A big congratulations to Belle To, who has been named Trinity College’s coveted FS Alum of the Year for 2021.
Belle To (TCFS 2013) is the founder and CEO of the start-up The Impact Stylist, a personal styling service that allows people to donate clothing and buy pre-loved and sustainably made garments. The company aims to keep excess textiles out of landfill, make ethical shopping easy and grow the market share of sustainable brands. The Impact Stylist donates 5 per cent of its profits to charity.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Belle also started WeStandTogether – an initiative that helps international students and workers struggling to pay for food. By seeking partnerships and donations, she has been able to distribute hot meals, food vouchers and care packages to those in need across Melbourne.
What does being named our FS Alum of the Year mean to you?
I am deeply honoured to receive this award. Trinity College has such a diverse community and to be named alum of the year, amongst all of the amazing previous recipients, is very humbling. Personally, I just wanted to give back to the community that’s given so much to me, and to be recognised for it is incredibly motivating. I am also inspired by the impressive alumni cohort and the effort that the College has taken to allow us to stay connected beyond graduation.
I would like to sincerely thank Trinity College for giving me this award. I am very grateful and appreciative of this unexpected recognition.
How would you describe your time at Trinity College?
I moved to Australia to attend Trinity College at the age of 18 in 2013. While I was lucky to have my sister with me, this was my first time living in a foreign country and I had to deal with culture shock and being away from my family.
The community at Trinity College, however, welcomed me with open arms. I fell in love with the diversity of the cohort and I made friends with people from all over the world. I explored Melbourne and all of the different cultures I was newly exposed to. I also received immense support from the staff at the College, notably the Admissions Officer, who went above and beyond to support me in my first year.
Trinity College was an amazing experience and it definitely made the transition into life at university and living in Melbourne much smoother. It was a time that I look back on very fondly.
What's been the greatest achievement of your career so far?
The greatest achievement of my career has got to be launching my own social enterprise. I left my full-time job in 2019 to pursue being an entrepreneur with no idea where to start and since then it has been a steep learning curve.
I am passionate about fashion, sustainability, and making an impact on people’s lives. I feel very fortunate to be able to combine all of my passions into my business and I don’t see myself doing anything else.
As a former heavy consumer of fast fashion, I came across the shocking statistics around how much waste is being produced by the industry. I then launched my first startup in April 2020 with the goal of tackling the global textile waste issue. Considering all the uncertainties in the midst of the pandemic, we survived as a business and got into three different accelerator programs. This is where I pivoted my startup’s business model and developed a strong support network to make the entrepreneurship journey more worthwhile.
Where does your drive to help people and create a more sustainable world come from?
My compassion for helping others stems firstly from my family’s traditions. I grew up watching my grandparents and parents lead their lives helping others and prioritising getting involved in charitable initiatives. I was taught to always treat people with kindness and rise by lifting others up.
During the COVID-19 crisis, I realised I am luckier than many and had access to everything I needed in a time where many were struggling to support themselves as the economy shut down, especially my community of international students. With businesses being closed, these students were left with no income, no job opportunities and an uncertain future, whilst being isolated from their families and support networks.
So I started WeStandTogether - an initiative to help ease food insecurity amongst these students. We partnered with different organisations to distribute food vouchers, meals and care packages directly to the students in need. We raised more than $50,000 and collected countless donations of food.
This experience opened my eyes to the struggles that charities and non-profits face when raising funds, so I committed to furthering the direct impact I could have in supporting them. I pivoted our business model to donate 5 per cent of our profits to support various causes that we are passionate about worldwide.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a doctor when I was growing up. For as long as I can remember, I felt drawn to helping people and being a doctor was naturally the best way that I saw myself doing so. As I was exposed to different areas of study at Trinity College and university, I realised that my passion lies within the business world and there are many ways I can pursue helping people while in this field. I am optimistic about the impact I can have on the world through my work and I hope to dedicate increasingly more time to philanthropy as my career evolves.
What are your plans for the future?
I think I am quite lucky to have found my passion – being a social entrepreneur – and this is what I’m pursuing in the long run with The Impact Stylist. I am planning to secure a seed investment and am looking for co-founders who can help me with that. The Impact Stylist has shown so much potential and I believe that we are going to make waves as we grow.
I am considering going back to business school to upskill myself in the technology space and expand my network to help make this happen.