As an organization, Housing Works relies on hundreds of volunteers who tirelessly donate their time and talent to our businesses, events and Community Health Centers. If you follow Housing Works on Instagram, you’ll often see posts featuring very well dressed mannequins and gorgeous displays found at our West Village Thrift Shop. Many of those are created by volunteer superstar Cyndie Spiegel. We recently sat down with Cyndie to learn more about her career, her passions, and where the two converge.
In this season of giving, we can’t forget to give thanks. Thank you Cyndie (and all of our other fabulous volunteers)! We could’t do it with out you.
Housing Works: Tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from and what brought you to NYC?
Cyndie Spiegel: I’m from New Jersey. I’ve been in and around this fine city for the better part of the past 15 years. I came here for school but I always knew I’d move to NYC. I’ve traveled around the world and I still couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. This city is home to me (Brooklyn, to be more precise.)
HW: What do you do when not volunteering for Housing Works? In other words, what’s your day job?
CS: “Day job”, I haven’t heard that term in awhile but I do a few things that I’m passionate about. I’m an adjunct professor at both Parson’s and FIT and I own a consulting and coaching business for creative entrepreneurs.
I worked on the business side of fashion for 14 years and mentored many entrepreneurs throughout my career. I was successful in the work I was doing but I knew I was no longer invested in it. As a pragmatic creative, I was always drawn to other creatives and I knew that I could impact change by supporting them. The mission of my work is to help creatives figure out what they hope to build (in their lives and businesses) then create a solid plan to make a successful living achieving it. For me, it’s important to do actionable work that is both empowering and inspiring. I’m in love with what I do because I work with incredible people following their passion and doing work that matters.
HW: You are a small business consultant and coach, how do the two inform each other?
CS: The two roles closely inform one another because we have to understand our goals and hopes (coaching) before we create a plan or strategy (consulting) to build on them. The best strategy in the world can’t help you if you build a business on a shaky foundation or if you wake up to realize that you’re not doing the work you actually believe in. I know because I’ve been there.
HW: What goes down in a strategy session? A lunch launch?
CS: Business strategy and coaching can be intangible but when done effectively, it has such an incredible impact for a small business. Entrepreneurship is often lonely, expensive and challenging because small business owners tend to do everything on their own and “trial and error” is a very costly process of discovery. An inspiring, strategic consultant and coach create both accountability and a plan for a thriving business to consistently grow with the expertise to make that happen. The expertise and the actionable plan are the most important elements.
HW: How long have you been a Housing Works volunteer?
CS: I’ve been a volunteer at Housing Works for about 5 years on and off.
HW: What compelled you to volunteer with Housing Works?
CS: I was living in the West Village a few years ago and would stop into Housing Works often. I loved the neighborhood feel of the store and would often chat with the people that worked there. I jokingly said that I was there so often, I should just volunteer. They agreed and I started a few weeks later. At that time, I was still working in corporate fashion and I believed strongly in doing work that mattered; Housing Works became my outlet for that. The mission of this organization is very close to my heart; I witnessed firsthand the devastation of the AIDS crisis in the 80’s and 90’s so this was also a big part of the reason I wanted to be involved..
HW: Your volunteer “headquarters” is our West Village Shop, what¹s your favorite thing about volunteering there?
CS: The staff at this store is a family; absolute gems. They care so much about the customers and people in the neighborhood. They’re incredibly knowledgeable about their business and they inspire me. We’ve all celebrated together outside of work and have a lot of fun getting to know one another. Others have often asked me how I have time for this every week and I always say this in response “How come you don’t have time?” We should all make time for what we believe in.
HW: What was your best ever thrift store find?
CS: That’s a hard question because I’ve been thrifting since I was a teenager. I’d say at least half of my apartment and wardrobe is Housing Works. And I’ll admit, I have a fabulous apartment and a great wardrobe! My best finds would probably be a $25 designer lamp, the awesome vintage skirt (that I’m wearing in this picture) and my YSL handbag.
HW: What advice would you give someone interested in volunteering at Housing Works?
CS: I post about this on my Instagram feed from time to time because I think it’s so important to volunteer for a cause you believe in. Volunteering is not beyond any of us and I’m a huge advocate of successful folks giving back; whether it’s money, time or great donations. Housing Works is creating change for a lot of amazing people in New York City so why wouldn’t you want to be a part of doing work that matters in your own neighborhood? And damn, aside from that, we have a whole LOT of fun! So YES, do volunteer at Housing Works. Right now.