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All Women Deserve To Dress For Success

Pang Li Kin of Image Mission thinks every woman should be able to dress for success.

Pang Li Kin, founder and director of Image Mission

The struggle is real. Most of us spend hours, if not days, deciding on what to wear for an upcoming job interview — simply because we know there’s power in arriving in the right outfit. But for those aided by Dress For Success, a non-profit organisation that provides wardrobes for women looking for work, that brand-new suit or skirt could be a lifesaver. 

We speak to Pang Li Kin, founder and director of Image Mission (a registered charity that manages Dress for Success Singapore as an affiliate) about her work and how the rest of us can contribute to a cause that helps empower females to rise above economic difficulties — one outfit at a time. 

Tell us how Image Mission came about. 
In 2002, I left a career in marketing research to start a new business in personal development. My personal goal was to touch a life a day by helping my clients to transform themselves through personal branding and image management. Unknowingly, this led me to work with the underprivileged when I was president of the Association of Image Consultants Singapore from 2010 to 2013. It was at a grooming session for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance that I was inspired to take my growing passion to help people further.  

I eventually turned to Dress for Success Worldwide and put in an application to start an affiliate in Singapore. When it was approved in January 2015, I incorporated Image Mission Ltd as a company limited by guarantee (CLG) to manage the Dress for Success Singapore programme. 

Why did you decide to get involved in the Dress for Success programme? 
Dress for Success is an established global non-profit with 149 affiliates in 26 countries, and has helped nearly one million women to self-sufficiency. The thought of starting my own programme did cross my mind, but then I am also a believer in building on success and not re-inventing the wheel. It has a proven model with amazing resources to tap into, and a strong branding and reputation. At the same time, we are an independent entity and therefore are responsible for our own funding and development. This means that we are free to develop programmes that meet our market needs and find innovative ways to build our own funds to run the programmes. 

What are some of the key challenges of running the programme? 
We serve women by referral only, so the key challenge is using our limited resources to reach out to the over 8,000 disadvantaged women who can benefit from our services. We are 100 percent volunteer-based and rely on individuals contacting referral partners to reach out to their beneficiaries. We are also self-funded with no grants or external funds, so our progress is slower than what I had planned for when I started this charity.  

Our other challenge is in convincing potential donors and grant makers that what we provide is not just material or superficial (i.e. clothing), but something money cannot buy. We give more than clothes — every woman who comes through our door walks out with not only a bag of clothes, but also a ton of confidence, hope and belief that they can find employment to break out of poverty.  

Are you engaged in any fundraising activities?  
Yes. The Trivia Night is part of a quarterly series of ticketed networking events where the net proceeds will go directly to the charity. We have been conducting this since September 2016 and raise additional funds through raffle draws at the event. They are small scale as we have a small community of supporters and want to keep the cost low. Besides that, we accept donations. 

Have you any final thoughts about the achievements of Image Mission and its plans? 
We have done very well given our limited resources, and this is due largely to a fabulous team of board members and volunteers who give so generously of their time to make it happen for our clients.  

In addition, we couldn’t have raised enough funds to be sustainable without the support of our donors (of clothing and cash) and partners who faithfully participate in our events. 

We have set up a plan to reach out to more women by building stronger partnerships with referral partners and offering services that are easily accessible to their beneficiaries. This includes a career centre, providing career assessment tools, resume writing, and job search strategies plus Internet, computer and printing resources for clients. Our plans for the next three to five years are to build the Dress for Success programme to be known not just for clothes alone, but also for helping disadvantaged women build a future for themselves and their families.