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Miranda’s Story | SHORTLISTED

Over 25 years, Dress for Success Vancouver has supported over 44,000 clients around the Lower Mainland. In addition, we’ve supported and championed countless other women and gender diverse individuals. With a community like ours as their foundation, Dress for Success Vancouver staff, clients and volunteers are empowering women wherever they go.

Miranda Sam, founder of women’s clothing brand SHORTLISTED has a decade long story of being inspired by Dress for Success. Giving back through a silent auction many years ago came full circle in 2023 when she dressed Kate Brunger to receive her Inspiration Award at our Success Luncheon.   

Miranda’s Story

When I was in university, I dreamed of starting my own clothing brand. So, in this situation, what does a student do? 1) Stop paying attention in class (but be there physically) and 2) start sketching!

Not only did I design clothes while professors lectured, I designed stylish events too. One of my proudest accomplishments was putting together an alternative to the stuffy networking events Commerce students were desperate to get into, but despised.

My goal was to put on a fashion show, using the school’s funds. I pulled this off by including a dining etiquette portion and inviting a personal stylist and an etiquette coach to teach students about business style. Because in a sea of black suits, you gotta stand out. But the biggest difference with Style and the City was the charitable portion: 100% of silent auction proceeds went towards Dress For Success Vancouver.

From the jump, this organization resonated with me so much because it helped women get into positions of power–through clothing. I thought that if clothes could have such a big impact on a woman’s life, that’s the business I want to be in, and DFS would be the organization I’ll support.

Fast forward to real life adulting, and my fashion dream fell by the wayside. I had a mortgage to save up for and a family to start, so saving up for enough business capital seemed like it’ll remain a pipe dream. Worst of all, I lied to myself that writing about or working for entrepreneurs was enough to satisfy my fashion ambitions. Year after year passed, then it became a decade. The stress of not starting my own business started to weigh more and more, when finally…

The Covid-19 pandemic kicked my butt physically (with debilitating symptoms) and motivationally (to finally start a fashion brand). After much research and reflection on what kind of brand to create, I decided to scratch my own itch: I was going to serve short women 5’4” and under.

As luck would have it, the first time I wore my designs publicly, a woman stopped to tell me how much she liked my outfit. I was flattered and politely told her it’s not available for sale–yet. She loved the style and functionality so much she couldn’t help but to come up with different ways to promote the brand. 

She was most insistent that I get into Dress for Success’s annual Success Luncheon. “You HAVE to be there!” she excitedly told me, and I thought to myself, “Okay, she seems more excited than I am about it. It could be worth a shot.”

That same afternoon I emailed Dress for Success Vancouver and connected with Tasneem Damji, Director of Programs. Fortunately, she was also petite and resonated deeply with my brand. Throughout the next couple of months, I managed to get my nascent brand into the silent auction (next to donors like lululemon!) and secured a spot as a market vendor.

As luck would have it (again) when I was selected to be part of a YWCA business plan writing cohort, Tasneem was also in the group. The day we focused on our Sales Plans, I confessed to the group I didn’t have ideas to reach short women. You might proudly display the random factoid that you’re a “daily cortado aficionado” on your online profiles, but who proudly wears “shorty” as a badge of honour?! 

The natural saleswoman in our group suggested that I get my clothes on petite women of influence at events: speakers, award winners, influencers… and that was when Tasneem stepped in and said that the 2023 award winner at the Success Luncheon happened to be short. My eyes widened; my heart started racing. Turns out I’d seen her a couple of weeks prior.

I took action right away: I reached out to the Dress fro Success Vancouver team to make my case for why a burgeoning brand should dress the award winner. I hustled to get a size Medium made because all my samples were only made in size Small. I knew I had to do everything in my power to make this work.

At the end of the day my brand, SHORTLISTED, made its public debut on Kate Brunger, the Inspiration Award recipient at the Success Luncheon… in front of 500 attendees, no less. I also got my first presale orders there too!

Never would I have imagined that an organization I held dear to my heart for so long would serve as the solid and supportive foundation to launch my clothing brand on. I’m forever grateful for all the chances Dress for Success Vancouver took on SHORTLISTED. 

Who would’ve known that organizing a silent auction for Dress for Success over a decade ago would mean one day my clothes would first make its way to someone’s closet also through a silent auction? My takeaway is that we’re all connected in this world, and sometimes it pays off to pay it forward, even when you don’t know how karma will circle back to you.

Don’t think that my story ends here. Oh, no no no. This is just the beginning.

My next steps are to donate a portion of proceeds to Dress for Success Vancouver once SHORTLISTED is operational and business is running smoothly. Regardless of the success of this business, it’s a privilege to continue being one of the organization’s biggest advocates, for life.

And for that, I won’t be so silent.

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Are you a founder or business owner who is values aligned and wants to give back? Email Amanda Sayfy, our Executive Director, about cause marketing and sponsorship opportunities: amanda@dfsvancouver.org

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Never would I have imagined that an organization I held dear to my heart for so long would serve as the solid and supportive foundation to launch my clothing brand on. I’m forever grateful for all the chances Dress for Success Vancouver took on SHORTLISTED.