As a charity, news doesn’t come more thrilling than HRH The Duchess of Sussex becoming your patron. This is exactly what happened to Smart Works last week when Meghan Markle joined forces with the women’s support organisation.

Luxe editor Kathryn Armstrong has been a supporter since Smart Works opened in Newcastle nine months ago and delves into the Duchess-effect for women in the North East.

The Meghan effect and no-mess Marie Kondo on TV have been the perfect storm for Smart Works Newcastle.

“Can I volunteer, can I donate, can my company get involved?” This was the gist of the 100-plus emails landing in the inbox of Michelle Robson, Lead Manager for Smart Works Newcastle since HRH The Duchess of Sussex was announced as a patron of the charity last week.

It was revealed that Meghan had been totally hands-on with her support – volunteering as a coach and dresser for a year with the women who Smart Works supports back into work.

“We are thrilled to welcome HRH The Duchess of Sussex as Royal Patron of the Smart Works Charity. We look forward to the patronage resulting in raised awareness and assisting us on our mission to provide every woman in the UK with pre-interview support”, says Michelle of the exciting news.

“Ultimately our mission is to help everyone in the UK who needs it”, added Michelle.

The Smart Works method is simple and effective. Women from across the North East who have been unemployed long-term and have a job interview looming are referred to Smart Works for a two-hour session which involves an hour of coaching with a volunteer mentor. A second hour is devoted to finding an outfit for the interviewee with a volunteer dresser with experience in styling.

As well as the royal endorsement, Michelle says the emergence of de-clutter guru Marie Kondo on TV has had a huge effective,

“For us, January has been the perfect storm – everyone is watching Marie Kondo decluttering on TV and having a clear-out!”

Smart Works has a vast collection of donated clothing. Some items are donated by professionals via corporate collections at their workplace.

Stores such as M&S, Hobbs and Karen Millen also donate past season items to the Smart Works branches. 

High-value donations – such as a collection of Armani suits dropped in at Newcastle the day we visit – are then sold either online or at Smart Works sales which pop-up regularly – there’s one at Sintons Law in Newcastle later this month.

‘When someone donates an item we ask if they are OK with us adding it to the dressing room – or selling it on if it is high-tag.

“It costs approximately £60 to get someone into employment through our sessions – so if we can sell something for £120 that is changing lives directly”, says Michelle.

How Smart Works make a difference in the North East

*230 local women in the North East have been supported since the Smart Works launch in April 2018.
*40pc are single parents
*60pc gained employment within one month
*Over half of clients are long term unemployed (12 months+)
*A third of our clients have applied for over 50 jobs
*90% of clients felt more confident following a visit to Smart Works

Look out for the Spin for Smartworks fund-raising challenge coming soon!

More info: | Image credit: Reuteurs

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