Top Buttons, located at 236 N. Kentucky Ave. is an awesome upscale thrift boutique with both new and gently used clothing items and accessories. The owner, Sarah Powers, is a mother of three daughters and is passionate about her mission to instill confidence in young women through a positive body image. Their boutique reopened last week at 25% capacity, and they also have online sales options.
How long has your business been open?
Top Buttons was founded in 2012.
What inspired you to open your business? Is there something about your personal background or history that made you uniquely suited to open your business?
As a mom of 3 daughters, Sarah Powers recognized that our culture teaches girls that in order to get noticed they have to be provocative and inappropriate. Immodest clothing is cheap and easy to take care of. Knowing how to put clothing together is difficult because girls are not taught about what fits their body type nor how to put clothing outfits together for jobs, school and every day. Their self esteem is often tied to the unhealthy attention they get from dressing provocatively rather than being valued for their talents, gifts and achievements.
With a background in youth ministry, a degree in social work and with a passion to build up young women inside and out, Sarah began working on a positive fashion resource. And in 2012, Top Buttons began. She went to organizations who serve at-risk girls and taught on positive body image and how to dress professionally. Additionally, she collected clothing to provide styling services and free clothing to the girls of these organizations. The Top Buttons team of volunteers grew as more members of our community desired to be a part of the mission.
In 2015, TB officially named our Program, the Wearing Confidence Program, serving girls 11-25 through enrolled organizations in our first physical location in Dixieland. The Upscale Thrift Boutique setting became the vehicle through which we could best offer our Wearing Confidence Program of free resources to our girls. We spent two years bringing in large groups of girls to our Dixieland location providing clothing resources and life skills education until we outgrew the space.
In January of 2017, we moved to downtown Lakeland and opened for public shopping in addition to serving girls through our Wearing Confidence Program. Then in November of 2017, we opened a Top Buttons in downtown Bartow and in 2019, we opened our 3rd location in downtown Winter Haven. Expanding our reach became essential as more organizations from around Polk county enrolled with Top Buttons for our free clothing and educational resources. We are funded through donors, corporate sponsorships, grants and events.
Additionally, through providing clean and curated racks of beautiful gently used clothing items at discounted prices, we serve all women in our community and help generate revenue for the operations and mission of Top Buttons. Women love to support Top Buttons through donating clothes and shopping.
The development of our Wearing Confidence Program (WCP) has always been our number one priority. The WCP not only offers boutique sessions providing free clothing and beauty resources, but we offer ongoing education as well in both small and large event settings. Our Building Up Girls Educational Events have grown each year since the start of our organization. Now in our large educational events we provide life skills and job prep training to approximately 150 at risk young women from enrolled organizations along with goodie bags from the community, free food, spoken word and a fashion show. Currently we have 28 organizations enrolled with us serving more than 300 young women each year. Partnering with amazing organizations offering this unique and greatly needed service is more fulfilling that we could have ever imagined.
If your business is family-owned or operated, can you tell us what that’s like? What roles do your family members fill in your business?
We have more than 60 volunteers (from surrounding churches, local colleges or high schools) enabling us to fulfill our missional objectives with excellence. Many of our Staff have teenage daughters who volunteer in the boutiques and or in the Wearing Confidence Program. It helps to reinforce healthy principals in their lives as they serve young women who have great need in our community. My own daughters serve in the boutiques as well.
Why did you decide to open your business in Downtown Lakeland? Do you have a special connection to the area? To Lakeland in general?
My grandfather, mom and myself were all born in Lakeland. I grew up in competitive water sports and spent much of my childhood on the lakes of Central Florida. While I have traveled and lived abroad, I am thankful to be back in my home town raising a family and running my own business. I am passionate about our community and seeing it continue to grow and thrive. We have come so far with many unique small businesses, as well as offering opportunity for big business to flourish expending our influence and reach across the Southeast United States.
What’s your favorite item, product, or service that you offer, and why?
Top Buttons is full of some of the most amazing vintage and high end thrift items. The young women we serve in our programs don’t get leftovers, they get the best. Our customers can always find a treasure as we curate racks full of only great quality and beautiful thrifted clothing items. We are very thankful our community keeps us in mind as they look to donate women’s clothing and accessory items.
When you think about your business, what makes you feel the most proud? What challenges or difficulties have you had to overcome in your personal life or in your business to get to where you are today?
Starting a nonprofit in a community full of nonprofits while offering a unique service is very difficult. It took many years of trench work to develop the relationship we have with the organizations we serve, with donors and our amazing customers. Also one of the most difficult obstacles I have faced as a female entrepreneur is breaking down the concept that I became a business owner because I wanted an outlet or a hobby. I’ve started Top Buttons because I am passionate about running a business that empowers women who benefit from our programs and who work for our company. My hobby is running, but Top Buttons is my calling.
What changes have you made to your business or how have you adjusted your business during this pandemic?
We had to cancel our annual fundraising event scheduled for April 4th and we had to close all boutique locations. However, we started selling our Top Thrift items and New boutique collection online. And even though we are unable to offer all of our program resources through our Wearing Confidence Program, we are working on providing essential personal hygiene items in baskets packaged with fun board games for our residential organizations like ONE MORE CHILD and Sheriff’s Youth Villa.
What is the most important thing for the community to know about your business right now? What’s the best way they can support you?
We began selling online through our @TopButtonsboutique Instagram account. We will deliver or ship items that are purchased. Through this account we will be selling our top thrift, vintage thrift and new boutique collection items on the account.
Please continue to keep us in mind as you clean out your closets. We will gladly accept your gently used women’s clothing and accessories. You can also purchase e-gift cards or donate by going to www.topobuttons.org/donate