A blazer is a sign that the wearer means business. It is the mark of a sharp, prepared man or woman. At the Young Black Leadership Alliance, it is also the sign a high school senior has done the work required to be an Ambassador — a top representative of the leadership group. And this year, The Dunstan Group is helping YBLA celebrate those teens.
First, some history.
Fifteen years ago, John and Tammy Martin had a revelation: the young, Black men they saw stereotyped in popular culture were not the young, Black leaders they knew our community was producing, or could produce with the right guidance. They were determined to help these young men, who were good students and capable of so much, look sharp and achieve their potential. The Young Black Men (YBM) Leadership Alliance was born.
Nine years later, Tammy created Young Black Women (YBW) Leadership Alliance with the couple’s daughter, Jalyn, and 3 other teens. It wasn’t long before the two organizations became one as the Young Black Leadership Alliance. The YBLA has helped hundreds of teens learn leadership, college and career readiness, and service.
“Our mission is that our young leaders make a positive impact in their community and the world,” says Tammy. The YBLA operates on the pillars of Leadership, Service, and Education.
One look at the photo of smiling, ambitious teens in navy blue and burgundy blazers, and you know they mean business. But those blazers aren’t easy to earn — the young men and women have to work for them!
“We put them through training,” says Tammy. “They are Toastmaster certified. They learn team building, personal branding, communication, and even an elevator pitch!” This year about 300 high school juniors applied to the program, and 150 were offered membership into YBLA. Once a schedule of commitments was ironed out, about 100 moved forward with the virtual workshops. (During a normal year of in-person meetings, usually about 250 take part.)
Each member gets a calendar and must commit to the workshops about college readiness, networking, and being open-minded to new ideas. They work with community and corporate leaders. Then they must pick a “passion project” that will affect at least 10 people, and complete it. THEN they get a blazer showing they are a YBLA Ambassador.
The Blazer Ceremony is a big deal — though this year, it has to be virtual. How could John and Tammy make the big moment special? That’s where they brought in The Dunstan Group and their custom BrandBuilders Box.
“It exceeded our expectations!” says Tammy with excitement. The custom BrandBuilders Box shows a wrap-around photo of the Ambassadors. The tissue inside, wrapped around the blazer like a present, is in brand colors. A similar custom YBLA envelope is used to send out T-shirts and polos as incentives to younger members.
“It really steps up our brand,” continues Tammy. “When you get this is the mail it’s like, ‘Wow!’ — definitely a wow factor!” The extra attention to branding is important this year, as John and Tammy are realizing their dream — through virtual workshops — of taking YBLA to the national level. This year they have young leaders in training from 10 different states! They’ve decided to keep a virtual element to YBLA, even when they return to in-person meetings. Their branding needs to match their momentum, and The Dunstan Group is eager to assist them.
“We’re excited about helping such a passionate group continue to build their brand through merchandise,” says The Dunstan Group President and Founder Scott Dunstan. “It’s exciting to see the work they are doing right here in the community, educating and developing young Black leaders so they have a positive impact on their community and beyond. We’re proud to be a small part of that!”
Tammy calls working with The Dunstan Group “a blessing” because of how Scott and the company were able to meet their needs, making their brand stand out on a budget. And she loves that they are able to work with a local company, which has become “like family” to the YBLA.
“I think they’ve been our greatest vendor, and they’re nice,” says Tammy. “We’ve never looked back.”