live / 2014

Clothes The Deal: Dismantling Barriers to Employment

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Clothes The Deal

Clothes The Deal empowers individuals to achieve economic self-sufficiency by collaborating with employment programs and providing resources


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

We partner with employment and vocational programs in Los Angeles, providing business clothing and job preparation workshops to their clients. We address specific barriers that interfere with employment opportunities to those who are low-income and cannot afford professional attire, those who have spent a long period of time out of the workplace and need instruction on business attire and etiquette, and those who are socially disadvantaged. Clients who may be equally qualified with competing job applicants will lose job opportunities if they cannot present a professional image. We would like to expand our community outreach, in order to serve more people in need and get more members of the community involved.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Clothes The Deal currently has two programs that we would like to expand: the Business Clothing Program and the Dress to Impress Workshops.

Business Clothing Program: Through a network of corporate clothing drives, donation drop-off locations, and donations directly from local manufacturers and retailers, we are able to collect ready-to-wear items for thousands of job ready clients. We hope to partner with more businesses and organizations throughout the LA community.

Dress To Impress Workshops: These workshops are designed to help educate and enhance the participant’s self-esteem and professional image for job interviews. Topics include business wardrobe, business etiquette, self-confidence, hygiene, skin and hair care. Workshops are interactive public forums for discussion of dress codes in various work environments. Also addressed is non-verbal and visual communication between coworkers/customers/clients, sample scenarios, problem solving situations and team building activities. We make it easy for participants to attend a workshop by bringing the clothing and services to them.

How will your idea/project help make LA the healthiest place to LIVE today? In 2050?

Today, we aim to help individuals get back on their feet and gain employment. Subsequently, we hope to decrease the number of people living on the streets and the number of families who live below the poverty threshold. In addition to higher living wages, they will ultimately achieve a higher quality of life for themselves and their families through things such as obtaining health insurance, purchasing healthy foods, and providing/obtaining a quality education.

The more people that we empower today by supporting them in their path back to the workforce, the more leaders and contributors we are cultivating for our communities tomorrow. By 2050, we hope that not only are local businesses and organizations invested in their communities but that the residents we empowered will contribute and help their communities grow. With more people in the workforce, we envision safer neighborhoods, no food deserts, and a higher quality of life for all.

Whom will your project benefit?

We serve low-income individuals in all of Los Angeles County. Men and women, old and young, people of all nationalities qualify for our services.

Clients must be: 1) low-income (according to the Federal Health & Human Services poverty guidelines) 2) currently unemployed 3) enrolled in an employment program, vocational training or educational institution

Some of the clients that we have had and currently have include veterans, homeless individuals, at-risk youth, mentally or physically disabled individuals, those recovering from mental illness or substance abuse, and foster youth.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

We have partnerships with many programs and non-profits throughout the county. An example of a few agencies we collaborate with are LA Works, Children’s Institute Inc., LA County of Education, The Salvation Army Bell Shelter, Single Room Occupancy Inc., Substance Abuse Foundation, U.S. Veterans Initiative, and Volunteers of America.

Our partners provide clients and ensure that they are low-income and searching for employment. By partnering with a number of agencies, we are able to provide services to a diverse population of people coming from different backgrounds and histories. A few of our partners are also able to provide funding for their clients, allowing us to reach a greater amount of people in Los Angeles by using our resources on those who cannot provide their own funding.

We also aim to collaborate with the community. We attend many networking events focused on employment and vocational programs, including those hosted by POWER (Providing Opportunities with Essential Resources), LA United Job Creation Council and the Department of Mental Health. Local businesses and organizations also provide clothing donations and host clothing drivers. Annually, we have about 40 volunteers serve a total of 5,550 hours. Volunteers include youth interns, community service volunteers, Temporary Subsidized Employees, and ReEmployability employees.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Live” metrics?

  • Number of households below the self-sufficiency standard
  • Rates of homelessness
  • Rates of unemployment

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

By providing business clothing and employment services, we arm low-income jobseekers with the tools necessary to obtain employment. We currently have about a 65% success rate in participants obtaining employment after receiving clothing and/or attending one of our workshops. Our primary goal is to aid in decreasing the rate of unemployment in LA, which currently is higher than the national average. Through obtaining job security, some of our clients who were once homeless are able to subsequently obtain housing and other clients have risen out of the poverty threshold.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Goal 1: Service to 700 low-income clients. Method (of evaluation): Income verification documents (TANF Notice of Action, General Relief Notice of Action, SSI Notice of Action, 2 month pay stubs). Collaborating agencies will assist with supplying income documentation.

Goal 2: Job placement rates. Method: Job placement rates. Clothes The Deal will evaluate job placement from a field sample of 400 clients out of the 700 served from the project. Client data base will be maintained and updated.

Goal 3: Increased employment opportunities. Method: Pre and post service questionnaires will be collected and evaluated to measure changes in various success indicators. Workshop questionnaires will measure information retained from workshops.

Clothes The Deal will update evaluations with quarterly reports and a final end of project report. Clients served from the project will also have the opportunity to voluntarily provide written, audio and video testimonials to share their stories.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

This organization was founded by a student of UCLA Anderson School of Business in 1995 as part of a school project. She distributed needs assessments to different organizations around the city and found that though there were many employment services, they reported that their participants were in need of professional attire and etiquette for job interviews.

In the past, our primary donors have had prior relationships with officers on our Board of Directors. However, we realize that in order to be a sustainable organization, we need to keep building and maintaining relationships with local businesses, organizations and our community members. In order to do so, we need to

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

We already have established relationships and partnerships with groups from different sectors of Los Angeles County. This particular project is aimed at becoming a more sustainable resource for the city, serving a greater number of people in need as well as increasing our community outreach. The funds from this grant will help us utilize social media more effectively and re-market our organization. We will also be able to provide more workshops to more people, helping to strengthen our relationship with existing partners and network/build relationships with new agencies. Because we are not starting from the ground up and already have a focus for the year, expanding our reach and our organization can easily be done in 12 months.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

1) Securing funds to ensure that our organization remains sustainable through the years. 2) Community Outreach

What resources does your project need?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
  • Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
  • Community outreach