Today’s Millennial on a Mission is not only a (future) fellow Syracuse University graduate, (congrats to the class of 2015!) but she’s also a entrepreneur with heart for giving back to her community. Her nonprofit organization, Style Lottery, is a sustainable fashion philanthropy nonprofit that hosts “pop-up swaps” where guests can swap their lightly used clothing items with each other and donate what is un-swapped to organizations that serve women in need throughout the community. Now that she’s on the cusp of entering the job market, she hopes to launch a career within corporate social responsibility and/or philanthropy.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Timi Komonibo.
A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Timi went into college as an undeclared major, convinced (in her words) “that all Nigerian kids were supposed to excel at science and math”, but she struggled to fit into that cultural archetype. Instead, she noticed that she was stronger at writing and creative projects. “I took classes in almost every liberal arts department,” she recalls. “At the end of my four years, I graduated with two majors– one in Communication Studies and another in African Diaspora Studies. After graduating, I joined Teach for America and taught middle school math and reading in my hometown of Houston, TX.” On Sunday, Timi will graduate from Syracuse University with a Master’s degree in Public Diplomacy.
CC: What has inspired you to pursue your choice of career? Who are some individuals you admire in and out of your field of work? What challenges have you faced in building your business/brand, and what have you learned from them?
TK: My internship at a global pro-bono firm helped me see that partnerships between the public and private sector can create innovative solutions for the world’s challenges. I care deeply about issues surrounding sustainability because it is an area where collective effort could bring about a great change. Women like Helena Helmersson at H&M and Sheena Matheiken from The Uniform Project inspire me because they are rethinking fashion’s impact on the world. Women are driving the eco-fashion movement and the solutions are limitless.
Style Lottery came to be because I wanted to give my friends and I a way to swap our clothes with one another. Teaching people to “restyle, reuse, and reward” with their clothing instantly became our mission. Our goal is to be a resource for people wanting to make a difference through fashion. We want to empower people and show them that every eco-friendly action is making a difference. I have been reading anything I can get my hands on about the circular economy, zero waste, and eco-fashion. From my research, my team and I have discovered that the average woman has about $500 of unworn clothing in her closet. We thought to ourselves, why should unworn or unwanted clothing be thrown away when we can provide an eco-friendly way to swap clothing and give back to women in the community?
One of my biggest challenges has been educating people about sustainable fashion. From the start, we knew we had to undo several misconceptions around second-hand clothing and swap. We did focus groups and surveys trying to get better understand our consumers. Whether it be the clothes that find a new home rather than ending up in a landfill or the girl who receives a shopping spree thanks to generous donors, we see what adding a conscience to fashion does.
To Timi, being a Millennial on a Mission means to know where your talents, interests, and passions line up and work relentlessly to bring the three together. “I have found that in Style Lottery, and since starting this endeavor, I have found myself taking bigger and bigger leaps of faith because I believe in my vision for a more sustainable and compassionate world,” she says. Timi is starting a Kickstarter in mid-May, and she admits it will be one of the scariest things that she’s ever done. “I’m doing it so we can expand our work with a Style Lottery fashion philanthropy bus.” Her advice to millennials looking to launch their own ventures? Do it anyway. “Is your dream so big that it scares you? Good. Do it anyway. Of course, take time to plan but make sure action follows soon after. But make take a risk and see how big of a splash you can make.”