(a real life fairy-tale of a very different kind)
As a Hispanic American originally from Los Angeles, I’d always wanted a Quinceñera, one of the most important celebrations in Mexican culture; a ceremony on a girl’s fifteenth birthday with a wedding-like dress of bright colors and matching cake, to mark her passage to womanhood. Unfortunately, when my parents divorced it just wasn’t possible. Years later, as I thought about turning 40, I joked openly on Facebook that I would make my girlfriends wear big puffy dresses and we’d go dancing to celebrate the #Quinceñera I never had – of course, I would rename it a Quadentraceñera (a word I totally made up). I told everyone on Facebook that instead of 14 girls in my Honor Court I would demand 40 women escort me from childhood to adulthood. My Facebook posts included a wide array of traditional Mexican dresses, photos of lavish cakes and even videos of the dances traditionally performed at the ceremony. My girlfriends joined in on the posts voting on their favorite dresses and keeping the conversation lively. Then something #magical happened…
Through #social #media, a Hispanic boy named Alberto, with a very distressed background, had seen my posts because his teacher was using my Facebook page as a teaching tool. He came up with this idea that he could make a dress for a woman he’d never met, that lived across the country, simply based on her Facebook posts. How did I respond?
This little boy didn’t even wait for my response before he started sending me amazing hand drawn dresses… A LOT of them!
I was flattered, honored and incredibly inspired. I knew I had to bring this talented spirit an opportunity to see himself as a real fashion designer. To see himself as a success. The dress deserved an audience. Seems like a crazy reaction to a Facebook exchange, right? Well…
Everyone is familiar with the story of the glass slipper that changed a young girl’s life forever. I’ve always believed that the true magic was not in the glass slipper itself but rather the opportunity that the young girl was given by her Fairy Godmother to attend the Prince’s Ball. It was this young girl’s ability to turn the #opportunity into her own happily ever after that has captured my entrepreneurial imagination since I can remember. Could I give this boy an opportunity that would fuel his entrepreneurial spirit for years to come? I had several Fairy Godmothers (teachers) who had provided me opportunities to shine as a kid.
Like a true entrepreneur my inspired idea began to grow and grow and grow….
For almost two decades, my company Synergixx, has hired young people (16-21) that didn’t necessarily have experience to work in #sales, #media, #production, and #marketing; allowing them to work with industry professionals, #celebrities, award winning #musicians, set designers, #photographers, and #entrepreneurs. NOT AS INTERNS. As respected, paid team members. We give the ‘unqualified’ person the chance to contribute and experience different roles within our company with the goal of creating entrepreneurial spirit and drive within them. It’s a part of our corporate DNA. So, when I told the #Synergixx team about the boy on #Facebook they were inspired to turn this big idea into big opportunity that would create a ripple effect of lasting #impact. Here’s how we are doing it…
On May 7th, Synergixx will host a 40th Birthday Gala in support of youth opportunity. The Gala is themed as a Cinderella’s Noche Latina Quadentracenera including the big dresses, incredible cake, a live band, and other Latin fanfare/customs. This event, which will take place on the 33rd Floor of the historic PSFS Building (now the Loews Philadelphia Hotel), has been transformed into a #fundraiser supporting three organizations that provide some type of youth opportunity.
Locally, Philadelphia’s Covenant House helps homeless teens get off the street and provides the opportunity for them defy their situation and raise to their personal success. Synergixx employee Lauren Kettermen sits on the board of this amazing organization and we have supported her efforts here year after year.
Hailing from the nation’s poorest congressional district, Open Hydrant Theatre Company is a group of passionate young actors who display a depth of talent that has taken them from the South Bronx to Broadway. Founded by Luis Reyes Cardenas and Sarah Rosenberg (Rosie) – the stars of Showtime’s documentary ‘Shakespeare High’ – its focus is to help inner city kids make it to college and Broadway using the power of Shakespeare and performance. Rosie is also Charlie’s High School Drama teacher and one of her Fairy Godmothers.
And from Pacoima, CA is iLEAD, a tuition-free project-based learning studio that promotes deep and lasting education while celebrating independent thinking, cooperation, and the development of critical 21st century life skills. Samantha Sidman, a high school friend of Charlie’s, is one of the school’s passionate 5th grade teachers and who connected the young 5th- grade fashion designer with Charlie.
Attendees of the Cinderella’s Noche Latina Quadentracenera Gala are asked that in lieu of birthday gifts they make a donation to fund youth opportunity. Synergixx will split all #donations equally to the three organizations. With a little more than a month to go until the Gala, more than $5,000 has already been donated towards these three deserving groups. How are we creating lasting impact?
For Philadelphia’s Covenant House the hope is that the money raised will help eliminate the current statistic that 1 in 3 kids will be approached by a human trafficker within 48 hours of being on the streets. Getting teens off the street and giving them the opportunity to get back on the road to success. The opportunity to redirect their own lives.
For Open Hydrant, the opportunity the donations will provide is for them to take their Bronx students on the road to other high schools to spread the message that no matter what your zip code, college, Broadway and beyond are open to you.
And for iLead, the donation will be used to fund the class dreams of the 4th and 5th grade of this innovative school. The children themselves will be given the opportunity to design their own dreams come true.
When I was younger, I was blessed to have many Fairy Godmothers and Godfathers that simply gave me the opportunity to discover my own success. The desire to inspire impassioned #youth and fuel their own entrepreneurial spirits is not only near and dear to my heart it is also woven into the mission of my company. What better way to say thank you to those that created opportunities for me over the last 40 years than to continue to generate opportunities for others in a meaningful and fun way. By creating opportunities we are creating pathways for on-going success in the lives of these youth. This is completely in line with our company’s success track.
But what about the dress?
There is much anticipation over the dress being designed by 5th grader Alberto that I’ll be wearing during the event. In order to make his designs a reality, I reached out to Stephanie Nichols, one of Philadelphia’s most talented and professional costume designers. She’s been working with Alberto to take his designs from drawing to dress-form. She has been coaching him on #SKYPE about dress design, an opportunity few young fashion designers get to experience. Stephanie has promised Alberto that I won’t see the dress until the night of the event- my dress fittings are blindfolded! At the same time, Synergixx has arranged for Samantha to fly into Philadelphia with Alberto to see his dress come to life right before his eyes. Everyone in attendance will get to witness this boy meet his dressmaker face to face and admire his first original fashion piece. All his designs will be on display throughout the evening.
Women have been challenged to choose a gown fit for Cinderella’s ball with as much #Latin flare as they can muster. They have been encouraged to go out of their own comfort zone. Men will arrive in black tie or evening suits outfitted with colors to match the 40 person Quadentraceñera Court. Throughout the evening guests will show off their Gala attire which many have been planning for months and get to know the three youth organizations better. Dinner and dancing will be accompanied by traditional and non-traditional Latin music played by Yerason Orquesta Charanga. This group won the 2013 GRAMMY for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media for their work on Woody Allen’s Academy Award Winning Film, Midnight in Paris.
Synergixx is passionate about making this Gala a night to remember so that everyone involved in the story and who hears about it will be inspired to get involved in these deserving organizations. Personally, I know that people, women especially, don’t spend enough time focusing on living out their dreams. I never had the Quinceñera at 15, so I created the opportunity years later – this I hope inspires people both personally and in business to write their own stories. Perhaps the dress, the cake, the music and a little Bibbity Bobbity Boo that evening will serve to inspire all attendees to become a Fairy Godmother or Godfather in their own worlds. Being #entrepreneurs and #change-makers in #business means we have a responsibility not to ‘pay it forward’ but to clear a path and encourage others to walk towards their own success. This is what I believe is the key to becoming a great company that has longevity and legacy.
While the Gala is by invite only, Synergixx is thrilled to have already received support and donations from like-minded businesses who are caught up in the fairy-tale surrounding these three youth organizations even if they cannot attend the Gala in person. To contribute to the fairy tale go toFundYouthOpportunity.Eventbrite.com.
I’m excited to share the details of this event as they unfold!
P.S. While I can’t see the dress before the event you know I am hunting for the perfect pair of shoes to turn 40 years old in! Ole!