CEO makes philanthropy a major company focus.
Written by Nancy Sokoler Steiner
Kimberly Inskeep believes in empowering women. The cofounder and CEO of
cabi, a direct-to-consumer women’s fashion brand, accomplishes that
goal in multiple ways—through the clothing her company produces,
through the women who sell the clothing and through the work of the company’s
foundation. Inskeep and her cofounders, designer Carol Anderson and 10
other friends, wanted to create clothing that made women feel good while
providing a more personalized shopping experience. Their business model
entails a trained stylist who meets with a woman at her home—usually
with a group of her friends—to show cabi fashion, offer styles and
ideas and establish a personal connection.
“Women spend a lot of time hunting for clothes and aren’t necessarily
confident about what they end up with,” says Inskeep. “We
thought if we could connect women to someone who really cared about and
understood them, did that in a convenient way and offered her this promise
of confidence, we’d really give women something they need.”
Now in its 19th year, cabi has about 2,800 stylists in the U.S., U.K. and
Canada. Stylists are considered entrepreneurs who build and run their
But more than cabi’s bottom line, what stirs Inskeep’s passion
is the Heart of cabi Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm,
established in 2005. Since 2015 cabi has partnered with Opportunity International,
an organization devoted to eliminating global poverty that works predominantly
“We began a program with them called W.E. are cabi, which stands
for ‘Women Entrepreneurs are cabi,’” says Inskeep. “Whenever
a stylist begins her business, we provide a small business loan for a
woman in the developing world to build her business. It might be a woman
in Rwanda who wants to start a school or a grocery store or an orphanage
or a chicken farm.”
As the women in developing countries became economically stable enough
to send their children to school, cabi saw a new need arise—supporting
education in Rwanda. The company’s Make a Change program allows
clients to round up their order totals to the nearest dollar, enabling
cabi to fund loans for school fees and school improvement projects.
“It’s been so exciting to see the symbiotic relationship between
these women’s lives improving and now their children’s lives
improving, and watching that transform an entire community,” says
Inskeep. For the past several years she has traveled to Rwanda—taking
different groups of about a dozen stylists each time—to see the
foundation’s impact firsthand.
Cabi has also partnered with World Vision to distribute clothing to women
in need around the globe. Domestically, if there is a natural disaster,
cabi encourages stylists in the area to hold personal styling sessions
and provide women with free clothing donated by the company. Each year,
Heart of cabi Week enlists stylists to provide styling service and free
cabi clothing to women experiencing some sort of transition, such as moving
out of homelessness or re-entering the workforce.
“The stylists have to identify the local organization, and we supply
the clothing,” says Inskeep. “The stylists take ownership
of it, and their confidence increases through giving back.”
When COVID-19 hit, cabi held a matching donation drive for corporate employees,
stylists and their clients. The campaign raised more than $71,000 as of
mid-June—a portion of which was matched by cabi—to purchase
emergency kits for families and personal protection equipment for health
care workers, both distributed by World Vision.
As of June, cabi has cumulatively donated $59 million in clothing domestically
and internationally and served 205 communities through local giving events.
The company has provided 17,150 small business loans for women in developing
countries through Opportunity International. In Rwanda, 5,500 students
have benefited from educational loans or improvements to the schools they attend.
“In his book Start with Why, author Simon Sinek says there are a
lot of organizations who know WHAT they do, and they’re really good
at HOW they do it. But they don’t know WHY they’re doing it,”
says Inskeep. “We’re not just selling clothes. But through
clothes, we’re making a difference in women’s lives.”