A local wedding dress designer plans to travel to Uganda to assist entrepreneurs in setting up a bridal boutique that will fund further improvement initiatives in the region.

Lindee Daniel, a 12-year resident of Santa Monica, is collecting used wedding and bridesmaids’ dresses that will be rented out for weddings in Uganda. The profits will benefit Bringing Hope to the Family, a community organization based in Kaihura, Uganda, that aims to improve the quality of life for local families.

The inspiration for the project came when Daniel met Faith Kunihara during a previous trip to Uganda.

Kunihara, founder and executive director of Bringing Hope to the Family, proposed building a bridal boutique in Fort Portal to provide wedding services for local families. The business can rent out wedding and bridal dresses donated from the United States because the same types of dresses are popular in both countries’ ceremonies, said Daniel. Profits from this service could benefit the community directly because families often save over a year’s salary for the wedding. In addition, the nearest place to get wedding dresses is in Kampala, a 4-6 hour drive away from Fort Portal. A bridal boutique would make dresses more accessible to families and provide rented dresses at a lower cost.

Profits from the boutique’s services would support the organization in providing food, education, clothing, and medicine for the children of Kaihura. While donations of money and clothing will serve cover the start-up costs of the business, the goal is for the boutique to be financially self-sufficient and to “continue to aid … in establishing a sustainable lifestyle for those in the area, said Daniel.

The drive toward self-sufficiency will be supported by Daniel, who will hold workshops on the design and construction of wedding dresses aimed at teaching boutique employees how to make their own dresses. Another option is to “up-cycle,” where a dress that has been rented and worn and possibility damaged from use can be deconstructed and made it something new, said Daniel.

The concept of refashioning dresses for repeated use suits Daniel, who specializes in creating eco-friendly wedding dresses using sustainably produced fabrics and materials. “I do everything in my own life to live as eco-conscious as possible,” said Daniel, “so when I started my own company I knew I had to incorporate the same values.” Sustainability is an important component of her brand, and this project an opportunity to “give a second life to wedding gowns and apparel” she said.

Daniel is no stranger to the challenges of operating a small business. It has been a never ending learning process for Daniel, who hopes to transition her business knowledge and resources to make the project a success.

“I have poured my heart and soul into building my business, but I feel as though it would be nothing if it’s not giving back,” she said.

Daniel said she views the project as fusing the components of her business’ motto: art, sustainability, and philanthropy. Daniel is currently fundraising to cover the cost of operating the boutique for half a year with the hope that the boutique will be profitable after that time. The long-term goal is to provide an example of an income-generating business that can be replicated in other regions.

“The longer hope is that it will spread to other regions, that it is known that this boutique is open and more people will come and it will continue to grow,” she said.

Daniel is proud that her project is meeting a need that originated from the community it aims to serve.

“Instead of just giving a hand out, we’re giving a hand up,” added Daniel. “We’re going to go in and help them start the business, but they’re going to run it, they’re going to generate the income continuously from it, and put it back into what they’re trying to do in that region,” she said. By donating wedding dresses, people are “not only giving something to wear, but a new way to live,” said Daniel.

Donations can be arranged by contacting Lindee Daniel at lindee@lindeedaniel.com or through the project’s fundraising page at https://give.everydayhero.com/us/uganda-village-art-bridal-boutique.

Photo by Nicholas Salazar: Santa Monica resident Lindee Daniel is using her business to support a nonprofit in Uganda.

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