DRESSING THE PART: Having been rejected by 152 potential investors before finally landing the seed money for his company UsTrendy, Sam Sisakhti has been sharing his own story with teenagers to help them fend off cyberbullying and body shaming.
The UsTrendy founder recently launched “The Believe in Yourself Project” to emphasize the importance of a positive body image among young women. The idea for the confidence-building initiative stemmed from the company donating dresses to underprivileged girls for their school dances, prom and homecoming. Many of the recipients had shared their insecurities, and Sisakhti had also been alarmed by negative body-shaming comments posted on UsTrendy’s social media. Troubled by the notion that “girls had to be perfect — a 10 — to be beautiful,” he has been organizing events through the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and at low-income housing facilities to give teens a forum to discuss their concerns.
“We also have them tell us what their dreams and goals are. Then we try to motivate them. We plan on going back in three months to check in to see how they’re doing. We’re tying more dress donations to how they do academically and what their goals are. So there will be a rewards system built in there,” Sisakhti said. “Everyone’s goals should be different – it could be making the dance team.”
The UsTrendy founder shares his own story at the events. “I got a job in finance and I absolutely hated it. I quit after four days and just moved to California and started pitching investors. I got rejected by 152 investors to be exact and then Tim Draper was number 153,” said Sisakhti, noting that the blue chip investor also has invested in Skype, Hotmail and Tesla.”
To date, UsTrendy has given away “a couple thousand” dresses, most recently at a Bangor, Me., event. The company’s goal is to donate 5,000 to 10,000 dresses next year. At this point, all of the donated dresses are provided by UsTrendy, which is a site for retailers and independent designers. There are currently 20,000 labels sold. “In order to sell on the UsTrendy web site you have to send samples for us to check the quality. We used to just give them out to bloggers or celebrities. Then we decided, ‘Why don’t we put these to good use?’” Sisakhti said. “I’ll also outright buy dresses from the sellers, but the majority is stuff that we have gathered over the years.”
Although potential donors have offered to give UsTrendy used dresses for the initiative, Sisakhti said he hopes to partner with brands to give the girls unworn dresses.