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Times of the Islands Magazine

Founder of 'Dress for Success SW Florida' Talks Mission to Empower & Encourage Women

Jun 21, 2017 10:36PM ● By Kevin

From left to right: Donna Noce, WHBM Brand President Barbara Dell, CEO of DFS SW Florida Lori Mross, Board Trustee

Dress for Success SW Florida gave Bonita Springs a special treat, booking Donna Noce as the keynote speaker for its annual signature event, A Fashion Night in Black & White. The event was held on Friday, May 12, 2017 the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs. 

Noce is the president of White House Black Market and the founding board president of Dress for Success SW Florida. She has been an important leader of the nonprofit since it was founded in 2010.

The event's theme was Never Give Up. Noce spoke about her journey and the importance of empowering and encouraging women. We had a chance to catch up with Noce after the event for a special Q&A.

Times of the Islands: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Have you always had a passion for empowering others?

Donna Noce: I believe that women have an innate desire to help people. It’s in our DNA to nurture and empower and encourage. Our mission at White House Black Market (WHBM) is to make women feel beautiful every day. Helping people inspires me. Empowering others is a contagious feeling that guides me both as a professional and as a human being, allowing me to put things into perspective. I was raised by amazing parents that taught me to stay grounded, believe in myself and most importantly to always lend a helping hand, and a generous heart to others. We all can do something to improve the world around us and make even a small difference in someone else's life.

TOTI: Tell us a little bit about founding the Dress for Success SW Florida nonprofit. When and how did that get started?

Noce: I helped initiate Dress for Success SW Florida and served as founding board president because I saw the fundamental need to bring this life-changing organization to our community. For me, it’s about inspiring women - all women - to feel beautiful and reach their fullest potential both professionally and personally. I’m proud to say that since Dress for Success SW Florida was founded in 2010, we’ve served over 3,500 local women. Women are referred from more than 30 different local SWFL nonprofit referral agencies.

TOTI: What is the mission for DFS? What do you hope to achieve?

Noce: The mission of Dress for Success is to promote the economic independence of women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. Since starting as an international corporation in 1997, Dress for Success has expanded to more than 135 cities in 16 countries. To date, Dress for Success has helped more than 775,000 women work towards self-sufficiency. At White House Black Market, we believe in the importance of helping the community in which we live and work. And I believe there’s no better organization than Dress for Success, which shares the same commitment and heartfelt passion to making a difference in women’s lives.

TOTI: What's been one of the most memorable/rewarding moments so far?

Noce: I’m honored to be a part of something bigger than me. To be able to be an advocate for these women is so near and dear to my heart and at the heart of the brand. Being part of this organization from the beginning and watching it grow is truly rewarding. In supporting this cause and sharing a message of persistence, perseverance, and lessons learned, I hope to inspire others as they go through their own journey. The biggest reward is helping other women succeed and achieve their dreams. There are so many moments of pride and accomplishment and the most rewarding are always meeting and listening to the incredible women that DFS has supported. These women are remarkably strong, determined and inspiring. I am honored to be in their company and proud to know that I have played even the smallest part in empowering them to find their life success.

TOTI: What are some of your goals for the future? Where do you see DFS heading?

Noce: Dress for Success has come so far since we opened our doors in SWFL seven years ago. We now have a Naples and Fort Myers career center where women can seek counseling, career advice and be suited for interviews and their future jobs. Currently there are plans to start a new program, called Women Empowered Through Employment Series. A committee of business leaders will help guide women who are underemployed or unemployed through a 4-6 week course with the goal of leading them on a path of economic independence and self-sufficiency. There will always be a need for the services Dress for Success provides. As a community, we need to ensure their future by supporting education and programs that empower women to give them the leverage they need to become our future business leaders and entrepreneurs.

TOTI: I know that you recently spoke at a White House Black Market event! How did that go?

Noce: A Fashion Night in Black & White is Dress for Success’ annual fundraising gala. Our associates volunteered their time to help the Dress for Success clients feel beautiful. Clients attended a styling session in our Bell Tower boutique and selected an outfit to model for the fashion show. On the night of the event, they had their hair and makeup done before they walked the runway in confidence to the encouraging applause of the crowd. To see the transformation and smiles on these women’s’ faces was incredible. In this moment they are empowered. WHBM gifted each client’s runway look for them to take home following the event. This year we had our biggest crowd and raised a record amount, over $96,000, exceeding expectations. I was honored to be the keynote speaker and share a little bit about my journey. We all have successes and failures and each one is a learning opportunity.

TOTI: What are some hobbies you enjoy in your free time?

Noce: My passion is spending time with my horses. I found this amazing hobby late in life and these beautiful creatures have given me endless hours of joy and peace. The connection and bond between rider and horse is one of incredible trust -. A good life lesson for any relationship. However, without question is time with my husband Frank. We've been married for 36 years and he's my best friend. He's the wind behind my sails and the strength that keeps me going.

Keep up with all of Dress for Success SW Florida's latest events by visiting their website