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British RoyalsThe Sussexes

Patronage Spotlight: The Duchess of Sussex and Smart Works

REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/Pool Courtesy of Smart Works

The Meghan Effect isn’t just about selling out clothes; it’s about helping others, too. Charitable organisations Meghan and Harry support have seen significant increases in giving over the past year, and one of them was career coaching organisation Smart Works.

The Duchess of Sussex stepped into her role as patron of four organisations this year, including Smart Works, and made her first public visit there in January.

The charity helps unemployed women gain interview skills and provides them with professional clothing and accessories. Clients must be referred, and referrals come from places such as job centres, homeless shelters, prisons, and other charities.

“It’s not just donating your clothes and seeing where they land, but really being a part of each other’s success stories as women, right?” Meghan said. “It’s not just hand-me-downs, it’s saying: ‘This is the blazer I wore that helped me win that interview’ … So to know, as a woman coming in, that you have so many other women believing in you on all the next phases is the piece that makes it so special.”

Photo Courtesy of Smart Works

A third of their clients have unsuccessfully applied to more than 50 jobs before seeking help from Smart Works. After receiving coaching, 60 per cent of women they see continue on to get a job within just one month.

Currently, Smart Works run centres across the UK including Edinburgh, Reading, Greater Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, and London, where the Duchess visited in January and helped women select interview outfits.

Clients are given a full interview outfit to keep, including shoes and accessories. Once a client gets a job, they are welcomed back for a second dressing and given five additional items to cover them until their first pay.

These high-quality pieces are donated by retailers and brands, as well as individuals – including the Duchess of Sussex, who brought items from her own wardrobe. During her January visit, Meghan joked how she’d suggested a handbag to a client, and the woman turned it down.

“The last time I was here I suggested a purse, and it was one that I had donated, and she didn’t like it. I was like, ‘oh, ok!’ I thought it was great.”

The number of women seeking help from Smart Works has greatly increased in the months since the Duchess was announced as patron; in fact, March was the charity’s busiest month to date. CEO Kate Stephens told Royal Central more about Smart Works’ growth since Meghan became involved.

Kristin Contino: How did your relationship with the Duchess of Sussex begin? 

Kate Stephens: “We welcomed the Duchess to Smart Works for a number of private visits throughout 2018. TheDuchesss got involved from her first visit, helping to coach and dress our clients, and the relationship built from there.”

Have you seen a greater number of donations coming in since the Duchess of Sussex was announced as patron?

“Yes we have, it has been a wonderful few months for our charity. We have seen interest in Smart Works grow across the board, from volunteer applications to clothing kindly donated to all of our centres. Most important of all, we’ve been able to reach more women than ever before, and have seen a significant year on year increase – ultimately this is what it is all about. It has been absolutely wonderful to see such a positive impact.”

About how many women does Smart Works help each month? What kind of growth have you seen in referrals since the patronage announcement? 

“Over the course of the year, we will help over 3,000 women across all our UK centres. March was a special month for us at Smart Works; on International Women’s Day, we were thrilled to celebrate having helped 13,000 women. March also saw our busiest ever month for our two London centres where we saw a total of 227 clients. We continue to maintain our success rate, with one in every two women who visits a Smart Works centre going on to get her job within a month of her appointment with us.”

What has your experience been like working with Meghan so far, and what have your clients thought of working with her? 

“We have been absolutely thrilled to welcome The Duchess of Sussex to Smart Works as our Royal Patron. Her empathy and insight are obvious. The Duchess is a natural coach, and our clients and our volunteers have been deeply inspired by her.”

How do you see the Duchess being involved in the future? 

“It is the Smart Works vision that one day we will have enough centres nationwide to reach every woman who needs us. The support of The Duchess of Sussex will help us enormously in achieving this goal whilst inspiring women everywhere to reach for the stars.”

Did you receive donations as part of the #Globalsussexbabyshower event? 

“The #globalsussexbabyshower was a wonderful surprise for us. We weren’t one of the main charities profiled, but we loved to see the positivity and momentum across social media, and of course, we have received some wonderful donations which are so essential to our work.”

Learn more about Smart Works on their website, including how to donate your time, clothing, or money.

About author

Kristin is Chief Reporter for Royal Central and has been following the British royal family for more than 30 years. Kristin has appeared in UK and U.S. media outlets discussing the British royals including BBC Breakfast, BBC World News, Sky News, the Associated Press, TIME, The Washington Post, and many others.