Atlantic Canada’s Leading Resource for Women Entrepreneurs Since 1992, located at the RBC Centre for Women in Business, MSVU.

Member Spotlight

brendaJuly 2017

The Social Boutique Offers Women a New Wardrobe & Fresh Start

A journey toward economic independence can sometimes begin with a pair of shoes or a well-fitting blazer.     

By Natalie Pellerin

Since Dress for Success Halifax opened its doors back in 2001, it has helped more than 1,400 women referred by organizations such as the Department of Community Services, homeless and domestic violence shelters, immigration services, universities and colleges, as well as other organizations that assist women in need. Once referred, a woman receives free interview appropriate clothing, footwear, outerwear and accessories.

After they land a job, the women can then return to Dress for Success Halifax for a second work appropriate outfit, access to complimentary salon services, dental cleaning, and make-up application.  She is also invited to join a program called The Professional Women’s Group. Members meet monthly to share experiences and learn about various topics, such as health and wellness, financial literacy and professional development with other women in similar situations.

Women are also invited to pick out additional casual clothing to help build a professional and personal wardrobe, and can access additional services such as computer/internet access, writing assistance, job searching, interview coaching, and referrals to other programs/resources.

As a volunteer-driven organization that receives no funding, all of these resources are made possible through regular donations of clothing, funding, and services from the general public and business partners. And while Dress for Success Halifax is fortunate to receive an abundance of clothing donations, not all items received could be described as professional attire. As a result, Dress for Success found itself having to donate valuable, and often times brand new casual wear, to other non-profit organizations.

For Brenda Saunders/ Todd, Executive Director of Dress for Success Halifax, it was a struggle watching items of value go out the door, given the ongoing need for funding to operate programs such as the Professional Women’s Group and their career center. 

“The irony, or the paradox that I was faced with was having to donate valuable casual clothing, with price tags sometimes as much as $300, to other charities and on the other hand, struggling for funds to operate our organization,” she said.

 “In 2015, I thought, ‘If there was another non-profit whose mission was to raise money for Dress for Success Halifax, we could be sending the clothing there’,” she continued. “If it was completely volunteer driven, then we could donate the clothing to that non-profit and 100% of the proceeds would go back into the (Dress for Success Halifax) program to move the women forward.”

And out of that thought, The Social Boutique was born.

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The Social Boutique, located in the Village Centre Mall in Bedford, Nova Scotia, promotes and raises money for Dress for Success Halifax by way of a pop-up clothing shop open to the public, along with private shopping parties.  Founder and CEO Brenda Saunders/Todd, along with VP Kim Bourgeois and a dedicated staff of volunteers open the boutique’s doors during select hours throughout the week to sell the overflow, and non-interview appropriate clothing for great prices to the general public.

They have a wide selection of clothing that varies from formal wear, to casual clothing, work attire, as well as footwear, outerwear, jewelry and purses.

“The most common misconception by the public at large is that the number one need for Dress for Success is clothing,” shared Brenda. “If I were to wave a magic wand and create additional awareness and clarity around what Dress for Success needs most in order for us to continue to move women forward, it would be that we require ongoing financial support.”

Both of these non-profit organizations strive to accomplish the same mission and goal: to help women become economically independent. They do this by providing them with attire, a network of support, and career development tools to thrive in work and life. 

If you are interested in supporting Dress for Success Halifax, you can make a donation, volunteer, shop at The Social Boutique, or host a third party event. For more information, visit their Facebook pages (see links below). 

Whether you are able to donate time, funds, or work appropriate clothing, you are creating a significant impact in a woman’s life.

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