As the youngest web editor ever hired at Hearst Digital Media, Tammy Tibbetts launched three websites: MyPromStyle.com (now Seventeen.com/prom), MisQuinceMag.com, a website for Latinas celebrating their Quinceañera (15th birthday), and DonateMyDress.org, the first national directory designed to encourage teen girls around the country to donate their special occasion dresses to those who could not afford them.
Now at 26 years old, Tammy is the President of She’s the First, the non-profit that raises money for girls’ education in Africa, Asia and Latin America (which she founded in 2009 when she was only 23!). In its first year alone, She’s the First sponsored approximately 30 girls to help them become the first in their families to graduate high school.
She’s the First has raised over $25,000 for girls’ education—enough to send 250 girls to school.
Read on for our interview with Tammy, the incredible woman who started it all.
MyEveryzine: Give us a little bit of background. How did you land your dream job at Hearst Magazines?
Tammy Tibbetts: When I was in high school, I discovered a love for newspaper reporting, so in college, I pursued journalism and became an investigative reporter for the College of New Jersey student newspaper. I then pursued internships in New York City at Seventeen, JANE, and Ladies’ Home Journal, dead-set on becoming a magazine editor. A few weeks before graduation, I heard of a job assisting the Director of Content at Hearst Digital Media and accepted the offer on a freelance basis, thinking I’d leave when the glossy editorial assistant job in print magazines came calling. But when it did, I turned it down and decided to stay in the digital magazine business.
ME: How did these experiences help you start up She’s the First?
TT: Ultimate Prom and DonateMyDress.org gave me the experience I needed to ultimately build She’s the First. Inspired by some volunteer work I had done in those first two years of living in NYC, in 2009, I launched She’s the First as a media campaign on YouTube, with the help of other visionary young women, especially Christen Brandt, now our Director of International Operations. She’s the First is now a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization sponsoring girls’ education in the developing world, with a team of Millennial women, who all became connected to the cause through word of mouth and Facebook.
ME: How was She’s The First born?
TT: I never set out with the objective of starting a nonprofit or a movement like She’s the First—it developed organically, while I was busy concentrating on other things. In one of those a-ha moments, I thought, what would happen if the style and structure of the campaign that I launched for DonateMyDress.org merged with the cause of education for girls in the developing world? There is a tremendous need to address this issue.
ME: Tell us about your first trip to Tanzania and Liberia. How did it inspire you?
TT: Worldwide, nearly 1 billion people have had no schooling or they have left school after less than four years. Nearly two thirds are women and girls. I was running the sponsorship program for a foundation serving children in Liberia at the time, and after my first trip to Liberia in December 2007, I saw what a transformative impact an education could have on a child and how it created so much opportunity for their future—their only hope of breaking the poverty cycle. I wanted to deliver a call to action to a young donor base who may only be able to afford $5 here, $20 there, but who have such a vast network, especially on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, that we can combine all these small donations into a large impact. The name She’s the First came about when we thought about how education enables a girl to break barriers, set a new precedent—and most of the girls we are sponsoring through She’s the First will be the first in their families to graduate and hopefully go to college. At this point, we’ve sponsored more than 250 girls worldwide.
Photo Courtesy of She’s the First
ME: She’s the First has a lot of cool fundraisers, but it’s probably best known for its tie-dye cupcake bake sales. How did the cupcake craze start?
TT: In Fall 2010, Lindsay Brown, then a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame and now president of her campus’s chapter of She’s the First, organized the first tie-dye cupcake sale with her soccer teammate Maddie Fox. The team raised $900 to sponsor three girls at Kopila Valley Children’s Home in Nepal. Photos of the bake sale were uploaded to shesthefirst.org, Twitter, and Facebook, and in the months following, other students nationwide started to use the same recipe to host fundraisers for girls’ sponsorships, which ultimately inspired the National Cupcake Bake-Off campaign. [Currently, Lindsay is a Top 5 finalist in Seventeen’s Pretty Amazing Cover Model Contest. She will appear in the October issue of the magazine, and perhaps even on the cover!]
ME: Tell us about the National Tie-Dye Cupcake Bake-Off. How can students get involved this year?
TT: Last November, the campaign drove 100 teams of Millennials to bake thousands of cupcakes and raise more than $22,800 in just eight days to sponsor the education of 48 girls in eight countries. These young women get the opportunity to continue their studies in areas of the world where impoverished families frequently sacrifice their daughters’ education.
Now, we’re gearing up for the Second Annual National Tie-Dye Cupcake Bake-Off, in which students from all 50 states will host simultaneous bake sales on November 12-18 with a goal of raising $50,000 for girls’ scholarships in eight developing nations. Sign-ups to hold a tie-dye cupcake bake sale during the fundraising week officially begin September 4th.
ME: What is the best way to gain sponsors?
TT: We have tons of fun fundraising ideas on our website. It’s all about combining style and substance—you can have a blast and change the world all at the same time.
ME: How could high school and college students become more involved with She’s The First?
TT: Our independent campus chapters host one fundraiser a semester for a sponsorship in the She’s the First directory, while spreading awareness monthly through their residence halls, student center, local community, and of course, social media. Students who are interested can apply here. High school students can also begin She’s the First groups. We’d love to get you set up so you can bring the spirit of She’s the First to your school!
ME: Do you have any advice for people looking to create their own business/project?
TT: Surround yourself with smart, inspiring people—peers, students who are younger than you and professionals who are older and wiser. And don’t let perfection get in the way of better. Each day, you can move one step ahead in achieving your overarching goal.