Heather Pierce, an associate in Edward Wildman’s Providence office, is the founder of Style Up, a nonprofit organization that helps prepare disadvantaged young adults to enter the workforce. Through the initiative, young adults are provided with business attire and are mentored on how to make a good impression at the office.
Pierced launched Style Up after speaking with a colleague about how their closets were full of lightly-used business clothes that no longer fit exactly right or were otherwise unused. After calling local organizations who said that they would be interested in the clothes but lacked storage, Pierce devised a solution.
PBN: What inspired you to start Style Up?
PIERCE: I wanted to do something positive in the community, as well as to provide other young professionals with an easy and affordable way to get involved. Style Up allowed me to incorporate both my love of fashion and my passion for helping young adults. While finding the perfect outfit may seem trivial compared to the myriad challenges disadvantaged young men and women face, an appropriate professional ensemble is an important tool and something that we can easily help provide. We all have something in our closet that we can donate.
PBN: How exactly does it work?
PIERCE: Style Up collects donations of gently worn professional clothing and accessories from professionals in the community and then partners with other local non-profit organizations to provide these items to disadvantaged young adults. Working with our partner organizations, we identify clients who will benefit from our services, and then meet with them to provide clothing and related mentoring. Our model of relying primarily on in-kind donations and partnerships with other non-profits allows us to keep overhead costs low and to cause a real difference in the lives of these young adults.
PBN: What are some of the benefits for the young adults involved?
PIERCE: In addition to receiving professional clothing and accessories, the young adults that Style Up works with also receive mentoring on a wide range of topics, such as professional dress, interview skills and the importance of a good first impression. During our sessions, we engage our clients in a dialogue about proper professional dress and behavior, including answering any questions they may have and sharing tips and lessons learned. Our clients also benefit from the experience of coming into an office environment and interacting with a group of young professionals.
PBN: Why are the right clothes so important in the workplace?
PIERCE: When you look good, you feel good. It’s no secret that feeling confident in your appearance can help you to feel more self-assured and ready to take on the world. Proper professional dress can help you to make the right first impression, and can cause others to take you more seriously. Improper work attire can negatively impact a young professional who is beginning his or her career. It’s amazing to see the transformation when our clients find professional outfits that they are excited to wear. They look comfortable, confident and ready to face the world.
PBN: How has the rest of the team at Edwards Wildman pitched in?
PIERCE: Style Up’s success is due in large part to the generous donations of time, clothing and resources of Edwards Wildman and the wonderful folks who work at the firm. Attorneys and paralegals from Edwards Wildman helped us to form the organization and to obtain our 501(c)(3) status. Style Up’s board of directors is comprised of Edwards Wildman attorneys, and many clothing contributions and volunteers come from within the firm. Edwards Wildman has provided us with physical space to store our clothing and has hosted our meetings with partner organizations and clients.