Allyson Ahlstrom has more on her plate than the average high school junior: she’s a soccer player, a member of the track team, a pianist, and junior class president. That would be plenty for most, but Allyson made time to found Threads For Teens, an organization that assists less fortunate teen girls in her area, and she now continually finds about 15 hours of her week to devote to being CEO of it! In January of 2010, the ambitious 16-year-old began Threads For Teens, an organization that provides a customized shopping experience for under-privileged girls aged 13-17 in the Sonoma County area of NorCal who are nominated by a social worker, foster parent, or school counselor. Each girl receives “two tops, two bottoms, a dress (formal or casual), a pair of shoes, a jacket, two accessories, and other small items”.
To obtain her first donations of clothes, Allyson contacted over 300 clothing companies and a mere few hours later she was able to call Tommy Hilfiger one of her donors! Allyson originally crammed all her donations into her bedroom, before moving them to a storage space. The Threads For Teens boutique was born when, in August of 2010, family friends Lori and Bill DenBeste allowed her to use their vacant deli as a workspace. Threads For Teens is currently a recipient of the 2011 National Violet Richardson Award and the 2011 Kohls Cares for Kids Local Award, while Allyson herself has received the 2011 Red Cross Real Hero Award. The organization hopes to expand and create a scholarship fund. You can get involved with Threads for Teens by liking their facebook page or by donating a formal dress! ME sat down with the fab teen CEO to hear the secrets of her success.
ME: What inspired you to create Threads for Teens? Did you have any mentors who helped you with the creation process?
AA: I read a book called Generation Change by Zach Hunter. The book was about different service projects teenagers had done. I was incredibly inspired and felt like I could actually do something myself to make a change. Before, I felt I was too young, but after reading that I knew that I wasn’t. From the start, Threads for Teens has been my project, however, I have had support from many different people. The most influential in helping and supporting Threads for Teens have been my parents, and my teacher Ms. Greaney.
ME: What is the number 1 thing you’d like people to know about Threads for Teens?
AA: Threads for Teens is not just about clothing. Threads for Teens is about providing a boost of self-esteem in girls that have been through some extremely tough times. Everyone deserves to feel beautiful.
ME: What are your personal career goals?
AA: I have many careers that I would love to partake in. I am most interested in opening my own company, being a politician, or having my own talk show.
ME: How would you describe yourself?
AA: I am a focused, organized, and dedicated person. At the same time, I am random, bubbly, and positive.
ME: Who inspires you?
AA: God, my parents, and the girls that come to my boutique. All the girls who have been through the boutique have suffered through horrific circumstances, but most have such a strong sense of courage.
ME: Threads for Teens is about providing fashionable clothes for girls your own age. How would you describe your personal style?
AA: Well, I go to a school that requires a uniform so there is not much personal freedom there. When I’m not at school, I like to dress classy and semi-dressy. I am definitely not a fashionista though. Some days, I throw on old jeans and a sweatshirt.
ME: What advice do you have for girls your age who aspire to make a difference?
AA: Anyone can make a difference. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or where you come from. None of that matters. What matters is your desire to help others. Pin-point what you want to do, and go after it. There are many people out there that would love to help you succeed.
ME: What are some ultimate goals for your program?
AA: The ultimate goals of Threads for Teens are to improve self-esteem, provide hope, and give love through gifts of clothing.
ME: What has been the most moving and rewarding experience in your career as CEO and founder of Threads for Teens?
AA: Watching the girls faces as the walk around the boutique, as they come out to show what they have tried on, I love watching. The comments are also sometimes meaningful as well. There are signs hanging around the boutique with messages along the lines of “You are beautiful”. One girl looked at one, and said, “Thank you, no one has ever told me that before.” That is what I am here for, to help boost self-confidence in girls that don’t necessarily have any.