USC alum donates fashion to patients
A surprise gift of new clothes from a high-fashion line would brighten anyone’s day, but the Esshaghian family chooses to donate to a particular group: cancer patients.
USC alumnus Benjamin Esshaghian helps women cope with cancer by using his family’s fashion company, Belldini, to give back to those in need. The company hosts a sweepstakes to give away fashion pieces to cancer patients.
“We feel that we have been blessed as a family and blessed as a company,” Esshaghian said. “We have grown to be a brand name in the United States, and as a family, we feel that it is important to give back and to help out others to our full capability.”
Esshaghian took over his father’s 30-year-old fashion business, Belldini, after graduating from USC’s Marshall School of Business in 2006. Esshaghian runs the clothing line with his two siblings.
“The reason I went to Marshall was so that I could gain a business background [before] going into the family business,” Esshaghian said. “I started my own construction company [on the side] as well, so I knew I needed a business education to help me out in the future.”
The company has been built up greatly over the past 30 years, making a huge impact on the fashion industry as well as in many women’s lives.
“We just came back a couple of days ago from Denver where we did a sweepstakes for a woman named Genny,” Esshaghian said. “Her mother wrote in for her and she won the sweepstakes. We flew out there with our entire fall collection and surprised her with our line.”
Genny, a single mom, was diagnosed with two forms of blood cancer, for which the only cure is a bone marrow transplant. She helped develop a non-profit organization that aims to conduct college bone marrow donor drives.
Jennifer, another patient, found out that she had leukemia three days prior to her wedding day and underwent her own bone marrow transplant. During their treatments, Genny and Jennifer met and instantly became friends.
After Genny won the sweepstakes, her mother requested that the wardrobe prize be shared with Jennifer. Though there is normally only one winner, after reading the heartwarming request, Belldini decided that both Genny and Jennifer would each get their own wardrobes from the fall collection.
“Women all write in to us and we read over their stories and collectively … decide which one we feel best deserves our line,” Esshaghian said. “It is a hard decision to make at the end of the day, but nonetheless they are all winners at heart.”
In addition to the sweepstakes, Belldini makes donations at the end of the year to Chrysalis, a foundation that provides clothing for women who have job interviews.
“The sweepstakes is something that we are just starting to do, and we think we are going to be doing them throughout the United States every month,” Esshaghian said.
While Esshaghian wasn’t involved in many community service activities while he was attending USC, he has always been interested in running a business.
“It was hard to do community service in college because while I was in college I started my real estate company,” Esshaghian said. “My senior year I started developing my first home in my construction business so [I was always] working on my projects and being a full-time student.”
In addition to managing Belldini, Esshaghian continues to build homes for his construction business.
“I build about two brand new homes in Beverly Hills every year,” Esshaghian said. “There is no specific company that I have because every job that I do is its own entity. All the homes that we build have their own website so that people can go online and see what kind of homes that we build.”
Esshaghian strives to be a positive influence on USC students by providing them with advice that he took while he was attending college.
“Network as much as possible,” Esshaghian said. “Get a job while you’re in college with any company that you can in any field that you can no matter what position you have. The salary should have no basis on what kind of a job you have in college. It should be in the field you want no matter how much you’re getting paid.”
Though he has his hands full with running two companies, Esshaghian remembers his time at USC and plans to stay involved in the community.
“USC absolutely benefited me. It is a great school and has great programs, especially the real estate classes and the finance classes,” Esshaghian said. “I still go to football games. I’m going to try to go to the homecoming game this year.”