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Check Out Ruby Franzen’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ruby Franzen.

Hi Ruby, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Hi, I’m Ruby, and am the founder of Pass Down the Gown! I started Pass Down the Gown in 2017 as a senior in high school. I wanted to make a difference in my community, and at the time Prom was on the top of my mind. I loved dressing up and celebrating with friends, but it didn’t make sense to me to drop hundreds of dollars on a dress that would only be worn once. As I talked to more of my peers and teachers, I realized that many others felt the same way. I started collecting gently used dresses from my friends and their siblings, which were only collecting dust in closets. Come spring 2018, I had about 50 dresses and I went class room to class room at my high school, visited other schools, and took on some volunteers at other schools to let students know there was a free rental option. After I graduated high school, I went to college at the University of San Francisco, but knew I wanted to continue to grow Pass Down the Gown. Still leading the organization remotely, I brought on high school volunteers to help with on the ground outreach and management. This path has led us now to becoming a team of around 10 women, working to make the event space more equitable and sustainable. As of now, we have about 200 dresses for anyone to browse and rent. This spring season was our first normal year since the pandemic and it was a success! It feels great to be able to continue to grow, engage with our community, and connect people to beautiful dresses.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Pass Down the Gown had two major struggles along the way. The first was trying to start an organization at a such a young age. Many of my teachers and mentors recommended me to focus on my senior year and getting into college. While they weren’t completely wrong, I was so focused on making this non profit happen. Thanks to my mom, Marci Franzen, who helped me apply for non profit status and one of my teacher’s, Mr. Syman, I was able to hit the ground running to make my vision a reality. Second was running an event focused non profit during the pandemic. The covid-19 pandemic brought all large events to a screeching halt. Proms, weddings, and galas were all indefinitely postponed or canceled. During this time, there were little to no dress orders and it was difficult to fundraise. However, we got creative! Instead of a more traditional fundraising route, we started creating masks out of recycled dresses with a cotton liner that could be purchased.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
Just recently, I graduated from the University of San Francisco with a B.S in Economics and International Studies, with a minor in European Studies. In addition to my studies, I interned at another nonprofit called SuitUp which increases career awareness for all students through innovative business competitions. Working at another nonprofit, while also pursuing a degree has allowed me to become a better leader and ensure a stable and successful future for Pass Down the Gown. As of now I specialize in nonprofit management, but am hoping to gain experience in the event space to further increase the success of Pass Down the Gown. Starting Pass Down the Gown at such a young age is what I’m most proud of and continues to motivate me to do better, learn more, and make a larger impact. I don’t think that anything sets me apart from other female nonprofit leaders, there are so many incredibly driven people out there, but what is important and unique is the service that Pass Down The Gown provides to the community and I’m proud of that. Not only do we provide free rental wear, but we are also proud to provide volunteer opportunities to high school students in management, marketing, and operations that they would otherwise not be exposed to until much later on in their career. At Pass Down the Gown, we learn fast and want to let young volunteers learn as well by dipping their toes into roles that they are excited about.

Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
My advice to any young women starting out in the nonprofit space or a startup is to find a little team that you can flush out ideas with and learn from and then hit the ground running. It was been instrumental to have my mom, sisters, and best friends as a part of this journey with me. One thing I wish I knew starting out is that growth is not linear. There will be a lot of ups and downs, but the downs are part of the process and really where I’ve learned the most.


  • To rent a dress, people must put down a small deposit on the dress. Once the dress is returned, so is the deposit. Making it free!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Keira Obert
Lucy Franzen
Daisy Franzen

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