Wonderful Women – Robina Brennan of Smart Works
I meet many great women who do amazing things, so I thought I’d introduce you to some of them. In my Wonderful Women series we talk about life, shoes and what these women do to make a difference. In the first part of this series, I enter the world of Robina Brennan, Partnerships Manager at the women’s charity Smart Works.
Do you fancy having a spring clear-out of your footwear? Read on to find out how your shoes can change lives.
Meet Robina Brennan from Smart Works
Q. What does Smart Works do?
A. Smart Works is an organisation which is all about empowering women and boosting their confidence to help increase their chances of getting a job. We support women who are out of work or on low incomes by giving them a free styling session, smart interview outfit and interview coaching. It’s an extremely effective service and 58% of the women we see go on to get a job within six months. Women are referred to us from a range of partners, from job centres to charities that work with ex-offenders and people suffering from domestic abuse or homelessness. Each woman spends two hours with us before an interview, getting that crucial bit of support and encouragement. We follow up with clients a month after their appointment and if they are still jobseeking we can signpost them to organisations we work with that can give them further, specific support. If a woman gets a job, she can book a ‘second dressing appointment’ and come back to get five pieces to add to her work wardrobe to help build up that capsule wardrobe that she can wear to work. We also invite clients to join our Smart Works Network which meets monthly and we have different talks, workshops and sessions on personal and professional development topics.
Q. What’s your role at Smart Works Robina?
A. I’m extremely lucky to have a very varied role. As Partnerships Manager, I work on research and outreach to work effectively with our partners and increase our outreach to support as many women, specifically ‘hardest to reach’ clients, as possible. I also work with our retail partners, such as Bobbi Brown and Hobbs, to co-ordinate donations and fundraising events and campaigns and work with our corporate supporters in a range of ways also. I’m very lucky to be responsible for the Smart Works Network and to be the Smart Works Representative on our fundraising volunteer group, Smart Works Inspire.
Q. What’s your favourite part of your job?
A. As we are a small team, I get the chance to be really involved in a variety of areas, which I enjoy immensely. Working at Smart Works is extremely rewarding, I see amazing women realise their potential every day. Sometimes I get to spend time styling clients or giving interview coaching sessions and I’m hugely passionate about it. Seeing a woman come in really nervous and unsure of what to expect, lacking eye contact and feeling anxious and then seeing her leave standing taller, prouder, looking you directly in your eye and smiling with her newfound confidence is something which will never get boring.
Q. Which styles of footwear do your clients need?
A. Our clients go for every job under the sun so it’s great for us to be able to offer a range of options. Some clients like high heels, some flats and the same goes for colour, texture and shape. As we are dressing women for interviews, flat shoes of any colour and style are very useful as are shoes with small-medium heels or block heels- shoes which are generally easy to walk in.
Q. Where does Smart Works get shoes from?
A. We rely on the kindness and generosity of individuals to donate shoes, as well as receiving some from our retail partners. As shoes are often items which people are sentimentally attached too, it always seems to happen that shoes and handbags don’t tend to get donated often so we are always thrilled to receive these pieces.
Q. How can I donate my shoes to Smart Works?
We have two offices in London (Islington and Ladbroke Grove) and offices in Reading, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, and Edinburgh with more to come. You can post us items or bring them to one of our offices, which is a great chance to see what we do in person. All location details can be found on our website.
Many thanks to Robina for taking the time to talk to me. I volunteered at Smart Works as a stylist for several years, so I’ve seen first-hand the positive impact that Robina describes.
Now what are you waiting for? It’s time to detox your shoe wardrobe and send your unwanted styles to Smart Works.