Shantell Malachi, 30 

Founder and Executive Director, Dress for Success Central Virginia

click to enlarge PATRICK BIEDRYCKI

"I've seen things I wouldn't wish on anybody," Shantell Malachi says of growing up in Richmond's notorious Creighton Court housing project. Yet she resisted the negative influences around her, graduating from high school at 16. "I just chose a different path," she says.

Malachi is a full time support specialist for DuPont and also the founder and executive director of Dress for Success Central Virginia. "It's in line with my passion," she says, "which is helping people build careers as well as giving back to a community that I am all too familiar with."

Dress for Success is an international nonprofit that provides professional attire for underprivileged women who are entering the work force. But clothes aren't the whole solution, Malachi says. And that's where her career coaching business, Career Couture, comes in. "We want to put her in the correct outfit," she says, "but she's not going on an interview to sell a suit. She's going on an interview to sell herself." Services include help with résumés, mock interviews and monthly seminars that help the women continue to advance long after they get the job.

Malachi, who's also finishing a doctorate in organizational management and human resource development through Capella University, credits her mother for motivating her. A factory worker and single mom who worked 12-hour shifts, she did her best to shelter her daughter and provide stability, Malachi says: "I think she's the reason why I have a passion to help people go on to careers that bring fulfillment into their lives."

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