We had the good fortune of connecting with Amy Fass and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amy, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
I think most people do not understand the role that nonprofits play in society. To begin with, the word “nonprofit” is misleading – it refers to a tax-status, not a business model. While nonprofits ARE businesses, they actually have a double bottom line. Not only does a nonprofit need to have healthy financials to survive (and to receive funding), it needs to create a SOCIAL BENEFIT to society, as well. It is in effect running two businesses. I would argue that thriving nonprofits are some of the best run businesses around since they have to thrive in not one, but two arenas. In fact, I would argue that many for-profit businesses could learn a great deal from nonprofits
As a nation, we have removed government from many “social service” areas, replacing many safety-net service agencies with entities in the private sector. Thriving nonprofits are based on a passion to help others combined with an entrepreneurial spirit to make a difference in the world.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Shoes That Fit” is a concrete response to the overwhelming problem of child poverty in the United States. We tackle one of the most visible signs of poverty in America by giving children in need new athletic shoes to attend school with dignity and joy, prepared to learn, play and thrive. Our mission is much larger than shoes—we remove a basic barrier to a child’s success and invest in their self-esteem, providing an often overlooked item that is intrinsically important to a child’s sense of self.
This is our 30th Anniversary, and we have come a long way from our start as a purely volunteer-driven organization. We provided shoes to more than 126,000 children in 2021, and we are on the verge of tremendous growth with our partners.
To grow, you always have to look outside your box of the things you are currently doing and take “calculated risks.” You have to take chances on things that may not always succeed in order to find the ones that will. You have to have secure financials but never give into a starvation mentality that stifles so many nonprofits. You have to plan strategically.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Claremont is an adorable college town tucked into the San Gabriel foothills – it’s like a slice of the east coast tucked into SoCal. You can get to the mountains, the desert and the ocean, each in an afternoon. In Claremont, I’d take them on a walking tour of the historic Claremont Colleges and a visit to Pomona College’s new award-winning Benton Museum and the Claremont Art Museum (just outside my office in our old train depot); a visit to the Claremont Folk Music Center (founded by musician Ben Harper’s grandparents); and lunch, shopping and general people-watching in the Village. On a Sunday morning, we’d got to the Claremont farmer’s market and listen to some live music, take a hike through the 5-mile Wilderness Park loop up in foothills, followed by wine and dinner in the old Claremont Packing House that’s been converted to restaurants and shops on the ground floor with artists’ lofts above. Then we’d sit by the fire-pit in my front yard, playing with our block’s pack of dogs, and watch the little kids next door zoom around our yards….
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Hard to choose just one! But I have to call out the amazing staff at Shoes That Fit who have grown this organization tremendously with their commitment to meeting children’s basic needs in a way that ensures their dignity and promotes their self-esteem. Their dedication, wisdom and humor have made work a joy and I would not be here without each of them!