ever meet, perfect examples of successful women, who are able to teach our clients through their own experiences in the workforce.
Many women come to us not knowing what to expect, some come because they were told we’d give them free interview clothes, but they all quickly learn that we are here to support their entire journeys toward self-sufficiency. We offer support, networks and career development tools for every stage of employment that can help her with any transitions or obstacles that she may be facing. At Dress for Success, we not only want women to get a job, we want to ensure our women retain and advance in their jobs.
What is Dress for Success' mission?
The mission of Dress for Success is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.
What do you love most about your job?
I love waking up everyday to do what I know in my heart I was meant to do. In the mornings, I don’t even need an alarm clock to get me out of bed because each day I am excited about what is ahead. Having the privilege of being a part of someone’s transformation—her journey— makes the work of running a global organization worth while. The clients of Dress for Success are not just women, they are my friends. I am a part of their lives and they are part of mine. They entrust me with their dreams, their hopes for their families, and their belief that tomorrow can be better than yesterday. I do not take that lightly. I feel honored to be able to champion their success, because within it I have found my own. I literally get to watch women change the world every single day. What better job is there than that?
How do you “dress for success?”
As the leader of an organization that promotes professionalism, I am committed to serving as an example to our women. You will never see my staff or me in the office in jeans or athletic attire. Dressing for success means that you look polished, confident, and empowered, and that is a very important aspect of the office culture of Dress for Success.
What’s next for Dress for Success? What are the goals of the organization and your own personal goals?
My goal is to ensure that women around the world know that Dress for Success is a resource that they can use regardless of where they are in their career. I want to ensure that as many women as possible have access to the resources and tools they need to succeed in the workplace. I want to continue to strengthen the position of Dress for Success as a recognized leader in promoting the economic and social development of disadvantaged women and to expand the organization's reach, so that we are able to reach more women, strengthen more families, empower more communities, and dramatically improve the world.
What makes Skinnygirl Cocktails a good partner for Dress for Success? How do you see our goals and vision aligning?
The Skinnygirl brand that we know today is the manifestation of one woman’s commitment to achieving self-defined success. At Dress for Success, we truly believe that every woman has the power to be a success story. Skinnygirl is one woman’s success story. We believe that our offices are filled with future success stories- ones that, much like Skinnygirl, will inspire and ignite other women across the globe. Women helping women is the foundation upon which Dress for Success is built. The Skinnygirl-Dress for Success partnership serves as another layer of that. One woman’s vision developed into a company that is now providing resources to support thousands of other women around the world. That is powerful—that is the embodiment of inspiring like a lady.
Who/what inspires you?
My mother has always been my hero. As a child, I watched the sacrifices that she made so that I could grow up and be of service to the world. Today, as a mother, a wife, and a leader, the words of encouragement, knowledge and inspiration that my mother gave to me are at the core of what I’m able to give to my children, my staff, our volunteers, and the women served by Dress for Success. My mother has not only inspired me, but she inspired a belief in the power of women that has positively impacted the lives of more than 650,000 women around the world.
Aside from donating clothing, how else can people get involved in Dress For Success?
The ways people can get involved with Dress for Success are endless. We owe much of our success to the generous and tireless help of our volunteers. Assisting onsite at one of our boutiques is probably the most popular way to become involved in Dress for Success—women can act as personal shoppers for our clients, helping them select all of the key components of a stylish, confidence-boosting outfit, or as a career coach, critiquing resumes and conducting mock interviews, among other roles.
If someone maintains an expertise in a skill set that could help our clients gain a competitive edge in the job market, we are always open to people leading workshop or lectures for our ladies.
Women can also become involved with Dress for Success through Young Executives for Success (Y.E.S!), which is the young professionals volunteer branch of our organization. Y.E.S! is composed of young women whose nine-to-five jobs make it challenging to volunteer and connect directly with clients of Dress for Success. Y.E.S! members promote the mission of Dress for Success through volunteering and fundraising events that take place during off/after hours.