The Sisterhood Boutique Celebrates Four Years of Empowering and Celebrating Young Women
by Kailyn Hill
Four years ago, the Sisterhood Boutique opened its doors to the public and has been changing the lives of young women ever since, enabling them with useful business skills and preparing them for a better, more empowered future. As the Sisterhood Boutique approaches its fourth anniversary and third annual fashion show, their original goal of showing women what they can do on their own resonates even stronger today, as the idea of a sisterhood and the power and beauty of femininity is becoming increasingly prevalent in the media and everyday life.
On the homepage of the boutique’s website, it says, “The Sisterhood Boutique was developed by Kadra Fiqui and other East African women between the ages of 14 and 23 who reside in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, and participate in the Brian Coyle Center Youth Entrepreneurship Program.” Not only does the boutique benefit the ladies who are a part of managing it, but it also provides affordable and stylish clothing to people in the community. The inventory varies as it is donation based, but regularly carries clothing with enough variety for women of all cultures to find something they love and can afford. Sisterhood recently expanded its inventory to include clothing for men as well.
The Sisterhood Boutique, located on a corner lot at 2200 Riverside Avenue, is a perfect example of the youth social entrepreneurship (YSE) programs that Sundance Family Foundation so passionately supports. Fiqui and her group of business minded East African friends gained inspiration and direction to launch their store after meeting Stella Richardson and other young women who developed a YSE start up clothing store in St. Paul called Express Youthself Clothing, a Keystone Community enterprise. Richardson, who is now part of the management team at Sisterhood Boutique, was instrumental in assisting with the boutique’s launch. Augsburg College School of Business, located across the street from the boutique, continues to provide management support, and Fairview Health Services donated the boutique’s coveted neighborhood corner lot space. Sisterhood Boutique provides opportunities to learn real-world skills regardless of background or upbringing, in the areas of entrepreneurial training, experiential learning, mentoring, job-shadowing, and leadership development activities.
The boutique offers three, 18-month internships that focus on entrepreneurship and business, college and career pathways, and civic engagement and leadership. There is a huge emphasis on one-on-one mentoring and relationship building with each intern. As each internship nears its end, they focus on creating a plan for each intern that incorporates their dreams and what they have learned to set them up for success in a future career. In four years, the boutique has gone from struggling to generate interest, to a waiting list for the internships with over 200 interns that have gone through the program.
Yasameen Sajady, the social enterprise manager at the Sisterhood Boutique said she is most proud of the summers there. They host Step-up internships throughout Minneapolis that allow them to “dive deeper into trainings, conversations and overall intern goals” said Sajady. They also offer sewing in the summer where the interns learn fundamentals and eventually more detailed parts of sewing clothing, in addition to delving more into civic engagement programs and conversations.
Youth social entrepreneurship programs like the one offered at The Sisterhood Boutique can be essential and are consequential for people from less represented communities. Programs in these local organizations not only have a positive impact on their communities they serve, but they also specifically reach out to youth who otherwise may not get to experience work readiness training, community engagement and life-skills development. Providing youth, especially minorities and women, with chances to learn real-life, marketable skills gives them an authentic opportunity to thrive in a good paying 21st century career. Sundance Family Foundation works tirelessly to find and support nonprofits that offer YSE related training programs. Sundance, in partnership with many community organizations, is also busy developing bridges and pipelines between older workforce ready YSE youth and employers eager to employ talented young adults. Busloads of youth and guardians along with YSE program directors are taken on tours to job sites, reverse tours are available for employers to visit YSE organizations in full swing, and experiential, wonder sparking job fairs called Wunderkammers are made available throughout the Twin Cities throughout the year.
The ladies of Sisterhood Boutique have been moving full-steam ahead in preparation for their Fashion Week that will culminate with the third annual fashion show. Preparing for the fashion show on March 20, 2018 at Augsburg has meant working months in advance with partner organizations to ensure that fashions, accessories, work staff participants, entertainment, social media and marketing are ready to go. Sajady said mid-February “Last week a group of volunteers from the American Refugee Committee and Progressive North came in to paint the store, redesign our layout and offer advice to our interns about jobs, school and life in general.” The boutique then hosted an open house for members of the community to come enjoy some sweet treats and check out the new digs prior to the organized chaos of Fashion Week.
The third annual fashion show will also function as a fundraiser for the first time ever. Sajady said “We are trying to fund a photo studio to support e-commerce and also teach interns about photography, lighting and editing software.” There are events almost every day of Fashion Week leading up to the third annual fashion show. Not only will they be fun, but also affordable. Each event will be supporting great causes and the community. For more up-to-date details be sure to check out the Sisterhood Boutique Facebook page.
Fashion Week: March 12-20, 2018
Monday 3/12, 5-7pm: Pints 4 Pillsbury @ Surly Brewing
Tuesday 3/13, 5-7pm: Breakfast 4 Dinner @ Hi-Lo Diner
Wednesday 3/14, 5-7pm: $5 Spa Day @ Sisterhood Boutique
Thursday 3/15, 4-6pm: Open Mic Night @ Cedar Commons
Friday 3/16, 5-7pm: Alumni Karaoke Night @ Encore Karaoke
Tuesday 3/20, 6-8pm: 3rd Annual Fashion Show @ Augsburg University