Thursday, November 2, 2017

Meet Becca Duberman, founder of Footloose

For my very first interview, I think it's fitting that it be someone I have tremendous admiration for, a young woman named Becca Duberman who is the founder of a nonprofit organization called Footloose that collects gently-used dance shoes and distributes them throughout the country to dancers in need. I emphasize "young" because Becca founded this organization while she was in high school and currently she is still in college. Wow! Such an impressive accomplishment at a young age!

I am very fortunate to have met Becca through a mutual friend online and she was gracious enough to profile me on her website's Health and Wellness blog (here is the post if you didn't see it earlier). Of course I wanted to know more about her! So let's get to chatting!

Meet Becca!

Leigh: Welcome, Becca! Could you tell me a bit about your background, perhaps something more than what is listed on your site? I'd love to know where you grew up.

Becca: I am a Junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in Management & Human
Resources with a Healthcare Management minor in the School of Business. I became passionate
about business through my work for Footloose. I love working with my ambassadors and running a non-profit organization. I am originally from New Jersey and I attended Livingston High School.

An east coast girl! Can you tell me about your dance experience? 

Throughout my childhood I took dance classes at Michele’s Dance Studio in Livingston, New Jersey. I started when I was 2 years old and continued throughout high school. I danced competitively through Michele’s Dance Studio beginning at age 10. I danced competitively in Jazz and Lyrical while also taking ballet Classes.

Do you have dance aspirations aside from your philanthropy?

While I don’t formally dance now, my love for dance and the positive impact it has on self confidence, self image, and motivation is reflected in the work of Footloose. Footloose is my way to give back to the dance community that has given me so much joy throughout my childhood.

Was there a specific moment that inspired you to start your nonprofit? 

One summer as I was cleaning out my closet of old dance shoes, I was struck by the memories each pair brought to mind -- - the friends I made, the competitions we won and lost, the dances we learned -- - and felt so fortunate for all that dance taught me. That year, as we were once again buying new shoes for my classes at Michele’s Dance Studio I had an idea. Every year the parents would buy their children new dance shoes, in many different styles, because our feet were growing so quickly. I noticed the high price of the shoes. I started to question the availability of shoes to those children’s families who could not afford to buy new ones every year. Upon researching organizations that collected dance shoes, I could not find one that was in close proximity to me. So, I decided to start a shoe drive of my own, Footloose.

(courtesy Footloose website)

This seems like such a perfect idea for a charitable organization! Are there other organizations that do this? 

I did research and contact other organizations before starting my own, however there were none that were near my location. Once starting my own drive, I wanted to build it large enough that other inspired teens, like myself, could start their own dance shoe drive in their area. Not only would this inspire other dance students to give back to those less fortunate, but it would expand Footloose. I believe the ambassador program differentiates Footloose. Also, we are a registered 501C3, so we can accept monetary donations.

Logistically, this must take a lot of organizing. How does it work?

Footloose has various drop-box locations around the United States. These locations are run by a Footloose ambassador who is in charge of collecting, sorting, and ultimately sending the shoes to an organization or company in need. Once the ambassadors are done with their drive, they contact me. I have a list of organizations that are in need of shoe donations. These organizations have either solicited donations directly or I have found them by my own research.

You mentioned the Ambassadors (your teen activists). What is their role?

Below is the Ambassador process:
--Customize our Footloose shoe drive flyer to meet your needs.
--Distribute the flyer to local schools, shopping malls, etc., and post on your website and other social media outlets.
--Set up a donation box at your dancewear company for donors to leave their gently used shoes.
--Keep a tally of the number and types of shoes you collect.
--When you complete your drive, contact me via email, with a tally and we will supply you with the mailing address for the recipient.
--Ship the shoes.

Have you reached out to the big shoe companies about donating shoes?

Yes, we have partnered with Capezio and Freed of London in the past, who has donated a bunch of dance shoes in various styles and we are very grateful for their contribution.

Wow! Congratulations on that! What do see for your organization's future? 

Recently, Footloose launched the Health and Wellness blog where it shares interviews of avid dancers who have shared how dance has shaped their well-being and impacted their wellness. I hope that this blog will spread the positive aspects dance has on one’s health and well-being. I also hope that Footloose will continue to make dreams come true one step at a time.

I recently started my own nonprofit so I know there are lots of challenges ahead. Based on your experience as a philanthropist for the past seven years, what advice can you offer others who would like to do something similar? 

My advice to others who want to start their own organization is to choose a cause that you are passionate about. It makes it that much more meaningful when you are impacting other’s lives by allowing them to do something that they, as well as you, love. I would warn those to know that there will be times when it seems very hectic and you will feel like giving up, but knowing that you are impacting other’s lives makes it worth the stressful times.

Anyone who knows me knows I'm all about bringing more dancers into the community. Is there anything in the dance world you would like to see changed in regards to inclusivity of all dancers? 

For one, I would encourage schools to offer dance as a part of their physical education requirements. Secondly, I am encouraged to see so many dance studios opening their doors to offer free classes to those who can’t afford to pay the tuition. Thirdly, there are many great free tutorials available on YouTube and the Internet that can be located via a search engine. Lastly, dance is a form of self expression that can be practiced anywhere at any time. I would encourage students to let themselves feel the music and JUST DANCE!

(courtesy Footloose website)
Becca, thank you SO MUCH for answering my questions and providing us with more information about what you do and who you are. It's always encouraging to put a face to an online presence!

Readers! If YOU would like to be involved, either donating shoes or money, being an Ambassador, or simply spreading the word about Footloose, please visit the website, or contact Becca directly through her email,

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