It was fate that first brought India in contact with Dress for Success 10 years ago. It’s been a decade of support, sisterhood, learning, growing, empowerment and paying it forward that keeps her involved.
India’s path to Dress for Success started when she was working part-time for the Apollo Theater. She hired a woman who later went on to work as a Workforce Development Trainer at Strive NY, a job training and career services non-profit in Harlem.
At the time, India had a 12-year-old son who was moving to Japan to live with his father. Her work at the Apollo had ended. She wasn’t finding the stability and success in New York that she had hoped, so she decided to make a big move and go to Atlanta. That’s when she got a phone call that changed everything.
She had been temping as the Executive Assistant to the VP, External Affairs at a Harlem Community Development Corporation. She thought she would be doing the assignment for only a couple of weeks. However, she fell in love with the organization.
“Never before had I worked with so many smart, diverse, strong women in one organization who were making an impact in the lives of Harlem residents in such a powerful way. It was an uplifting, supportive environment, much like Dress for Success,” she said. When a full-time position opened up, she called her friend who she hired at the Apollo and with whom she had become very close. Her friend was the one who referred her to Dress for Success to get suited for the interview. She did.
The result: She got the job!
“When I went for my suiting, I didn’t expect to find the perfect outfit, but I did,” India said. “But it was so much more than that. The women made me feel so special. My personal shopper shared encouraging words throughout the entire process. When I went in for the interview, I felt super confident.”
India said that before she became involved in Dress for Success, she wasn’t thinking about a career path. She was just thinking about getting by. Getting the job at the Harlem Community Development Corporation was just the start. Dress for Success has many programs for its clients to help them realize their full potential, especially in supporting their families and in creating economic growth opportunities for the broader community.
“It is so important for me to be a positive example for my son. He sees me getting out of debt and knows that is not an option in his life,” India says. “I’m much smarter about money than I was before, thanks to the Financial Empowerment Conference. One of my goals is to build a business to create generational wealth that can be passed down in the family to break the cycle of poverty. I want to teach my son the importance of building wealth, not creating debt.”
She added that she is now able to support her family members, including her mother and brother who are disabled.
Of all the things she has learned during her time with Dress for Success, the most impactful lesson has been to help others by giving of yourself and your time. “You never know how a kind word or a helping hand can make a difference in the lives of others. Once you are in a position to give back, do it! It is your responsibility to lend a helping hand whenever you can, especially if others have helped you get to where you are.”
She certainly is evidence of that. “I feel like I’ve come full circle. I’ve always been on the receiving end at Dress for Success, and now I’m the giver. Dress for Success helped me to provide for my family and develop professionally. Now, it is important to me to give back and help as many people as possible because I see how it worked for me.” She does so through mentoring, donating clothing and donating space for the Going Places Network program to meet.
“Whenever Dress for Success calls on me, I’ll gladly be there in any way that I can!”