What West Indies Soul Food's owner learned from Dress for Success

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Dress for Success may be best known for their work collecting office-wear donations, which they offer as inexpensive suiting and business clothing options for women who would otherwise be unable to afford it. However, the local chapter also aids its clients through the job search process, providing financial literacy and technology training, as well as ongoing support as women acclimate to new careers.

That includes programming on emotional intelligence, computer and tablet proficiency, budgeting, and crucial skills needed to be self-sufficient and retain employment.

“Oftentimes, it’s really exciting to move into a higher level of job,” says Twin Cities executive director Stephanie Silvers. “But the reality is if you’re not mindful you could potentially overspend, or need help with how to work the extra into a budget, or try to reach new goals.”

Dress for Success partners with other agencies for much of their programming, and accepts clients through referrals from other organizations and government assistance programs. “We believe everyone has value and you can find a job that’s going to be right for you,” says Silvers.

There are also no hard requirements on background or educational level. “We take you wherever you are and accept you,” she says.

Their program is working; from April to December 2017, 76% of the participants had gained employment. On average, people started earning more after participating, with 62% of the women gaining new access to employee benefits.

Sharon Richards-Noel first encountered Dress for Success when, after taking custody of her grandson, she needed to find a way to afford daycare. An organization helped her land a job interview and sent her to Dress for Success for interview attire.

Noel, now head chef and owner of West Indies Soul Food market, catering and food truck company, discovered that Dress for Success is more than just the clothes. After the death of her son and a divorce that left her with no money, the professional intelligence course, “really made me start booming. I had to make decisions, check myself, set goals, and be responsible for taking care of me,” she says. 

Despite the difficulty Richards-Noel has faced, her attitude is positive and grateful. "[It was] a hard process and starting over, but it's good now,” she says. Her business has flourished; she now has a presence at the Minnesota State Fair and distribution in local stores.

She's also hired an assistant who has benefitted from Dress for Success. After encouraging participation in the program, “she’s working a lot better with me now, doing better than when she came to me broken and upset,” Says Richards-Noel.
Supporting each other makes our community stronger. This Saturday Northern Vogue, a fashion show/movement aimed at elevating Minnesota fashion, will donate net proceeds from the event to Dress for Success Twin Cities. The event will also offer an opportunity to shop featured collections immediately following the show, and 10% of clothing, shoes, and accessory sales will also go to the local leg of the organization.

Participating designers include formalwear from Kristi Vosbeck and Abby Schumacher, anything-but-basic-basics from Tessa Louise, ethical fashion from Way the Label and Joeleen Torvick, and streetwear by RHEY (Rare Hearts Electrify You) Apparel and North Loop's Lamb Chop. The garments will be paired with luxe jewelry from Gretchen Ventura, effortless adornments from Goodrich Grand, cheeky leather goods from Pursey Handbags, and restored or reclaimed footwear from Greenwich Vintage Co.


Northern Vogue Fashion Show
6 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, May 12
Find tickets here; the after party is free
W Minneapolis -- The Foshay