The social impact sector is filled with many passionate people with innovative outlooks on the world’s greatest problems. Amongst those people, one such passionate leader is Jeannie Barsam.
After leading Inventory Management in Fortune 500 retailers, including Gap Inc, Michaels, Talbot’s, and Signet Jewelers, Jeannie left the corporate world to create a business that was more than just another fashion company. Today, she is the Founder and CEO of Gifting Brands, a nonprofit e-commerce company with a unique sustainable solution for excess inventory.
Jeannie started Gifting Brands with a mission to create one of the largest marketplaces where brands can donate inventory and help make the world a better place.
Let’s shed some more light on her journey as a social impact leader.
Growing through Challenges
Jeannie’s journey as a leader in retail spans over 25 years working for many amazing companies like Gap Inc, Target Corp, Talbots, and Signet Jewelers. Just recently, she left Michaels Craft Stores to focus on Gifting Brands. She has had the honor of working with retail legends like Mickey Drexler, Theo Killion, and Jenny Ming from whom she has learned so much over the years.
Although Jeannie is grateful for her mentors, she struggled to find women executives to follow early in her career as a young professional. She expresses, “Those of us who aspired to be in the C-suite had to pave our own way to get there. Working in uncharted territory, I made mistakes along the way but also learned a lot that I can now pass along to the next generation of women leaders . I reflect today and realize I did not do a great job of balancing work, family, and volunteering in my community very well. As a woman in a leadership role, I believed that I had to work twice as hard to get ahead. I sacrificed vacations and family time because I thought I had to be available at all times to ensure the company ran smoothly. I also did not have time to volunteer in my community. In hindsight, I would do things differently. Taking a vacation and spending time with your family actually helps you work more affectively. You are able to come back renewed with great ideas, a fresh perspective, and joy from spending time with the ones you love.
As a result of these learned lessons, Jeannie now spends her time giving back in different areas of her life by volunteering her time, mentoring young professional women, and creating innovative sustainable solutions such as Gifting Brands in an effort to give back. She also spends more time with her family which brings her much joy.
Solving the Issues of Excess or Unsold Inventory
As a leader in merchandising and inventory management, Jeannie witnessed the life cycle of clothing often resulting in waste. This led to the inception of Gifting Brands. She knew there had to be a better way for fashion companies to solve the issue of excess or unsold inventory.
It is estimated that there are 13 million tons of excess apparel and manufacturing products that get thrown into landfills. This inventory often gets burned, which causes pollution. Knowing the industry, Jeannie wanted to give luxury brands a new solution for their unsold inventory. She came up with the idea that solves this problem in a sustainable and socially responsible way – she calls it Inventory Philanthropy™.
How it works:
- Luxury and upscale brands donate their excess apparel and accessories to nonprofit Gifting Brands
- Gifting Brands put the items on its upscale shopping website www.giftingbrands.com
- When consumers purchase the items, Gifting Brands gives back 100% of the profits to charity
It is a win-win-win scenario. Brands get a tax write-off for their inventory and get to add to their corporate social responsibility goals, consumers get to choose the charity and feel great shopping while giving back to causes they care about, and charities are able to further their missions with the money Gifting Brands raises.
Gifting Brand’s vision is to stop the mounting inventory that goes into landfills and instead use the inventory to help women, children, and families in need.
Reducing Waste and Pollution of Earth
Jeannie is grateful to have garnered expertise in merchandising and inventory management. By applying her knowledge about the retail industry to Gifting Brands, she is able to partner with brands and offer a new sustainable solution to their products, ultimately making less waste that is currently polluting our earth. Gifting Brands also gives luxury brands a new way to manage their excess inventory that consumers will applaud. Consumers want to shop with brands that are socially responsible. Gifting Brands calls what it does Inventory Philanthropy™, because not only does the brand become a philanthropist, so does the consumer who purchases the items.
Leveraging Information to Solve Issues Consumers Care about
In Jeannie’s prior positions as SVP of Inventory Management, she worked tirelessly on finding the best and most efficient inventory management systems that combined easy usability for merchants and planners and provides impactful data that serves the consumer while reducing waste. Currently, Jeannie utilizes online e-commerce software such as Shopify. These platforms have made it easier for business owners to leverage information and data to help solve issues for their consumers, and in Jeannie’s case, making it easier for a larger impact to support nonprofits.
Bringing a Change
We asked Jeannie what change she would like to bring to the fashion industry, if given a chance, to which she said, “By utilizing my previous experience in the retail industry, my goal is to offer an innovative and sustainable solution in managing inventory for the fashion industry that will positively impact our environment and our world. In the current sustainability life cycle, donating to charities is not always included. I would like to change that.”
Maintaining Elevated Image of Fashion Brands
Further, Jeannie mentions that Gifting Brands is a nonprofit that gives the fashion and luxury industry a new solution to sustainability by giving retailers an option to avoid putting their inventory in landfills while still maintaining their elevated brand image. While this offers environmental sustainability, it also offers social responsibility with its profits being donated to charity.
In the long run, she envisions Gifting Brands being a viable option for luxury and upscale brands to utilize in their sustainable mission.
A Piece of Advice
In her advice to emerging leaders in the fashion industry, she says. “There is so much opportunity in today’s world to make a difference. The fashion industry needs new ideas from budding entrepreneurs, so don’t be afraid to take a risk and let your voice be heard.”