Tucked in a small, closet-like space in The Pearl in 1998, Karen Fishel and Barb Attridge, DFSO founders, could probably have never imagined where their vision would take them. But if you have ever spent any time with either of these amazing ladies, you will instantly see their passion and singular focus on helping women change their lives for the better. “We are on a mission to assure that every woman has the opportunity to become economically independent. We are doing that by providing professional clothes, a network of women supporting women, and a broad array of career development tools to help the women get and keep a job and build their self-confidence,” states Karen Fishel.
Karen and Barb have always surrounded themselves with like-minded smart and passionate women to help get the organization off the ground. There was always a bout of scrappiness and “let’s just figure it out as we go” in the air in those early years. 17 years later, Barb and Karen are the recipients of the 2016 Portland First Citizen Award and will be recognized at the 88th annual Portland First Citizen Banquet on May 26th at The Nines, Portland, from noon to 1:30 p.m. Barb and Karen undoubtedly do not focus their energy on winning awards, but instead on the disadvantaged women that receive the organization’s help each and every day with the aid of numerous volunteers, staff and employees of local companies.
Before founding Dress for Success Oregon, Karen worked in marketing at Nike and Barb was a CPA at TriMet. They met nearly 30 years ago through a Career Maker workshop they both took to explore new career options. The two started Dress for Success in 1998 after Karen saw an article that intrigued her in People Magazine. Karen called her good friend Barb to tell her about the organization and together they started the first Dress for Success on the west coast.
Barb has now retired from DFS, but still stays involved and Karen serves on the DFSO board. They have created a strong foundation that will help women for years to come.