As a first-generation American, the Dream It Real project is one that truly hits home for Coach chief executive officer Todd Kahn.
The son of immigrant parents, Kahn was the first person in his family to get a college degree, which set him on the path to a successful business career. Now Kahn is determined to give back to those less fortunate than he was.
Today, the Coach Foundation, the brand’s charitable arm, will kick off the latest iteration of its Dream It Real initiative. The goal is to provide 5,000 students from underrepresented communities in North America, China, Japan and the U.K. by granting scholarship and mentorship by 2025. In addition, Coach is partnering with the non-profit organizations The Opportunity Network and Bottom Line to select students who will receive four years of tuition.
“I’m the poster child for this,” said Kahn. “I’m the son of immigrants and was the first in my family to graduate college. So this is really personal for me.”
Kahn said data shows clearly that children in the lowest economic communities “really fall off the cliff after high school,” he said. “So if we can help them get through college without debt, that’s the best thing we can do [to set them up for success].”
Although Coach has been involved in various Dream It Real initiatives since 2018, Kahn said this is “deeper” and more “intense” than its other programs that award high school students at historically Black colleges and universities one year of tuition in addition to mentorship and career development. This enhanced initiative is intended to “really make an impact on individual lives,” he said.
To announce the program, Coach has created its first Dream Week from Aug. 9 to 16 where it will donate 5 percent of sales in its North America stores, up to $1 million, to the Dream It Real Fund. In the U.K., 5 percent of sales next week, up to $150,000, will be donated to the U.K. Youth charity.
Customers in Coach’s stores can also personalize bags with limited-edition Dream It Real motifs made in collaboration with six artists, and inspired by the stories of Dream It Real students.
Kahn said in addition to the “very significant amount” of money that the brand is expecting to raise for the fund, it is enlisting the help of its store associates to promote the initiative and serve as mentors to the students. Tapestry, Coach’s parent company, has a goal for its employees to contribute 100,000 hours by 2025 to charitable causes.
Kahn said Coach opted to include the U.K. in this first enhanced initiative since it’s not only an important market for the brand, but also the location of its headquarters for Europe and the Middle East.
Kahn said Dream It Real is not only important to him personally, but to the brand as a whole. “When you think back to the beginnings of Coach,” he said, “it was a dream by two immigrants and six artisans in a loft in SoHo. Who would have imagined they could compete with all the great companies in the world?” And in this 80th anniversary year, he said, Coach has proven that dreams can be realized. “And nothing does that better than education.
“The Coach Foundation has really excavated education as one of our core values. It’s something we feel really passionate about.”