Dress for Success gears up for event to support women entering the workforce

The ‘Success and the City’ empowerment brunch will celebrate women and support clients being served by the nonprofit
Dress for Success gears up for event to support women entering the workforce
Updated: Jun. 1, 2023 at 6:30 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Dress for Success Central Virginia is gearing up for its second annual “Success and the City” brunch fundraiser to celebrate women around the region and raise money for programs that help underserved women enter the workforce.

When Dr. Shantell Chambliss isn’t teaching business students at Virginia Commonwealth University, she ensures low-income women have the tools they need to secure employment or start their own businesses.

“The mission of Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve economic independence,” Chambliss said. " We want every woman who comes through here and says ‘I have an interview’ to get the job. That’s the goal. "

In 2012, Chambliss launched the Central Virginia Chapter of Dress for Success, which empowers women through a network of support and training programs.

Flanked between a rack of colorful frocks, shoes and accessories, she explained that clothing donations are just one layer of the nonprofit’s mission.

“I promise you a dress or a suit is not going to land you the job. It’s what’s in that suit. It’s what’s in your brain,” Chambliss said. “The clothing is really important, but the other programs we have are equally if not more important.”

Dress for Success Central Virginia is based in Richmond and serves 22 surrounding counties. Since its inception, more than 3,500 women have been served. Clients come by referral, and most are struggling single mothers who have, at some point, lived beneath the poverty line or need help making a livable wage.

Donations are accepted by appointment only twice weekly at the nonprofit’s downtown boutique. Items cannot be more than three years old. Chambliss explained that some of the women change their clothes at the boutique and go directly to an interview, so it is especially important that clothing items are in good shape.

“We serve a lot of women coming from [a] shelter,” Chambliss said. “There’s nowhere to wash it, or iron it, so that’s why we ask that clothes come in really good condition so that we can create a wardrobe or inventory that serves our women the best.”

The nonprofit offers everything from career coaching and entrepreneurial development to GED prep and a suiting program.

“There’s two levels to suiting: there’s an interview suiting where you come in and get one whole outfit because you’re trying to land the job,” she said. " Then, we have employment suiting.”

Employment suiting is when a client lands a job and then returns for a week’s worth of clothing.

The nonprofit also offers a GED prep program. It came from the suiting program when Chambliss noticed women were not making it past the interview stage. She said the biggest feedback clients were getting was that they didn’t have a high school diploma.

“On average, it’s about 11 hundred dollars from start to finish to take prep classes, purchase your materials, purchase the test and calculator that’s required, " Chambliss said. “It’s an investment.”

Since 2016, Capital One has sponsored 10 women per year for this program, turning what was once only 27% of women securing employment to at least 50%. With more financial support, Chambliss would like to expand the GED program to serve 50 women annually.

“There are so many women who empowered me, poured into me and lifted me as they climbed,” said Chambliss as she reflected on what this means to her. “I just want to give that back to other women.”

The nonprofit also offers a 12-week Entrepreneurship Academy. Stylist Salifya Akers was a part of it and recently won a $2,500 grant to launch a plus-size styling company. She says her long-term goal is to open a size-inclusive store three to five years from now.

Akers volunteered at the boutique a few years ago, helping women reclaim their confidence. She said she’ll never forget helping a woman who walked out of the boutique like a new person.

“I just have a passion for helping people see themselves in a new light,” Akers said. “It’s just an eye-opening experience.”

On Saturday, July 22, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at The Len RVA in Shockoe Bottom, Dress for Success Central Virginia will celebrate women in the region at its second annual “Success and the City” empowerment brunch, which serves as a fundraiser for the organization.

This year women will be encouraged to redefine success on their terms.

The event will feature networking activities, a wine bar, an opportunity to hear from women who have benefited from the chapter’s programs and a panel of accomplished women in various business sectors.

NBC12′s Mikea Turner is hosting the event.

If you would like to purchase a ticket, visit here.

If you want to learn more about the organization or offer donations, visit here.