Thrilled to chat with Lara Akinsanya as part of our inspiring mom series, showcasing everyday mom doing extra ordinary things. If you’ve been following the site, then you’ve heard me mention Runway Moms for a Cause . So naturally, I was happy to get the chance to talk to Lara Akinsanya, who founded the organization.
You’ve a Masters of Science in Biomedical Chemistry from Thomas Jefferson University. How did you make the transition from Science to Fashion?
I love science and academia and still work in that field. Fashion is a creative outlet (from science and life in general) for me.
When did you first discover your love of fashion?
After immigrating to the US from Nigeria, I wanted to fill a need for young ladies like me to wear African-inspired ensembles without it looking like a traditional costume design. I also want them to be able to find these designs in their local boutique, ready-to-wear as opposed to having it custom made. I discovered and learned the world of fashion from trying to fill these basic desires.
During the time you were launching your brand, what was the greatest obstacle you faced? How did you manage to overcome it?
The greatest obstacle I faced, while launching my brand, was to convince specialty boutiques to carry my line in their stores. I overcame the obstacle by making a few investments – I attended workshops geared towards developing business ideas and plans, attended a fashion incubator training program, and also invested in setting up booths in a few trade shows.
Why did you decide to start Runway Moms For A Cause? Have you always been interested in non-profit organizations?
I have always been involved in volunteering for my community – I volunteer at my local food bank, participate in charity walks, attend charity events. I have also volunteered to teach science to an elementary school class; helped prepared adults got GED exam; volunteered at hospitals and also an EMT. Volunteering is part of my life and it’s something I do to give back to the community.
I decided to start Runway Moms for a Cause (RMFC) because I see it as a way to blend together my love of fashion, volunteering, education, advocacy, and outreach.
RMFC is a fashion initiative with the mission to serve as a vehicle to raise funds for non-profit organizations. Each year, RMFC profiles and celebrates accomplishments of mothers who impact change in their communities while raising money for selected charitable organizations.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in organizing this event and how were you able to overcome them?
My biggest challenge is to get an all-volunteer team working with me to organize, manage and produce the show yearly.
Over the years, you’ve had quite a few shows and contributed to various charities, how have these shows, and the experiences you’ve had shaped you as a person?
My experience with RMFC, the shows, and the people that I have interacted with along the way has made me be more comfortable with asking for help in general, being more accepting (instead of allowing it to discourage me) of the “No” responses that I get, and being able to celebrate the “Yes” responses that I get.
What qualities do you look for when selecting moms for the show?
I look for moms that contribute to the advancement of women and children within their communities.
The proceeds from this year’s show will benefit Tigerlily, tell us about the foundation’s background and how you became interested in their mission!
Tigerlily Foundation’s programmatic goals are 1) to educate young women about breast health and encourage healthy lifestyle ; 2) to end isolation among young adult breast cancer survivors; 3) to improve quality of life for young survivors; 4) to provide practical hands-on services and support during treatment; 5) to create self-advocates; and 7) to decrease disparities regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion or culture.
I became interested in their mission because I think it is important to continue to educate, empower, advocate for and provide hands-on support to young women between the ages of 15-40 – before, during and after breast cancer.
How would you like to see Runway Moms For A Cause grow over the next few years?
I would like RMFC to grow into a national bi-annual event raising funds and awareness to more non-profits organizations tackling issues that affect women and children globally.
What’s your motivation to succeed?
Giving back to my community.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
Dream big; don’t doubt yourself.
What advice would you give to your 25-year-old self?
Seek out and surround yourself with people, experiences, and things that uplift your spirit because that is when your best self shows up.
If you’re in the DMV area, grab your friends, put on your most stylish outfit and head to this fashionable fund raising event – Runway Moms for a Cause
Date: Friday, May 8th
Place: The Westin Crystal City, Arlington, VA.
Time: 7pm – 10pm