The women who inspire Hayley know no bounds and Kate Stephens is no exception. Having leapt from the private sector to the charity sector as a new mother, she joined Smart Works and helping to support women find work.
“I’ve always believed in the transformative power of clothes, and to see Kate use this to make such a difference to the lives of so many women is awe inspiring. With Kate at the helm, Smart Works provides women with one-on-one interview coaching alongside a style consultation where they can choose a feel-good outfit to help power-dress their way into employment. In the last year, 72% of clients went on to get a job within one month of their Smart Works appointment! We couldn’t be more proud to support Kate this March with a special IWD edit, where 15% of all profits made on this collection will be donated to Smart Works to help support women at such a crucial time in her life.”
WHAT LED YOU TO JOIN SMART WORKS?
I started my career in the private sector, advising companies, trade bodies and charities on their political reputation and brand. I became more and more interested in the charity sector, and in my 30s, as a new mum, became trustee of a charity campaigning for affordable, accessible, high-quality childcare, a cause that had become close to my heart. I was so impressed by the innovation, entrepreneurship, and dynamism of life inside a small charity. I came to realise the sector was where I wanted to spend my day job as well as my volunteer time, and when I had the chance to move over full time, I didn’t hesitate. It was an opportunity to lead a purpose driven organisation, run by and for women, with such a clear and tangible impact on lives.
WHICH PART OF SMART WORKS GIVES YOU THE MOST PLEASURE?
Seeing the charity grow and fulfil its potential. We are not just building a charity, we are building a community. We’ve gone from one centre in London to ten across the UK, and more to come, and at the same time increased our success rate so that we are now on 72% of clients going on to get the job within a month of their visit.
WHAT ARE THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO YOU?
The most important thing for me is to work in a team where everyone has a collective sense of purpose and is able to deliver our mission.
I also love the expression that a high tide rises all ships. To me, this means that by being kind, supportive, welcoming, and aspirational in our approach, we can act as the tide and lift those around us. And of course, my family, a very supportive and tolerant husband and three teenagers who are tolerant and supportive in their own teenage way.
CAN YOU NAME A WOMAN WHO INSPIRES YOU?
All of our clients who come to us each day. It is so incredibly brave to ask for help, and to place trust in a stranger to help dress and coach you. Every day, I see clients come through our door, nervous and uncertain. They leave mere hours later with their heads held high and ready to take on the world. But despite the barriers, rejections, and negativity our clients have faced, they come to us open minded, ready to get the job and transform their lives.
WHAT ARE THE TWO BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU'RE FACING?
Our biggest goal currently is our Three-Year Plan to double our reach and help 10,000 women a year by 2025. A key challenge in this has been making sure that every woman who needs our help knows that we’re here, and ready to help.
And to do all of this whilst keeping the Smart Works magic alive – we want to make sure we’re growing sustainably and keeping our clients at the core of our strategy and every decision we make.
WHAT IS A BOOK OR FILM YOU COULD RECOMMEND?
Impact by Sir Ronald Cohen. It lays down a challenge to companies to look at incorporating and measuring impact investment, and it is quite electrifying. If we can all think in this way, then we have a chance of addressing some of the long-term issues that affect us all.
IF OUR READERS COULD DO ONE THING FOR POSITIVE CHANGE, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
Donate a piece from your wardrobe to Smart Works. Our wardrobe is stocked entirely from donations, and each piece is lovingly and gratefully received so that it has the most impact on the woman who receives it. I am a firm believer that these small gestures can make a major difference, especially when they are done by an engaged and supportive community.