Ten years ago, Elizabeth Hart left a well-paying paralegal job in downtown Boston to pursue what she called the “perfect marriage” of her two life-long ambitions: to start a business, and give back to her community.
The Malden resident started “Tailored for Success,” a downtown-based non-profit organization helping economically disadvantaged women return to the workforce. Due to high demand, the group expanded to include men in 2008.
She estimates the group has helped anywhere from 3,000-5,000 applicants over the past decade, with career workshops, image consultations and – it's namesake – providing free business attire for interviewees and new hires.
“I thought it would just be a hobby,” she laughs. “But it's grown beyond a hobby now.”
Indeed, Hart works full-time to secure grants, run suit drives with corporate sponsors and manage their downtown storefront for those in need.
Those in the program also receive an hour of image consulting from Hart, as well as two professional suits for interviews. Those hired for positions are then given a week's worth of business clothes – all for free.
“It's mainly women who have been out of work for an extended period of time, so they are often in transition,” she said. “(Sometimes) they are on welfare, or coming from a homeless or domestic violence shelter.
“Since the recession, it's (also) people who have been laid off after working at a job for ten years or so, that maybe went business casual, and have no suits anymore,” she said. “They go back to a career center for retraining, and need new clothes.”
Certain months of the year, the store is also open to regular customers, who can buy excess donated clothing for themselves. Proceeds go to benefit the group's non-profit work.
This year, the group expects to open it's storefront sometime in October.
Despite her expertise - and half the salary she made as a paralegal - Hart said she's not looking for a new job anytime soon.
“I was making pretty good money, but when I started this, there was just no looking back,” she said. “I don't regret it a bit, and someday, I'm sure I'll make that money again. I don't know when – but I'm happy, you know? And I make other people happy, and I think that's the main thing.”
Those interested in making a monetary or clothing donation to Tailored for Success can visit their donation page.