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Photography by Beth Carter

Beauty may be fleeting, but it can build confidence and connect us to one another in uplifting and empowering ways.

Top Buttons Boutique is a nonprofit organization that operates out of an upscale thrift store open to the public for shopping. They have three locations, each situated in the downtowns of Lakeland, Bartow, and Winter Haven, with their office spaces being in Lakeland.

Before starting Top Buttons, Sarah Powers began the Wearing Confidence Program in 2012 — but not with the goal to sell clothing. The vision of the program is to build self-worth inside and out through education and provision of resources.

At Top Buttons Boutique, customers can purchase both new and gently used clothing items and
accessories.

“We began with the heart to provide desperately needed resources to young women and inspire them to know who they are and present that to the world without compromise and without limiting their opportunities,” explains Powers.

To build partnerships, Powers had conversations with local organizations, explaining her passion for young women and using fashion as a tool to connect with, inspire, and equip them. Top Buttons now partners with about 28 organizations that serve at-risk young women between the ages of 11 and 25. Once the girls have enrolled with them, they are invited to attend Top Buttons’ educational events and boutique sessions in which they are matched with a personal stylist and are able to have their hair styled in addition to selecting free clothing items. The Wearing Confidence Program includes haircuts, touch-ups, and styling.

“Providing not only clothing but also personal hygiene and beauty became a really important part of the Wearing Confidence Program,” says Powers. “I hate using the word ‘beauty’ because it doesn’t seem like the right word, but when we talk about skincare, makeup, and hair, we reference that by using the word ‘beauty.’”

The Beauty Bar features a clean and inviting aesthetic, allowing for an inviting environment to help women look and feel their best.

While the Lakeland Top Buttons location has The Strand Salon next door, the Winter Haven location is the largest Top Buttons and the first one to have a full beauty bar concept due to the convenience of a larger unit. They currently have two salon chairs with the potential to add a third.

“While we are extremely grateful for The Strand, we wanted to have our own beauty bar so that when we’re serving girls in our Wearing Confidence Program, we have the chair to wash their hair, cut, and style it,” says Powers.

“We want people to know the fullness of what we’re doing; we’re not just a shop or salon. We are first a nonprofit; that’s why we started. Having a shop allows us to meet people and share the mission every day.”

Sarah Powers Founder and CEO

The beauty bar is free for the girls in the Wearing Confidence Program, and Top Buttons also allows hairstylists to pay rent and bring in their paying clients. Due to recent events surrounding COVID-19, however, they are currently looking to rent the chairs to more hairstylists in order to generate additional revenue for the nonprofit.

Top Buttons plans to continue to grow their connections in Winter Haven and develop a volunteer base there. They also plan to eventually establish a similar beauty bar in Bartow, but they have not had the space for it yet.

“We want people to know the fullness of what we’re doing; we’re not just a shop or salon. We are first a nonprofit; that’s why we started. Having a shop allows us to meet people and share the mission every day.”

The future of Top Buttons is bright, as they have had many requests from people to start a Top Buttons in their city.

“For two and a half years, I’ve said, ‘We’re not ready.’ We have a good model and a lot of systems in place, and now we have the legal and financial framework put together where people can replicate what we’re doing if they follow the guidelines that we’ve established,” says Powers.

Their first location outside of Polk County has recently opened in Nashville, Tennessee. As their partnerships grow and word spreads, Powers and the Top Buttons’ team hope to continue educating young women about what beauty looks like in an overly critical world, empowering them with the confidence to prosper wherever life takes them.

For more information on how you can support Top Buttons, visit topbuttons.org.

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