February 16, 2007

Alum Connects Elderly With Youth

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Most women know the power of a looking great — especially Rachel Doyle ’05, president of Glamour Gals Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to create “smiles that span all generations” by making over the elderly living in nursing homes.

Founded when Doyle was just 17 and a junior in high school, the main mission of the Glamour Gals Foundation is to bridge the generational gap between elderly women and teenage girls through the transformative power of makeovers. Motivated to start the organization after her grandmother’s death from loneliness, Doyle oversaw her first makeover in 2000.

“The great thing about Glamour Gals is that you can be really creative when an idea works,” she said. “You can experiment with it so much.”

However, it was during her time at Cornell that Doyle really expanded the organization. As a policy analysis and management major in the College of Human Ecology, Doyle was an active member of the Cornell Tradition. In this program, Doyle could devote at least 20 hours a week to Glamour Gals and get paid for it under a work-study program.
She also received guidance from Prof. Deborah Streeter, applied economics and management.

“She really helped me step back and evaluate what I created and then plan for the future,” Doyle said.

Doyle again finds herself looking toward the the future as she feels the foundation has reached a critical stage.

“As president of the organization, we’re at full capacity at the volunteer stage,” she explained. “You can only manage well to a certain point as a volunteer. We really need paid staff members.”

She added that the organization needs to focus on building its internal structure and improving its overall management.

Technology is also an integral part of the structure of Glamour Gals. While conducting most of her business operations via email and teleconferences, Doyle has also established an intranet system between all 50 chapters, where volunteers can freely communicate with one another and upload shareable content. This system enables chapter presidents to virtually manage their organization.

After being featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS’s Early Morning Show and publications such as the New York Times and CosmoGirl, Doyle has come a long way since high school when she first started the organization. Then, there was little to no strategy.

“I want to run this organization with the heart of a nonprofit but the brains of a business,” Doyle said. “We’ll create revenue using business strategy, but ultimately it will be a nonprofit.”

Some of the ways Doyle intends to do this are through expanding to other areas besides doing makeovers for the elderly. Although the main mission of the organization is to decrease the disconnection between elderly and youth, Doyle commented that to establish the longevity of Glamour Gals she must have an outside source of profit. One such project in development is Glamour Gal parties for pre-teens and young girls, where the girls give each other makeovers with assistance from the organization.

“Mega-Makeovers” is another event Doyle is proud of coordinating. According to Doyle, “over 100 volunteers blanket a city and hit four or five nursing homes on a single day to give makeovers to the elderly.”

Doyle recognizes that the heart of the organization rests in the volunteers’ efforts to raise awareness about care for the elderly. Glamour Gals recently hosted a Glamour in the City gala and awards ceremony in New York City to honor the organization’s volunteers and increase overall awareness about treatment towards the elderly.

“A really great component of the organization is that it creates compassionate leadership because of service the volunteers do on a local level,” Doyle said.

By purchasing Glamour Gal bracelets sold by the Cornell Hotel Society for $15 a bracelet, people can support the organization, Doyle said. Each bracelet features pink lace wrapped in art deco plastic. The use of these two different materials is meant to reinforce the organization’s message — connecting the old with the new.

Currently, there are over 50 chapters throughout the U.S. and over 600 registered volunteers.

But despite her success, Doyle admitted, “We’re at the point where we’ve seen grown so much in quality and at the level we operate, we need to make the leap into paid-staff organization if we want to continue to grow at this rate. We need more people, and I’m willing to take this risk.”

For more information on Entrepreneurship at Cornell, please visit www.eship.cornell.edu