Thursday, December 4, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Christina Stewart

“You can’t help but have an enormous amount of admiration for these women. Who better to represent the cause than someone who has that fierceness, that tenacity? Someone who continues to rebuild when everything has been stripped away” stated Christina Stewart with intention ablaze in her eyes. With an infectious energy and striking confidence, Christina’s undeniable passion for helping women is apparent when she shares her stories from her four year tenor at Dress for Success Vancouver.

What is your role at Dress for Success Vancouver?
I’m a Lead Consultant; I support other consultants, by making sure shifts run smoothly or I revoke issues with clients. If any consultant is faced with a difficult client, that’s when they pull me in to help them through that. An hour goes by really quickly and I don’t want anyone to ever think “this is an awful program” and evaluate every other program we have to offer based on a bad experience.

I support them with public speaking engagements where I inform different agencies (Immigrant Services Society, BCIT, etc.) about the services that Dress for Success Vancouver has to offer. I also built the volunteer training program and bootcamps for volunteers so that everyone is marching to the same drum. 

How did you get involved with the training program?
A year ago Jennifer wanted to start a training program and part of what I do for a living is training people. I just tried to set some parameters in the beginning. We now have an image consultant who comes in to lead the sessions. 

What is the outcome of the training program or bootcamp?
It provides consistency in how consultants are interacting with clients. Women from all walks of life come in. Some women have never held a job or are coming in from an abusive relationship. They have been second class citizens their whole lives so when we say ‘you deserve this hour’ women look at you like they’ve never seen themselves before. We make sure that everyone is treated the same way regardless of which area of life they’re coming from.

We remind our volunteers that everyone is an individual, so everyone is treated with compassion and in an individual manner. The Golden Rule is treat others how you want to be treated. The Platinum Rule is treat others how THEY want to be treated. That’s how we set up the program, dignity and respect come first.  

How did you get involved with Dress for Success Vancouver?
I was donating clothes to Dress for Success and I thought “this might be something I can be very good at.” I don’t do it for myself but to feel like I had a place in that person’s life, it completes you in some small way and reminds you to be grateful. There’s a real sense of fulfillment to be able to help someone down that path, especially when you’ve been very fortunate in your life and you forget to count your small blessings. 

Sometimes you get up in the morning and you’re having a bad hair day and it could be so much worse. It's such small concerns compared to not having a job, not knowing how to deal with an interview, not knowing how to take care of your children. A lot of women who come through the doors deal with that everyday.

Why Dress for Success Vancouver?
I raised boys and I have always been involved with different charities like the Variety Club, but being a single mom at a young age I was looking for something female oriented. I was going through University with a 2 year old, if there was a program like this for me my life would’ve been so much easier. 

I was hooked after my first shift, I felt so good about it. The people who come through the doors are genuine women who are looking for a change and we can certainly help given the opportunity. You effect change in women in one hour as long as they put that hour in. 

What do you find most fulfilling about working with Dress for Success Vancouver?
It crosses a lot of different things. Personally, it reminds me that no matter how bad of a day I’m having, things could be worse. It’s also the sense of well being that you get knowing that you helped someone feel that much better about themselves, and helping instil that confidence in them. 

Seeing the change you can effect in them with a few kind words. You see a woman come in with her shoulders hunched, she’s down on her self. When she leaves, she leaves with empowerment. I can feel it for a month. Just from a hug. She’s going to project that into her next interview. 

What's it like being a consultant?
We have to do a lot of listening when we’re there. If you’re listening with someone as a team, it’s not a one-sided effort. It’s a joint effort with you and the client. It’s a process. It’s not you telling them what to do. It’s you marrying what you feel is appropriate. 

Has this experience changed or inspired you in any way?
It has definitely made me more patient, it’s increased my ability to be empathetic and to understand. I’m a very A-type personality but it makes me slow down and consider other people. That’s not always something that we do. 

What is your biggest takeaway from the program?
You never know what a few kind words or how a smile can change someone’s day.

Any words of advice for someone going through a tough situation?
Don’t give up. Tomorrow is always a new day. A good sleep and a good cry usually fix everything. 
Always try to look at the bright side because no matter what, no matter how bad it is it could always be worse. Ask yourself where is that silver lining? 

Whatever happens it’s always a lesson. It might not always been a good lesson but it’s always a lesson. As long as we learn that lesson, something good has come out of it. 

Do you have any advice for the women going back into the job market?
Keep your strengths in mind. There are times we have to do things that we don’t want to do or it’s not the right fit but keep an open mind. If you have the luxury of picking and choosing, keep who you are and what you’re good at, then play with your strengths. 

What would you say to someone who feels like they don’t have strengths? 
We all have strengths. Sometimes we forget and it can be something as simple as being able to make someone feel good about themselves or make them laugh in the face of adversity. It’s a skill. Ask “what’s the one thing that I do that is special” because we all have that. Women need to cut themselves some slack.

Being kind to ourselves is hard especially if you’ve been beaten down by life. But if you’re not kind to yourself then no one else will be. It has to start with that self love. 

Do you have a favourite client success story that sticks out to you?
A woman who had an interview the next day showed up. She didn’t know she wasn’t suppose to bring her children. She had 3 boys that were 8, 5 and 18 months, and they were not well behaved. We said “you weren’t told not to bring your children, but this hour is about you. If you give us one solid hour you can change THEIR lives. You need to put this one hour in.” She came back 3 weeks later, had gotten a job and came back without the kids. She said “by giving you the hour, I’ve changed my kids lives.”

I started to cry because she listened. I know how difficult it is to raise children as a single mom but she gave us that hour, she can now take care of her children. That woman said “it’s because of you that I got the job. You made me feel so good when I walked out of there because I felt powerful & confident.” We aim to give that to every woman that walks in here. To give them personal power and to project everything that they are. When you tell someone that they look like a million dollars they feel it. Because they do look like a million dollars.

Why did this client affect you so much?
Because she truly heard the message. She was a difficult appointment; it was a last minute appointment, she was hard to size and there were so many odds stacked against this woman from getting a job. The fact that she took the time to listen to the advice that was worth the paper it was written on, It meant something to her. She took the advice and made it work for her. Just in that one little hour, it was a couple of heartfelt words that made a difference. 

Every week you are hit by one person who hits your soul, by a background story or they come back just to sit and talk because they know you generally work on a Thursday. Here was this woman who was having a bad day because she looks at you and she’s got tears in your eye and she just wants somebody to listen. It can be as short as 5 mins to be empathic because I haven’t walked a mile in her shoes and I can’t say I understand, but I can listen and sometimes thats all they need is for someone to sit in a non-judgemental role and listen. 

What is something we wouldn’t know about Dress for Success Vancouver?
They’re tracking the number of women who’ve gotten a job and come back for a second interview suiting. Almost 30% of the women who come in for one suiting end up getting a job and come in again. Even a 5% difference is a 5% difference. 

We’re best known for our dressing services but we have a fantastic career centre which is staffed by many volunteers from HR backgrounds. The services of the PWG are above and beyond is absolutely amazing. And its all free. We don’t get any government funding. 

What’s a common misconception about the organization?
That we’re just about interview suiting. We get woman in, put on an outfit and they’re out the door. There's a lot more to it. If you’ve ever dealt with a woman it’s not easy putting a woman in the outfit. It’s about making a woman feel comfortable and appropriate.

What’s the most difficult issue consultants deal with on a regular basis?
Body issue or the perception of who the woman is when they look in the mirror. When clothes don’t fit a woman they internalize that as ‘theres something wrong with my body.’ It’s not about the body, it’s about the clothes. So what if these don’t fit, it’s the clothes.

The biggest breakdown comes when they they look in mirror and don’t like what they see, and you have one hour to try and change that. We are not psychologists but the women most successful are good at reading people. They have an innate ability to cut through surface objections and get at the root of the problem. 

What would a client be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a grandmother, she’s 5. I was a single mom at 17 and I came from a family of haves. When I got pregnant at a young age and was made fully responsible and accountable it made me tough, but my life experience made me strong. There is a difference between the two.

You develop a toughness when the chips are against you because you have to climb out of the hole you’re in. The strength comes from the lessons you develop along the way. Sometimes you don’t have a choice but to fight but it’s better to be strong because you have longevity in strength. 

What do you like to do outside of volunteering?
I’m a Business Development Manager for AMEX and it’s a very very busy job. I love spending time with grand daughter. I use to be a skater at a national level, I sail, travel, paddle board! I don’t sit still. 

What would you like to see change, progress, or improve from DFS?
They’re working towards that now by monitoring the statistics. The leadership in place is taking a vision and putting a parameter around it by having everyone march to the same drum. They’re not just talking the talk, they’re walking the walk. We’re definitely moving in the right direction.

Communication has gotten substantially better. The seven dying words of any organization is “we’ve always done it this way.” We’re seeing a new executive director come in and move the organization forward and making it her own because she has a passion to make it her own. It’s not a job, it’s a passion. How could you now want to work with that?

Any last thoughts about Dress for Success Vancouver or the people involved?
Everyone who I’ve met has a real passion for being there. It’s not a sense of obligation, they’re there because they want to be. It’s a great organization that helps women and lifts them up. One woman came in and said “I can’t believe I’m here for a hand out.” It’s not hand out, it’s a hand up. What they choose to do with what we give them is up to them. But it’s a hand up.

What’s the difference between the two?
1. Hand out - it comes and it’s there and it’s easy.
2. Hand up - it isn’t an easy process because you have to deal with numerous issues, like a woman’s body issues. What’s the first thing you see when you look in the mirror? Everything that’s wrong with you. It’s about helping a women get over all that first and helping them understand that they're perfect exactly the way they are.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Cara Low

A gentle spirit with a passion for coaching others, Cara has been volunteering with Dress for Success Vancouver for nearly 3 years. After a short stint as a stylist, Cara almost thought she wasn't a fit for the organization before she found her perfect role as a Career Specialist.

Read on to find out more about Cara's passion for mentorship.

How did you get involved with Dress for Success Vancouver?
I actually saw it on a fashion blog. The blogger posted about sorting for Dress for Success Vancouver and she talked about what they did. I was looking for a way to be more involved with the community so I Googled it and thought it sounded really interesting. Originally I went in for a stylist position not knowing they had a Career Centre. I styled for two shifts and honestly felt like I wasn't cheery enough!I didn't know if it was the best fit for me so I asked if there were other things I could get involved with. I studied sociology and psychology and minored in counselling, and I had a certificate from Douglas College for career development. It’s something I always had an interest in so the Career Specialist role was perfect.

What do you as a Career Specialist?
As a Career Specialist I work in a variety of different areas. The ladies indicate what they need assistance with and we go from there:
- Mock interviews
- Cover letter and resume review
- General tips for job interviews and job search strategies 
- Navigating the job search process

At the Career Centre we focus on normalizing the stress and anxiety from being out of work and going for job interviews. We acknowledge that there are a lot of uncertainties with putting yourself out there. I also helped recruit the marketing and sales interns for their events. 

Why Dress for Success Vancouver?
It's always important to coach and empower people. The idea of doing that for lower income or more vulnerable women is even more important. It’s easy to help someone with a lot of resources, I see value in helping someone in a more difficult position succeed.

The coaching is for the women but by extension we help the kids because it's really important for their kids to have a positive role model. It's a bigger thing than helping someone find a job, it's helping them to be self sufficient and to provide for their families.

Where does your passion for mentorship come from?
A combination of me growing up and struggling with different things, that’s when I started volunteering at the Vancouver Crisis Centre (where Cara still volunteers). I just wanted to be able to help other people because it felt like the right thing to do other than dwelling on myself. It helps you learn empathy for other people if you’ve gone through different situations. It’s just a way to give back and keep growing.

I'm very appreciative of the people who have been a positive role model for me. Those key people gave me the support to explore different things and to know that it was okay to be unsure. It reminds me to do something with what I have instead of sitting back.

What do you find most fulfilling about working with Dress for Success Vancouver?
What I enjoy most in my role is seeing the clients after the appointment. They start out unsure and scared but by the end they’re very comfortable putting themselves out there. It’s not always the case but they usually feel better knowing that their experiences are important. Before the meeting they don't know they had skills or thought their skills weren’t worth anything. It's cool to see that change within the appointment.

What would a client be surprised to learn about you?
They probably don’t realize that I’m nervous going into the appointment too because I don’t necessary know what I’ll be helping them with. I always feel better knowing they found the appointment helpful on some level.

Has this experience changed or inspired you in any way?
It reminds me of things I can change when I’m in a tough situation. You see these women who are able to change their circumstances and change their life. From my last job as a probation officer I saw people who had negative friends or parents who didn’t support them in getting a job or finishing high school. I understand how hard it can be to change your life if you don’t have positive people in your life. 

Dress for Success Vancouver supports women because it’s hard to make that change on your own especially if you don’t have family or friends for support. Some of the women have friends who tell them it’s too hard to find a job or ask “why get a job?” We’re here to support those women by saying “it’s not easy to get a job but it’s possible.” For me it’s bigger than just a job, it’s not just about the money but about contributing to society. It’s to show and model to your kids that it’s empowering to work. 

What motivates you when you’re going through a tough situation?
Knowing that things do get better even if you don’t think they will on any level. It gets better. It’s also about framing your situation and looking at it as an opportunity to learn instead of looking at a difficult time as a permanent situation. 

Any words of advice for someone going through a tough situation?
Respect yourself enough to do something about a situation if it’s not working out. You don’t have to be a victim. You have the power to change your mind set about it but you have to look at yourself as well and what you’re doing. You can’t always focus on other people. I see that a lot in appointments where they focus a lot on the interviewer or things that are beyond their control. It’s never going to be easy but you can make things easier if you’re willing to focus on things you can change rather than focusing on things you can’t change. You don’t always get that unless someone introduces the idea to you.

Do you have any advice for the women going back into the job market?
I try to normalize the feeling of discomfort. I tell them it’s normal to feel uncomfortable looking for a job and putting yourself out there. Everyone goes through that. Often I hear “it’s easy for other people” but it’s not. I would be nervous, I would be stressed and I would be scared of being judged. They think it’s only them but I would have all those feelings too. If they focus on it to much, they can’t do more. 

You don’t have to put the pressure on yourself to find the one job that is going to be perfect. I tell them it’s okay to try different things and see what you like or don’t like, to meet different people and to build connections which will help you land your next job. It’s not a linear situation where you go from one job and move up in that field.

Do you have a favourite client success story that sticks out to you?
There’s one client I’ve worked with a few times. I remember her being really excited because she thought she was going to get a job. The interview went well and they told her she was pretty much going to get the job after they called her references but they just never called them. 

She went from putting a great amount of effort into the job search and being close to securing a job to not getting it after all. She kept applying despite feeling sad and disappointed and eventually got a job. I was so happy and proud of her because if it had been earlier on she probably would have just given up. It’s so easy to feel down about it especially when you’re so close. 

She said she could’ve easily given up, easily thought “why would they tell me that? Maybe people lie.” She thought she would think all those things but the encouragement from the volunteers at Dress for Success Vancouver kept her going. 

Has this experience taught you anything?
It reminds me that there are people out there that want to help other people. It’s so easy to focus on the negatives in our society because there are a lot of negative things that happen in life, in the news, and in our day to day. It reminds me that there are people who just want to help, they don’t want anything from it. They don’t want money and they don’t expect anything from the clients.

Most surprising thing about Dress for Success Vancouver?
I thought it was just about clothes and individuals donating clothes, I didn’t realize there was the Professional Women’s Group or the Career Centre. It’s actually a really large organization with a lot of women involved in it. There are so many volunteers I haven’t even met, it just shows how many people volunteer with them. 

I also didn’t realize that there were so many corporate sponsors they did outreach with. They have a lot of companies donating clothes and suits and that’s pretty cool. 

What do you like to do outside of volunteering?
I love staying at home and hanging out with my husband and having friends over. I love home decor, design, and crafts. I love sewing. I’m happy just being really low key.

Any last thoughts about Dress for Success Vancouver or the people involved?
Seeing the staff working so well together for a common purpose is really cool. It’s not easy being a non-profit organization but they’re doing something they’re really passionate about and something that is purposeful.

I love talking to Sandy and Lucia, I just think it’s really cool what they do. It’s a challenging job so to see them plugging away, engaging with volunteers and connecting with people is amazing.

Inspired? Are you a career professional who wants to give back to the community as a career specialist? Contact Dress for Success Vancouver for volunteer opportunities.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Success Luncheon: Deepika Gupta Tells her Personal Story

A former participant in Dress for Success Vancouver's Professional Women's Group, Deepika Gupta's path has shaped her into a strong, successful woman who is looking to give back. 

On October 29, she shared her inspiring journey at Dress for Success Vancouver’s 2nd Success Luncheon, hosted at the Pan Pacific Vancouver hotel. Over 200 guests were in attendance for an afternoon filled with speakers, networking opportunities, and stories like Deepika’s own. Read her empowering speech below! 

Good afternoon everyone. My name is Deepika Gupta and I’m honoured to be a part of the Success Luncheon panel amongst these inspiring women.

I was born in India amidst a lot of institutional barriers which are a trademark in Indian society. I grew up in a very traditional family where money was never a problem but dreams were. Dreams were never regarded anything more than illusions but my father always tried to convert every dream of mine to reality. He taught me this important lesson: “Get the treasure of education. You never know when adversity will hit. You never know when life will go wrong. If you ever face hard times, education pays off. It’s the only thing that people can’t steal.” So in spite of a lot of resentment from other family members, I did my Masters in finance.

Shortly after that, my father fell ill and lost his life to Cancer. I lost my lucky charm. Nothing went right after that.

I married a businessman and hoped for happier times. A few months later, I became pregnant and then my husband’s business collapsed. We were devastated. I fell into a deep depression and it led to further complications in my delivery.

When the baby was born, we didn’t have enough money to pay for medical expenses and asking my family for help was not an option. So I decided to start up my own business to take care of my son. This brought a lot of disgrace to my family, only because I was a girl.

I continued to work and became the single breadwinner. Since my husband’s family helped with the business, I took them into our home. As a family, I wanted us to stay together. When you go through tough times, it’s easier to face adversity together.

However, when the business began to flourish, my husband’s family took over the business and pushed us out of the business and out of the house. I felt betrayed. Again I was homeless and had a toddler to support.

I had to start from scratch again. I lost all my positivity, all my courage. But then I was reminded of my father’s words. I had to believe in myself. Even after every challenge, I had to say to myself “I can do this.”

My education helped me land a job as a business school teacher. Within a few years, my hard work was recognized and I found myself promoted to assistant professorship. Slowly but surely I started to come out of my shell.

I took another step forward. I wanted a better future for my child so we applied to move to Canada.  When we lost everything, I lost the respect of my family. I wanted to regain that and moving to Canada would give me another chance.

Moving overseas is a big thing. It becomes difficult to adjust to new culture. I was referred to Dress for Success Vancouver and joined their Professional Women’s Group. I had never heard of something like that before, where people would help you become a part of their society. At the Professional Women’s Group, I developed many friendships and I feel like I can connect with so many people because our lives match. Today, I work as an office manager at an engineering company but I feel like it’s time for me to pursue my dream. I have started to write Princess in Disguise- a fiction novel inspired by the adversities I’ve faced in the last decade. I also want to work for female wellness and contribute to society. That’s my mandate.

In life, you should be revengeful towards your adversities by being successful. Let the adversities know that you can face them, say “I am going to prove you wrong.” The help I’ve received from Dress for Success and the women I have met from the program have inspired me to share my story. I want to encourage girls all over the world to strive hard to go to school and finish their studies. Getting an education is a treasure that can help you survive through though times in life. 

In front of you are donor cards. Please open your hearts and make a donation to support a woman like myself through the Dress for Success program. When you’re falling short of funds, you just need a single friendly hand - Dress for Success was just that. Dress for Success Vancouver empowered me. They gave me the confidence to follow my dreams and I’m grateful to be here today to share them with you. Thank you.

Deepika is just one of the many amazing women that we at Dress for Success Vancouver get to work with. You can support a woman like her through the Dress for Success programs – to put one woman through our 18-month Professional Women’s Group aimed at career development only costs $180. To find out more about our impact, please visit

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SUCCESS SPOTLIGHT: Fiona Forbes, Master of Ceremonies

“I feel so lucky to do what I do for a living.” Fiona Forbes is best known for her many years on Shaw TV’s THE RUSH. After graduating in History and enrolling in the Journalism Program of BCIT, she auditioned on a dare and landed a job as a TV host! No doubt she just loves her work: “I get to meet so many interesting people every day and hear their stories. I’ve lost count, but I think I’ve interviewed over 25,000 people over the last 18 years!” 

Not only a television personality, “a proud fashionista and a geek”, Fiona is passionate about helping others. Using her talents, she supports charities any chance she has: CKNW Orphan’s Fund, Pink Shirt Day, Ronald McDonald House, Variety Club, Timmy’s Telethon and Easter Seals are just the tip of the iceberg. 

On Wednesday, October 29th Fiona will add Dress for Success Vancouver to her benefactress list, by fulfilling the essential role of Emcee at the Success Luncheon. She will have the pleasure to present the four wonderful panelists Nancy MacKay CEO MacKay CEO Forums, Jill Schnarr VP Community Investment and Engagement Telus, Donna Wilson SVP People LifeLabs and Deepika Gupta, Dress for Success Vancouver’s very own client.

Moderated by Laurie Schultz, CEO, ACL, this event will be an inspiring one you don't want to miss.
Get your tickets NOW

3 Reasons to Attend Dress for Success Vancouver’s SUCCESS Luncheon

Next week, more than six hundred of the city’s top executives will descend on Coal Harbour for Dress for Success (DFS) Vancouver’s second annual SUCCESS Luncheon at the Pan Pacific Hotel. With proceeds supporting DFS Vancouver’s perennial aim to empower women into the workforce, the event will showcase a panel of the community’s leaders - celebrating their successes, learning from their challenges and underscoring the possibilities that emerge from supporting women in leadership.

So that said, what can you get out of attending this year’s SUCCESS Luncheon?

1. Inspiration for Miles
In addition to an impressive roster of CEO panelists, you’ll hear from one of Dress for Success Vancouver’s own. Hear how Deepika Gupta came to DFS as a client, progressed through the Professional Women’s Group program, and now joins the ranks of Vancouver’s up-and-coming career women.

2. Killer Networking
Dress for Success draws tremendous support from many of the city’s respected brands and corporations. With networking receptions now at the start and completion of the panel and luncheon, you’re given an opportunity to make valuable connections and get face-time with speakers and the DFS team.

3. Invaluable Insights
Expect to hear personal and career stories of growth, adversity, and success. With the level of drive, intelligence, and experience slated to be on stage next week, not only will it incite motivation and excitement - you’re bound to learn a thing or two.

SUCCESS Luncheon takes place at the Pan Pacific Hotel on Wednesday, October 29th, from 11am to 2pm.

Don’t miss out. Get your SUCCESS Luncheon tickets today.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Shop for a Cause is back!

Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable… Style is more about being yourself” – Oscar De La Renta

“Shop For A Cause” is back for a highly anticipated 2-day clothing sale! Join us with your friends on November 14 & 15 at the Harbour Center’s Upper Mall Level, from 10-6pm.
100% of all purchase proceeds got to Dress for Success Vancouver.

If you missed us in September, here is your chance to add beautiful vintage, new or gently used pieces to your wardrobe for the coming winter!

See you very soon!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

SUCCESS Spotlight: Donna Wilson, LifeLabs

To some, mobilizing 25 thousand volunteers for a highly visible event would be an immensely daunting task. For Donna Wilson, at the time VANOC’s Executive VP of Workforce and Sustainability, it’s another day in the life. Now as SVP, People for LifeLabs, Donna delivers workforce strategy and leadership at Canada’s leading medical lab services provider.

Her story is one of several amazing experiences that you’ll hear if you attend Dress for Success Vancouver’s upcoming SUCCESS Luncheon on October 29th. From building VANOC’s organizational culture and sustainability strategy, to leading core operational areas at WorkSafeBC, Donna’s depth and breadth of knowledge lends itself to many insights that will be shared at SUCCESS. Donna will join a panel of equally impressive women in leadership across industries, not to mention DFS’ own client success story.

Two networking hours bookend the featured panel and luncheon, ensuring facetime with our speakers and plenty of time to make valuable connections.

Join us on Wednesday, October 29 at the Pan Pacific Hotel for SUCCESS Luncheon.

Register to reserve your spot or lend your support.

Monday, September 22, 2014

SUCCESS Spotlight: Jill Schnarr, Telus

As the team at Dress for Success ramps up for the upcoming SUCCESS Luncheon on October 29, it’s hard not to be inspired by the stories of our laudable panelists. Jill Schnarr of Telus is one such example. To call Jill an overachiever would be a vast understatement. Having joined Telus in 1992, she’s held a variety of dynamic portfolios and leadership positions, rapidly progressing within and across different areas of the business. Now as VP of Community of Affairs, Jill leads leads national community investment and corporate social responsibility at TELUS.

Armed with a plethora of credentials from tops schools across the globe, Jill has been recognized within the business community as one of Canada’s Distinctive Women in 2014 and Most Influential Women in Vancouver in 2013, and has been awarded a Leadership Excellence Award in Innovation in 2011 by the Canadian Women in Communications (CWC).

Amid her numerous successes, Jill maintains a constant focus on charitable efforts. Under her leadership, TELUS was recognized as the Most Philanthropic Corporation in the World by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and was awarded the Prime Minister’s Inaugural Volunteer Award in 2012. She also serves on the fundraising cabinet for the BC Women’s Hospital Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit.

Interested in hearing how she balances corporate achievement with a thriving family live?

Get your ticket to the annual DFS Success Luncheon, happening on October 29 at the Pan Pacific Hotel.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

SUCCESS Spotlight: Nancy MacKay, MacKay CEO Forums

Vision, drive, dedication. As a leadership coach, published author, and dynamic keynote speaker, Nancy MacKay has all the right qualities for corporate success. But her insight on what it takes to run a successful company also comes with the knowledge of its many challenges. These challenges and demands are what compelled Nancy to recognize tremendous value in collaborating and learning from other equally driven leaders.

Enter MacKay CEO Forums - the highest impact peer group for CEOs across Canada. Nancy founded MacKay CEO Forums as a platform to accelerate performance through peer learning. Aimed at results-driven CEOs, the firm serves as a round table for the country’s top corporate executives and Nancy has been the driving force behind its rapid growth and member loyalty. Empowering, engaging, and educational, MacKay CEO Forums is a springboard for success at the highest levels.

Hear more of Nancy MacKay’s amazing story at the highly anticipated SUCCESS Luncheon.

Get tickets to the annual DFS Success Luncheon happening on October 29 at the Pan Pacific Hotel.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

With Good Karma Comes Great Style: Oakridge Handbag + Shoe Drive

Oakridge Centre is working with Dress for Success Vancouver to hold a handbag and shoe drive! On September 26 and 27, drop off new or gently used handbags or shoes at the Dress for Success Vancouver booth and be entered into a draw for a fantastic prize!

Each donation is equivalent to one entry in an exciting draw to win a Hugo Boss handbag or boots from Stuart Weitzman. Donations will be accepted at the Dress for Success Vancouver booth in the West Galleria of Oakridge Centre. All of the items collected will go to benefit Dress for Success Vancouver.

Connect with us about this event on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #OakridgeDonates. 

More information can be found online at Find out how else you can support disadvantaged women through career development on our website,

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Success Luncheon, join us for networking and inspiration.

Join us on Wednesday, October 29th, as we celebrate amazing leaders in our community.

The Success Luncheon will offer a panel of women leaders within our community who share their success stories of career and life challenges and successes.

The panelists: Nancy MacKay CEO MacKay CEO Forums, Jill Schnarr VP Community Investment and Engagement Telus, Donna Wilson SVP People LifeLabs and Deepika Gupta our very own Dress for Success Vancouver client.

Moderating the panel will be Laurie Schultz CEO ACL Services and Chair of our Board of Directors.

Upon arrival to the event at the Pan Pacific Hotel, attendees will enjoy an opportunity to network, including a glass of sparkling wine. A 3-course lunch will be served and the panel discussion will begin. There will be an additional opportunity to network after the panel including a coffee service.

We are a community empowering women into the workforce. We look forward to networking with you at this inspiring event!

Tickets details:

Friday, August 22, 2014

Shop for a Cause Sale coming soon !

A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous- Coco Chanel. 

We are hosting our highly anticipated clothing sale at Harbour Center's Upper Mall Level. 
Looking for a vintage piece? a designer handbag? Check out Shop for a Cause on September 5-6, 9-13th from 10am to 6pm. 100% of all purchase proceeds go to Dress for Success Vancouver.

Stay tuned, we will be sharing some fabulous sale items in the next two weeks... getting excited yet?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

California Closets Vancouver: Grand Opening for a Cause!

On Thursday, June 26, California Closets opened its newest showroom location on Granville Street and threw a grand opening event complete with wine tasting, signature cocktails, and canap├ęs. Tara McGuire, a long-time broadcaster and radio personality, hosted the night as attendees mingled and browsed California Closets’ displays.
California Closets is an innovative home design and storage space optimization business that originated in the United States. Today, the Vancouver and Burnaby franchises are run by Stephan Maingot, John Duffield, and Claudia Duffield, who work together to improve clients’ lives through the beautiful and functional items that they create. You can see their latest designs up close by visiting their newest show room at 2421 Granville St., Vancouver. 

During the event, California Closets hosted a silent auction that raised an exciting $3770 towards Dress for Success Vancouver! At $360/year to put one woman through our suite of programs, a donation of this size can support 10.47 women. Attendees were also encouraged to bring gently-used handbags that were to be donated to Dress for Success Vancouver, which we very much appreciated! 

Thank you California Closets for your support, and congratulations on your new location!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Insider Profile: Deepika Gupta, A Life Story of Triumph

“Fight it out. There’s no other way out. Unless you go through tough times, you never know what you’re capable of” says Deepika Gupta, echoing the mantra that carried her through her own hardships. Born in India, in a male dominated community with few regards for female empowerment, Deepika was constrained by centuries of deep-rooted societal views and unbreakable traditions.

With determination in the face of adversity and betrayal, she defied all expectation to overcome insurmountable odds with only the tenacious belief that she could. Deepika shares how the trials & tribulations of her life have shaped her as a person, and what Dress For Success Vancouver means to her.

Tell me a little bit about your life.
I grew up with a lavish life as a kid but I wasn’t allowed to get an education. This was a trend in my society. Women could get married early and accompany their husbands, but my father wanted me to study. So I did my masters in finance, but everyone in my family was upset. I grew up in a very conservative family where no one supported my dreams. Neither my mother or brothers supported me, only my father was very supportive of me. Every dream I had he wanted it to become a reality.

How did your father shape you as a person?
My father constantly talked about what life should be like, how a person should be, how your behaviours impact society. The greatest lesson he gave me was “get the treasure of education. You never know when adversity will hit. You never know when life will go wrong. If you ever pay hard times, education pays off. It’s the only thing that people can’t steal.”

What was the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in your life?
I got married at 24 to a businessman and continued enjoying a comfortable life. Then my father passed and I lost my lucky charm, nothing went right after that. When my husband’s business collapsed, I was a few months pregnant and homeless. I had grown up in a luxurious life where everything was abundant, it was very hard to cope. I hadn’t worked for years, I was shy now and I fell into depression.

When the baby was born, I didn’t have enough money to pay for medical expenses. I had a different challenge now, I had a kid and had to take care of him. I couldn’t go back to my family for help so I had to take up a job which is unheard of because I grew up in the business class. “People were complaining to my family, saying I was bringing disgrace to my family.”

Soon, I was the single breadwinner for my husband and his family. I wanted to start up a home business to take care of my son. Since my husband’s family helped with the business, I took them into my home because I wanted to stay together. “When you go through a tough spot, it’s easier to face adversity together.”

However, when the business began to flourish, my husband’s family got together and pushed us out of the business. They said “you can move out now.” I felt betrayed, again I was homeless and had a toddler to support.

What was the most challenging part of this?
Holding your own self. Believing in yourself even after every challenge, getting up again and saying “I can do this.” I had no one to turn to, or to tell. It’s difficult when you have to start from scratch, from nothing. It’s so difficult when you have a kid and a family but no one supports you.

How did you get involved with Dress for Success Vancouver?
I was referred twice through Job options and Langara College. Then I joined the Professional Women’s Group (PWG) program.

What’s the biggest impact you’ve experienced from Dress for Success Vancouver?
The sense of belonging that comes. Moving overseas is a big thing. When people move to a new community, you need someone to sooth your soul there. It becomes difficult to adjust to new culture. When you’re falling short of funds, you just need a single friendly hand - Dress for Success Vancouver was that.

They pamper you and make you feel great. I never heard of something like that before, where people would take care of your and make you feel loved. “It’s not just clothing or guidance, there’s so many things that they support. You feel loved and cared for and then you start feeling like you belong to society.”

The service leads to raised moral, higher confidence and emotional fulfillment. Dress for Success Vancouver empowered me, they gave me the confidence to follow my dreams.

How has The Professional Women’s Group (PWG) impacted your life?
Meeting people that I would love to connect with. I’ve developed many friendships and I feel like I can connect with so many people because our lives match. It’s difficult to make people understand what you’re trying to express if they’ve never been in your shoes. Everyone at Dress for Success Vancouver and PWG just understands our situation. With PWG, i’m building a community, friends and family.

The first time I shared my story with PWG I was afraid that no one would understand it. But when I finally expressed myself and they understood, I could finally relax.

Where are you now?
I’m working as an administrative assistant at an engineering company.

Where do you see yourself in the future?
I feel like it’s high time now to start my dreams and get my business started. I want to work for female wellness and contribute to society. That’s my mandate. When you get mental wellness, it boosts emotional wellness too.

Can you impart some lessons or advice?
In life, you should be revengeful towards your adversities by being successful. Let the adversities know that you can face them, say “I am going to prove you wrong.” Life is never easy, it’s always tough. Never look for the easiest thing to do. Females are strong and need to explore it. We are made to explore those strengths through hard times.

How are you and your family now?
My entire family is proud of me and supports my endeavours. This means a lot because they didn’t even want me to go to school. My eldest brother said he is so proud of me because I proved that I am more than capable.

Any last words?
I look forward to my future. I stepped out of the past, I’m not carrying that burden anymore. It’s like I stepped out of a cocoon or something. When I finally expressed myself and people understood, it was like a new life and a new me.

A truly inspirational woman who is living proof that adversity creates a stronger person. The entire Dress For Success Vancouver network wishes Deepika nothing but the best of luck moving into the next chapter of her life!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

PWG Graduation: A Day of Gratitude and Celebration

On Saturday June 21st, a dedicated group of women came out in full force to support 10 of their peers graduate from the Professional Women’s Group (PWG), a free program run by Dress for Success Vancouver.

The morning began with a round of ya-yas, celebrations, achievements, events, new jobs or any exciting updates the women wanted to share with each other. With the room buzzing with excitement, four women bravely stepped up to the front of the room and one by one, left us in awe with their stories of triumph and how Dress for Success Vancouver had changed their lives. Despite coming from different cultures and backgrounds, the women shared a theme of connectedness: courage, tenacity and relentless determination.

First we heard from Mitra, a single mother from Iran who built a bilingual education center for children in Tehran. She moved to Canada for her daughter, and shared this simple piece of advice “follow and go with your passion because that is where your heart is and when you touch your heart, that is limitless.” Having joined Dress for Success, Mitra has experience unlimited kindness, respect, education and support.

Next was Deepika, born to a conservative family in India who did not support her rights to an education. After her husband lost his business, her life changed in a split second. Homeless with a newborn baby, she overcame depression and became the sole breadwinner for her husband and his family. After the bitter sting of betrayal, they lost their fortune again and came to Canada for a fresh start. Deepika’s mission is to educate all women and men in India to widen their conservative perspectives.

Then we heard from Geraldine, a single mother and victim of spousal abuse. Although she had great jobs in both Manila and Dubai, she left in favour of Canada despite the uncertainty of a different culture and not having enough money to sustain her life simply to give her son a better life. Not having family in Canada, her only support is PWG and events like Impact 360, that give her self confidence like she’s never experienced before.

Lastly, Sunny recounted her struggles over the last 15 months, determined to make a life in Vancouver with the mantra of “failure is not an option.” Overcoming homelessness and immense loss, Sunny came from having nothing to becoming an addictions counsellor and starting courses at Langara College.

After drying our eyes, the entire room watched and cheered as 10 of their friends graduated from their cohort. We wish the 10 PWG graduates the best of luck as they continue with their 18 month program through Dress for Success Vancouver!