Photo: Courtesy of jacketsforjobs.org
Entrepreneur Alison Vaughn is Founder and CEO of Jackets for Jobs, Inc., a nonprofit that has provided employment etiquette, career skills training and professional attire to 20,000 job seekers since 2000. In 2013, Jackets for Jobs opened an office in Botswana (Africa). Vaughn represented the organization on the NASDAQ floor where she rang the closing bell in 2006 and 2014. Vaughn is a Goldman Sachs Scholar, a graduate of the investment firm’s 10,000 Small Businesses Program; and she is one of Martha Stewart’s “Dreamers into Doers,” a group of entrepreneurs who turned their dreams into reality. Alison recently spoke with the magazine about her organization and its continuance to give back to the community and why honoring her late sister through her work with the non-profit is so important.
You are the Founder for Jackets for Jobs located in Detroit. Tell us about your organization?
Jackets for Jobs, Inc is an award-winning non-profit organization that provides career skills training, employment etiquette and professional clothing to job seekers. Since opening our doors in 2000, we have assisted over 21,000 Detroit job seekers. We provide the “life jacket” for survival. 10 years ago we formed a partnership with TJ Maxx. They have invested over two million dollars into our organization. This partnership and the affiliation with the City of Detroit’s Workforce Development has allowed us to change many job seekers lives in Detroit.
We have 2 offices in Detroit and one in Botswana, South Africa. A highlight of the organization was ringing the closing bell on NASDAQ on World Humanitarian Day. It was nice to be recognized as a global organization and to ring the bell on a significant day. By the way, the stock market was up that day.
Why is it important for you to honor your late sister through helping the community?
My late sister Cheryl and I were separated after our father died. She was with her mom and I was with my mom. 20 years went by and I wanted to see her. When we reunited, my first question to her was, “What have you been up to?” her response, “I’m dying of cancer.” 6 months after that reunion, she died. While helping with the funeral arrangements, I found out that she was on welfare. I realized that I needed to do something to make a difference because now I have 3 nieces with no mom and I’d hate to see them repeat this welfare cycle. So I started Jackets for Jobs with the mission to help empower women to do better.
You started in a 12-by-12-foot closet inside of a church and have since grown to help thousands of women enter back into the workforce. What were your challenges earlier on?
Before I started Jackets for Jobs, I hired flight attendants for a major airline. I decided to leave the friendly skies and start my own company. I stepped out on faith. I prayed and ask GOD to order my steps. Jackets for Jobs’ was a GOD idea, not just a GOOD idea. Therefore, GOD opened doors for me. My biggest challenge was money. Leaving a company where I received a paycheck every two weeks to not knowing when or where I’d receive a paycheck was very scary, to say the least. I went to the library and researched non-profits. Remember, this was 17 years ago, so I checked out several books. Nowadays, you can just google everything. The books that helped me were Non-Profits for Dummies & Grant Writing for Dummies. Those books helped me get over many hurdles.
Founder and CEO of Jackets for Jobs Alison Vaughn
Can you recall a memory through the organization that changed your life?
An event or memory that changed my life was appearing on NBCs, “The Today Show”. Al Roker came to Detroit and broadcasted live all morning from our office. The segment was called, Lend A Hand. Where he travels across the country once a year and helps a charity and grants their wishes. Here it is many years later and people are still talking about us being on the Today Show. They(The Show) granted us with tons of gifts and a brand new Toyota Sienna Mini Van which the company still owns. Me being on that show caught the attention of the cast members of Donald Trumps hit NBC TV show “The Apprentice”. The cast members were creating a calendar and they wanted the proceeds to go to a charity and they selected Jackets for Jobs. They took the idea to Donald Trump and he donated thousands to the organization. Who knew back then that he would now be President of the United States. I talk about this and my experiences with other billionaires in my book Ms Goal Digger, Success is Sexy! Many people who know me would probably think my appearance on the Oprah Show was life changing which it was but it was something different about The Today Show.
What do you want the readers to know about Alison Vaughn? And in what ways do you replenish your spirit to continue to give to others?
God has really blessed me. I truly have guardian angels. My late sister and father are watching over me. I love sharing words of wisdom with others and helping others succeed. My motto: What you do for others, GOD will do for you. My book, Ms Goal Digger, Success is Sexy! Has lots of words of wisdom and is a great book to help you with your goals to go to the next level.
For those that don’t know me, my theme song should be, “Who’s that Lady?” by the Isley Brothers because I’m in a good space in my life. “I’m living my Life like its Golden” by Jill Scott.