Dress for Success Rotorua will launch Business Women Connect at the end of this month.

The initiative expands on its portfolio of programmes to help women both back into the workplace, and to develop career skills and confidence.

The initiative is a networking programme aiming to bring career women together with inexperienced and talented young people to share their experiences and develop their confidence, says Dress for Success president Michelle Pleydell.

"Our community of Rotorua businesswomen have an exceptional amount of experience and wisdom that can be passed on to other like-minded women starting out or reigniting their own careers," she said. "We want to bring that experience to our Dress for Success clients, as well as develop a series of networking events that inspires all businesswomen in our region." Dress for Success is an international not-for-profit organisation with a goal of helping women achieve economic independence by providing a network of support and professional attire.


It began in 1997 and has expanded to almost 150 cities in 20 countries, including seven in New Zealand.

The Rotorua chapter started four years ago and had dressed up to 150 people a year, said the group's chair Kathy Hawker, a former president of the Rotorua Chamber of Commerce, who is also co-ordinator of Business Women Connect.

"We're eventually looking to go into Tauranga, but are waiting for New York to give us the okay," she said. The group is run on a voluntary basis, with donated clothes that are laundered and selected to provide clothing for women seeking to come back into the workforce or change jobs. Clothes that are unsuitable for interviews are sold in their shop in Tutanekai St.

Although the non-profit is focused on women, it also provides some business clothing for men.

Ms Hawker said improving job-seekers' self-image boosted their confidence.

This month's inaugural Business Women Connect dinner event is scheduled for Third Place on Lake Rd, from 5:30pm, Wednesday, 30 March. The group is sourcing a professional stylist as a speaker for the event to reinforce the aims of Dress for Success.