Each month we will be featuring a different charity that Empire Productions has had the pleasure of working with. We want to highlight the great strides they are taking and the difference they're making in the world.
This week we are shining the spotlight on Ann Louisa Photography's annual fashion show and it's mission to empower young people to reach their full potential.
A young person's confidence is invaluable to how they will view themselves and the world around them. Many of us, as adults, are all too aware of the self-esteem and body image issues we struggled with growing up. This didn't set well with Ann Louisa Kneip. She wants to see the young people of Sioux Falls realize their worth. She believes in the power to empower.
The movement all started three years ago. Kneip had just moved back to South Dakota after living the big city life. She had bounced around, living in New York and Milwaukee and finally settled in Sioux Falls. The poverty in the heavily populated cities was very prominent, but Kneip didn't realize how close to home it hit until one day her mother shared with her staggering statistics on students' poverty at Patrick Henry Middle School alone.
"It blew my mind, " Kneip said. " I felt very inclined to do something. I felt like I should do something through my photography and give back to the community and better engage with our community."
Kneip, through her business--Ann Louisa Photography--took action. She organized a fashion show that middle school through high school age kids could sell tickets for and participate in.
"I was so excited to provide a positive activity for kids," Kneip said.
This past May 7th was the 3rd annual fashion show Ann Louisa Photography has put on. The Hilton Garden Inn set the stage for the evening's show, with the theme "Rock the Night". The event had a large turn-out and people of all ages were impacted by the night's fashion show. All funds raised were donated to EmBe's Camp CEO and Girls on the Run.
"The goal is to give kids in the community the building blocks for self-esteem, leadership and success while financially supporting deserving causes," Kneip explained.
She planned most of the things the first year, but says she couldn't have pulled it off without all the help she received.
"We've had awesome partners like Empire Productions and EmBe, that donate time and resources. It's definitely a team effort, with lots of people providing talents and resources to do it."
She and her team's efforts are gaining momentum and making more of an impact on the community already. When the program first started, Kneip had to ask for recommendations for kids who were involved in school and community and reach out to them. Now girls are asking to be a part of it on their own.
"Girls see their friends doing it and want to join in," Kneip said.
Although the participants are mostly girls, there have been a couple boys that have rocked the runway too.
Bottom line? Kneip wants to empower kids to realize their full potential and realize how valuable they are, all while investing in the community.
"We need to start engaging girls at a young age; there's definitely room for us to grow in that area," she said. "Middle school is when self esteem can kind of take a tumble. I’m passionate about this for that reason. I didn't even know what a board room was whene I was their age, and now I’m business owner. I want girls out there to know that that's an option for them."