It all began in early 2016, when Jocee Porter was volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters between classes in computer engineering at the U. She met a 16-year-old girl who recently lost her father and couldn’t afford a prom dress. Porter wanted to help, so she reached out to her friends and quickly found her one.
That would have been the end of the story, but Porter kept talking to friends about what she had done, more people asked for her help, and she kept collecting more dresses. Pretty soon, she had more dresses than she knew what to do with. “I had all of these dresses anyway, and I thought, ‘Why not start something with it?’” she said.
Her solution was starting a company, Celebrate Everyday, and she has now collected more than 250 dresses. Her company is based out of her parents’ house; the dresses fill their theater room. Through her company, Porter provides the dresses for free to women across Utah.
Porter had no idea how popular her company would be. She spends 20 hours per week receiving requests, meeting with clients and caring for the dresses. She has had to limit her advertising because she can’t keep up with demand, while also maintain her grades and everything else she does. And in winter 2016, she partnered with the Tim Tebow Foundation and Genesis Project to provide over 100 dresses to the annual special needs prom, Night to Shine, held in Salt Lake City.
When she started looking into the business more carefully, she discovered why the need was so great. The average formal dress costs $350, Porter said, and Utah high schools typically host three formal events every year – homecoming, winter formal and prom. “Many people just can’t afford it,” she said.
Porter continues to grow her business, working with volunteers to serve more people. Eventually, she hopes to move the business out of her parents’ house and expand into new areas, such as collecting more wedding dresses and providing tuxedos and suits for men.
While managing Celebrate Everyday, Porter is also involved in many other activities. She is a student associate with the Campus Founders Fund, a Utah-based, student-run venture fund; a secretary of the American Nuclear Society; a resident at Lassonde Studios at the U; and she started another clothing company, Ode Apparel, which makes clothing to support the LGBTQ community. To say she’s busy is an understatement.
Eventually, Porter hopes to bring together all of her experiences in a leadership role in engineering, possibly starting her own consulting firm. “I always imagined myself as a research professor,” she said, “but being in charge and building something from the ground is kind of addicting.”
Learn about Celebrate Everyday by visiting their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/celebrateeverydayorg/.