“The resources available at FSU have definitely helped me to achieve my goals.”
When senior Jessica Bachansingh graduates from Florida State University this week, she will not only earn a bachelor’s degree in retail entrepreneurship. She will also leave college as the creator and owner of a successful nonprofit business that empowers women internationally.
“I chose Florida State because I wanted to study fashion, and FSU was the only Florida university with a retail entrepreneurship program,” Bachansingh said. “There’s a really great, diverse community here with so much to offer and so much to get involved in.”
Bachansingh took advantage of those opportunities and was able to develop her dream of using fashion in ways that could benefit others. She discovered a way to make that happen as part of a Girl Scout Gold Award project she organized in high school.
Bachansingh teamed up with a nonprofit group based in her hometown of Jacksonville that operated a school in Awasa, Ethiopia. As a high school senior, she raised money to travel to Ethiopia and set up a sewing training program at the school called Gifts for Confidence that taught students marketable skills.
“The goal was to create a sewing program that would help these girls learn to make scarves to sell and then earn money for their school,” she said.
It was a good idea, and Bachansingh arrived at Florida State as a freshman planning to take Gifts for Confidence to the next level.
“That was the pivotal point where it was time to take this idea and create a real nonprofit,” Bachansingh said. “The sewing training was moving along, but it wasn’t an official legal entity yet.”
Bachansingh decided to return to Ethiopia to implement a new curriculum for students and try to grow the program.
To achieve that goal, Bachansingh applied for funding through FSU’s Moellership Program operated by the Center for Leadership and Social Change. The program offers undergraduate and graduate students a chance to volunteer with a nonprofit organization for eight to 12 weeks.
Bachansingh received the funding and spent the summer in Ethiopia working on the sewing program. She wrote 21 lessons for the new sewing curriculum, translated them into the native Ethiopian language of Amharic, built the e-commerce website and registered Gifts for Confidence as a legal nonprofit.
“The Moellership program really helped to provide me the funding to kickstart this as a real nonprofit and also gave me the time to invest in Gifts for Confidence and be financially supported,” Bachansingh said. She considers this program to have been her most meaningful experience at Florida State University.
As a student, Bachansingh joined a lot of organizations related to her career goals so she could expand her skills and knowledge about leading a nonprofit.
Bachansingh is an active member of FSU’s Catholic Student Union and has served as the group’s public relations leader. She feels that experience connected her with a positive group of students who helped her achieve goals.
“Having a lot of friends in that community helped to support me,” Bachansingh said. “Additionally, serving as public relations chair helped me to improve my social media skills, which allowed me to enhance Gifts for Confidence.”
Bachansingh also took on leadership roles in FSU’s chapter of the American Association of Textiles Colorists and Chemists (AATCC). She was a public relations executive board member and later served as the chapter’s president.
As president of AATCC, Bachansingh organized a fashion show that featured sustainable and original outfits made of reused materials. The fashion show shed light on problems in the fashion industry and offered insights on the importance of sustainable and ethical fashion.
“That show featured a theme of ethical fashion, so we collected donated clothes and then upcycled them into new garments,” Bachansingh said. “I used the fashion show as a way to educate the audience about problems in the fashion industry because so many people are unaware.”
To gain experience in marketing, Bachansingh joined FSU’s Garnet & Gold Key Leadership Honorary — the university’s oldest leadership honor society. It recognizes students for their service, leadership and loyalty. Bachansingh was selected to serve as vice president of public relations.
Those experiences gave Bachansingh vital leadership and marketing skills, as well as insight on the fashion industry.
“I think all of my involvement has been really tailored to my niche in entrepreneurship, fashion and my faith,” Bachansingh said. “It definitely confirmed for me that I am meant to pursue entrepreneurship.”
After graduation, Bachansingh plans to work in product development at Kohl’s Corporate to gain experience in fashion and entrepreneurship before transitioning to lead Gifts for Confidence full time.
She hopes to expand Gifts for Confidence to every continent and provide different programs that provide opportunities to women around the world.
“The goal will always be to create a training program for a trade-skill job that exists within the community, it’s all about empowering women,” Bachansingh said. “It will always match the needs of the community.”
Bachansingh believes Florida State helped her flourish and gave her the support to bring her fashion and entrepreneurship dreams to life.
“The resources available at FSU have definitely helped me to achieve my goals,” Bachansingh said. “Having personal relationships with faculty and staff is so important because they’re here to support you; they’re here because they want to work with students; and they want to have a positive impact on you.”