Whether it’s a homecoming dance, a holiday party, or prom, finding the perfect dress can be expensive. For many lower-income girls and their families, it can be a nearly impossible goal.
Enter Believe in Yourself, a new non-profit organization on a mission to provide these young women a brand new dress for free and to empower themselves to feel confident.
Sam Sisakhti, 35, is the man behind the foundation. He recently told CNBC’s “On the Money” that he came up with the idea while working on his retail business, UsTrendy.com, an online marketplace for independent designers to sell their clothes.
Sisakhti said designers would often send him samples that he would give out to celebrities—until he realized there was a better use for them.
“I used to just go into low-income areas and hand out the clothes – and didn’t really say who I was,” Sisakhti explained. “And in January, I thought I should actually launch something to formally give out these dresses.”
At the same time, the entrepreneur said he began noticing on UsTrendy’s social media feeds that there was “a lot of cyber bullying and body shaming going on.”
It’s a prevalent issue for teens. According to a 2016 study conducted by Cyberbullying.org , approximately 34 percent of middle and high school students said they experienced harassment on the Internet during their lifetime.
“When I was in school, bullying would happen, but your home was your safe haven. But now this is following the kids home with the internet and social media,” the founder explained.
Sisakhti began inviting speakers to his donation events to talk to the girls, and give them advice on how to combat cyberbullying such as:
- Never responding to a cyberbully if you are the victim.
- Standing up and say something if you notice cyberbullying happening to one of your peers.
- Trying to unplug and focus on another activity, whether that’s a sport or a musical instrument, so the time spent on social media is limited.
In addition to a new dress and mentorship, Sisakhti offers an opportunity for a second dress.
“We want to try and tie the donations… into some kind of achievement. So I ask them to set a goal and I say ‘I’ll come back if you achieve this goal and I’ll give you another dress,'” Sisakhti told CNBC. “So we want to have it also be about forward progression towards a goal.”
So far, Sisakhti says Believe in Yourself has done approximately 25 events. In October, the organization received a 501c3 nonprofit status, which will allow Sisakhti to solicit donations.
“We’re looking for other retailers to start donating—and we’re probably going to do about 10,000 [donated dresses] in the next 12 months,” Sisakhti said.
On the Money airs on CNBC Saturdays at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.