Meet Amanda Munz, Founder of The Fashion Foundation
Amanda Munz is the definition of a hustling young entrepreneur. We met in Bryant Park as she balanced both a hot cappuccino and her Android, her oversize Louis Vuitton purse perched on a park chair. While we took a few shots of her for this piece, a man asked for us to take a photo of him and his wife in front of the central fountain. Amanda obliged, and ended up exchanging business cards- he was a professional fundraiser. “I founded a nonprofit that helps the fashion industry give back,” she explains. He is already sold.
By harnessing the waste of the industry she was exposed to as a fashion intern, Amanda, 27, funds children’s education needs around New York City. We had Amanda answer a few questions about why she believes that philanthropy within the fashion industry matters to her and why it’s OK to not wake up at 8 am.
1) In your words, tell me about The Fashion Foundation.
The Fashion Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that serves as a platform for the fashion industry to eliminate waste and give back. I get designers and retailers to donate their excess inventory and samples to our organization. With the proceeds from sales, donations, and fundraisers, we buy school supplies for local New York students.
2) What inspired you to start The Fashion Foundation?
I always dreamed of my life to be in the fashion industry and when I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) I thought I would be a buyer, but I ended up going down a completely different path. At 16, I had my first internship in the fashion industry at Swimwear Anywhere, one of the largest swimwear manufacturers in the U.S. and I ended up interning there for five years. I left Swimwear Anywhere to do my senior internship at Michael Kors in their footwear showroom (seriously a DREAM internship being surrounded by designer shoes all day, every day).
Something in my mind changed during my senior year at F.I.T. I continually saw brands throw sample merchandise in the garbage. We would create samples in dozens of colors, keep one color, and "drop" the other 11 colors. Even after the sample sales and giving merchandise to employees and friends, there was always merchandise left over that often ended up in the garbage. I knew there had to be a way to harness these wasted goods somehow.
That's where my life changed. I knew I couldn't spend the rest of my life working sixteen hour days to make a pair of shoes to end up in the garbage. I was about to graduate from college, and I told my parents I wasn't going to get a "real job," and I was going to get my masters in public administration to figure out how to start a nonprofit.
I went right to Baruch for graduate school after undergrad, and that is where I learned the fundamentals to start a nonprofit. I was brainstorming this idea I had about the fashion industry giving me their samples and utilizing them to raise funds for a cause, and my professor said: "You have the fashion part down, now where do you want the money to go.” So, I started thinking about education and school supplies, and that's where everything came together.
It started with asking family and friends for donations, begging them to clean out their closets. Today, it has taken off by word of mouth. I get calls like "I have 1,000 sweaters to donate to your showroom, when can you pick them up?"
The Fashion Foundation has delivered over $50,000 worth of school supplies to local NYC students as a result of the sample sales from our online site and showroom. We're giving students everything from clean uniforms, art supplies, backpacks filled with school supplies, sports equipment and so much more. Schools need fundamental things, and we purchase it ourselves for them, so we know exactly where the money is going.
At one public school, the girl's softball team asked us for proper helmets. Because of lack of funds, they had been using men's football helmets all year. We changed that.
3) As a young entrepreneur, how do you start your morning? What does your average day look like?
I HATE mornings. I rarely wake up before 8 am unless I have to, but I also work into the wee hours of the night (clearly, because I'm doing this interview at 12:07 am).
I used to feel so guilty about not waking up at the crack of dawn to start my day. But I've recently realized it's okay to beat to my drum and make my schedule different because at the end of the day I'm still working 60-70 hours per week, just maybe not the same hours as everyone else.
Most days I'm in my office and honestly, I worked REALLY hard to have my office so being there makes me feel empowered and proud. I always said I couldn't wait to have my desk and chair because for the first two years I worked from a basement on a folding chair and folding table.
I usually have something planned every night, whether it's a networking event, charity event, customers in the showroom or dinner with friends. Being social and networking has gotten me everywhere so far, so I try and prioritize it.
I do everything at The Fashion Foundation: I maintain the showroom, ship out packages, handle school partnerships, put together fundraisers, host shopping events, you name it, I do it. I do have interns and a host committee that helps me put together our annual fundraisers and gala which is a huge help, but I am the only formal employee.
4) I see you have a great relationship with Rebecca Minkoff. Tell us more.
I was introduced to Rebecca at a charity event for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society last year, and Rebecca asked me about my charity. I told her what we do, she asked for my card, and one week later her assistant emailed me saying they had 16 boxes of merchandise they wanted to donate to us. I opened the emailed, cried, and got in my car three hours later to go pick it up.
Every single designer donation I have received has been through networking, and we've got some massive donations in the last few years; 10,000 pieces from a jewelry company, 5,000 pieces from a pajama company, 1,100 pounds of sweaters and pants from another business, and that's just some of them.
When designers hear the story about why I started The Fashion Foundation, they can relate to it because they all have samples lying around their showroom or warehouse that they don't need anymore. Most companies are just happy that we're clearing out their space for their new inventory. Plus it's a tax write off for them, win/win for everyone!
It's also so important for me to show designers why they donate their samples to us. Because of that merchandise, we're able to provide school supplies, art supplies, gym equipment and holiday gifts to thousands of local students each year. We brought Rebecca Minkoff and 50 of her employees to a school in Brooklyn to hand out holiday gifts and school supplies and Calvin Klein employees to a school in the Bronx to hand out new school supplies for their incoming 6th graders.
There's nothing like handing a kid a new pencil to write with or a warm winter hat or a clean uniform, and when people see that first hand, it resonates.
"There's nothing like handing a kid a new pencil to write with, or a warm winter hat, or a clean uniform."
5) What is your ultimate goal for The Fashion Foundation?
I always say "this should be in the city" so my ultimate goal would be for our showroom to move to Manhattan from our current base on Long Island, NY. With all the fashionable women that are in the city, our showroom would be a hit.
Working with more designers is another ultimate goal. I keep hoping that more designers will want to support us with donations, but also take the opportunity to come into a school with us to see how they're making an impact locally.
For the education side, I want to expand our program reach to students outside New York. I love working so closely with our New York schools because I get to see all the smiles first hand, but I know there are so many schools around the country that need something as simple as a pencil and notebook for their students.
6) How can readers connect with you and the Foundation?
Follow us on Instagram! We share everything on there, so those followers are the first to know.
Reach out to me directly, I love hearing what people think about our organization and mission, and I always need some outside opinions. Please, if you have any connections that can help The Fashion Foundation grow, reach out!
Want to support Amanda? E-mail her: firstname.lastname@example.org or donate to The Fashion Foundation directly here.