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Location: Birmingham
Date: January 8, 2020

Just over £5000 has been raised for Smart Works Birmingham, a charity that provides high-quality work clothes and interview training to help women in need back into work.

A fundraising lunch saw 130 people from across the West Midlands business community come together to hear guest speaker Isabel Spearman OBE, the brand and image consultant and former special adviser to Samantha Cameron, who is also an ambassador for the charity.

Isabel, who is also on the board of Jigsaw, was in conversation with the charity’s Birmingham Chairwoman and Trustee, Philippa Pickavance at the lunch, which was held at Opus Restaurant.

Philippa said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve had this year and arranged this second lunch by popular demand. We’re grateful to Harris Lamb and the Wilkes Partnership for their generous sponsorship, which enabled us to keep our costs down and maximise the amounts raised.

“Like all charities, we rely hugely on volunteers, and we are fortunate to attract exceptionally talented women who want to help other women back into work. We’ll be organising more fundraising events in 2020 to complement out grant application elements of funding.”

The money raised will be used to run the small centre in Digbeth, which pays just two members of staff. It relies on more than 40 trained volunteers to deliver the service, while retail partners and individuals donate all clothing and accessories.

Since Smart Works, whose patron is the Duchess of Sussex, was founded in London six years ago, it has helped more than 16,000 women across the UK.

Smart Works Birmingham was established in 2016 and is now based at the BVSC Building, Digbeth, close to Selfridges. Since its launch, it has helped more than 1000 local unemployed women in need, by providing one-to-one interview preparation skills and confidence building, as well as free outfits for interviews, plus additional free clothing if they are offered and accept a job.

Smart Works’ clients must come via referral partners, such as JobCentre Plus, other charities and homeless shelters. Many women who are referred have completed many unsuccessful job applications before they get to Smart Works.

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Location: Birmingham
Date: September 30, 2019

Smart Works Birmingham has enjoyed its busiest month yet since setting up the Birmingham centre three years ago.

A total of 84 women were supported by the charity in August alone, up 58 on the same month last year and up 48 from the previous month.

Philippa Pickavance, chairwoman of the Trustees of Smart Works Birmingham, said: “We are delighted that August was such a successful month for us. Our volunteers provide a first-class service that is really empowering women, and our success rate, which sees 69% of our clients being offered employment within a month of their appointment here, is testament to their excellent work.

“They pulled out all the stops to accommodate the increased interest in our service in August and credit also goes to our only members of staff, managers Jo and Ann, for co-ordinating our service so well.”

The record month at Smart Works Birmingham was confirmed just a week after HRH The Duchess of Sussex, launched ‘The Smart Set’, a capsule collection of key essentials, including jacket and trousers, from Jigsaw, dress from M&S, bag from John Lewis and Partners and a white shirt from designer Misha Nonoo.

Since Smart Works was founded in London six years ago it has helped more than 15,000 women across the UK.

Pictured: Philippa Pickavance in her Misha Nonoo shirt.


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Location: Birmingham
Date: July 30, 2019

A leading West Midlands businesswoman, who has a long and successful track record in empowering women to help them reach their potential, has been appointed trustee of the charity Smart Works Birmingham.

Award-winning consultant Julia Regis, who has more than 25 years’ experience in delivering training for both individuals and companies, joins the five existing trustees who run the Birmingham charity that provides high-quality work clothes and interview training to help women in need back into work.

Julia, who is invited to speak regularly at international events, will work with the volunteer trainers and staff to ensure they maintain their skill levels in advising the women who use the service as they prepare for job interviews.

“I loved the concept of Smart Works from day one, so when I was approached to apply to join the board, I didn’t hesitate,” she said. “Providing women with good-quality, work-ready clothing helps them to feel more confident and stronger mentally, while coaching them for a job interview is invaluable.

“I hope my skills will help to develop an even stronger training strategy for the organisation so that women come away more confident and really impacted by the coaching they receive. I’m a strong advocate of empowering women and building their confidence.”

Julia is also chair of the Cyrille Regis Legacy Trust, a charity set up following the death of her pioneering football husband Cyrille Regis, and she is an Ambassador for the international charity Wateraid, which improves access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the poorest communities around the globe.

Chairwoman Philippa Pickavance said: “We are delighted that Julia accepted our invitation to join our Board at Smart Works Birmingham. Julia’s reputation as an excellent communicator and facilitator, as well as a first-class businesswoman, means she will complement the excellent variety of skills provided by our existing trustees and help us move towards our aim of getting more women back into work year on year in our region. ”

Since Smart Works was founded in London five years ago it has helped more than 14,000 women across the UK.

Smart Works Birmingham, which was established in 2016, is now based at the BVSC Building, Digbeth, and has helped more than 700 local unemployed women in need, by providing one-to-one interview preparation skills and confidence building, as well as free outfits for interviews, plus additional free clothing if they are offered and accept a job.

Clients to the centre must come via referral partners, such as JobCentre Plus, other charities and homeless shelters. Many women who are referred have completed up to 50 unsuccessful job applications before they get to Smart Works. Over the last three months the charity has had an average success rate of 68 % of helping women back into work.

Smart Works Birmingham is open for appointments on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10am-3pm, and Fridays 10am-2pm. For more information about Smart Works, visit:

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Location: Birmingham
Date: May 1, 2019

We were delighted to be selected by Birmingham’s regional branch of the British Council for Offices as their chosen charity for their raffle.  A fantastic amount of £4,270 was raised for Smart Works Birmingham.  We are also thankful to all companies who supplied the raffle prizes that helped raise these funds – Edgbaston Golf Club, Marks Sattin and Philippa Pickavance Real Estate.  Thanks to all those who attended the event and gave so generously.

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Location: Birmingham
Date: January 4, 2019

We are delighted to announce that Jane Shepherdson CBE will join us as our Guest Speaker at the Smart Works Charity Lunch on the 6th Feb at Opus Restaurant, 54 Cornwall Street, Birmingham B3 2DE which is totally sold out.

Jane is one of our Patrons and is a leading figure in fashion retail having been CEO of Whistles and before that Brand Director of Topshop.

All proceeds from the event will benefit our charity in our mission to ‘help women back into work’.

We look forward to welcoming everyone and would like to thank Overbury and Lambert Smith Hampton for kindly sponsoring the drinks reception.

If you would like to make a donation please visit

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Location: Birmingham
Date: November 25, 2018

Smart Works Birmingham celebrated its second birthday in central Birmingham last week.

Held at Opus Restaurant and sponsored by LoveBrum, Smart Works celebrated with over 80 professionals, keen to learn more and find out how to get involved.  The event allowed the charity to widen their network and awareness within the corporate world, thus increasing chances of helping more and more women thanks to generous donations of both time, clothes and money.

Philippa Pickavance, Chairwoman and Trustee of Smart Works Birmingham, and Kate Stephens, CEO of Smart Works headquarters, based in London, highlighted the effective work the charity has done in the region, as well as nationwide.

The organisation initially set up in Northfield, Birmingham in 2015 and relocated to a more central location in Digbeth this summer. Through coaching and styling services, the Birmingham branch of the charity has helped around 600 women to date. Nationally the charity has seen 15,000 women since it was established 5 years ago and has a 62% success rate on average of a client getting their job following the help given by the charity.

Manager Ann Powell and the 50 volunteers who deliver the service are working hard to reach more women from across the region by increasing awareness with job centres and other charities that refer their clients.

Philippa Pickavance said: “We are in a great position to move forward in our new location just below Selfridges, but as well as the volunteer help and clothes donations, much of which we get new from retailers, we now need to focus on raising more money to sustain the running of the service centre. We look forward to building on the last two years efforts and helping more and more women to realise and achieve their potential.”

All of Smart Works service delivery is provided by a team of highly skilled, fully-trained volunteers and all stock is donated through other professional, working women or comes direct from the charities retail partners such as Hobbs, Whistles and Evans.

Any one interested in making Smart Works Birmingham their charity this year should contact Philippa Pickavance via the manager Ann Powell. Ann should also be contacted to make donations and volunteer applications.

Ann Powell, Manager of Smart Works Birmingham,, 0121 643 8109

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Location: Birmingham
Date: September 3, 2018

Smart Works Birmingham, a charity that supports women back into work in the region through dressing and interview coaching services, has had a very busy summer with new trustees joining the Board and a relocation to Birmingham city centre, making it easier for clients to access their services.

The organisation, which is UK wide, initially set up their Birmingham Centre in Northfield in 2016. However, with a group of new Trustees headed by Philippa Pickavance of Philippa Pickavance Real Estate as Chairwomen, joining the board in June 2018, it was decided that a city centre location was a priority for the charities future success and expansion.

The new centre is within the long established, Birmingham Voluntary Service Council building, (BVSC Building) a centre of voluntary action that is home to a number of other charities on Digbeth high street and just a few step from Selfridges and The Bull Ring.

Philippa Pickavance commented; “I am very excited about joining Smart Works and working with the existing and new Trustees and huge team of volunteers whose support makes the work of our staff possible and our aims achievable.  Our main priority is to help more women back into work year on year and to guide Smart Works Birmingham through our next growth phase.”

She continued; “I am delighted that two of my good business friends have also joined as new Trustees: Jilly Cosgrove of Barques Design and Victoria Camfield a Partner at solicitors Squire Patton Boggs, who is also Company Secretary. Their skills will add to the existing talented Board members and together we are now well placed to achieve the fundraising we need so that the staff and volunteers can provide our services.”

Smart Works Birmingham had very generous free assistance from some high-profile partners including Harrow Green, Overbury, RPS and Ted Baker who all came together to help with furniture, decorating and transporting over a hundred boxes of clothing and rails across town.

Whilst Birmingham continues to flourish as a city it still has high levels of female unemployment, so there is great potential for Smart Works to help more women back into work. Since moving address, Ann Powell the centre manager said; “I am so pleased to report the team have had a 72% success rate with women getting jobs, highlighting how much this accessible new location is already making a difference”.

The charity focus is a simple but effective one; it gives women a complete job interview appropriate outfit and accessories (theirs to keep) and provides one-to-one interview preparation training so they feel more confident and start believing in their own ability to succeed. The two hours clients spend at Smart Works can be transformative.

Apart from one full-time centre manager, all of Smart Works service delivery is provided by a team of highly skilled, fully-trained volunteers and all stock is donated new and direct from the charities retail partners such as Hobbs, Whistles and Evans plus from other working women.

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Location: Birmingham
Date: August 1, 2018

In July Smart Works successfully relocated to new premises in Birmingham City Centre.

This move has ‘ticked’ so many boxes in so many ways.  We are now centrally located so that our clients can easily access our services.

We have more space to display all our outfits and accessories.

We have a great training room and are conveniently all on one floor.

An additional bonus is that we are also surrounded by other charities and the Princes Trust, who we are able to engage with.

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Location: Birmingham
Date: January 26, 2018

Our supporters Scoutess Recruitment Consultancy held a charity fundraiser event for Smart Works on the 24th January. Talking women and leadership, the event, held in Leicester, was focussed on discussion from a panel of senior female business leaders, which included Patricia John, Customer Service Director at Arriva Bus, Andrea Gray, Operations Director at Hastings Direct and Sarah Coop, Human Resources Director at Flogas.

It’s a career must-have to network, for any aspiring women”, said Karen Orton, Recruitment Director for Scoutess, who specialise in placing junior, middle and senior manager into the commercial and hospitality sector.  “We know that career paths are unclear and that we need to go out and seek the skills we need for the next role as women, which is why having a network that offers insights, thoughts and an opportunity to meet senior peers is important”.

The evening was about highlighting the challenges women face at work, whether that be returning, starting or advancing”, said Karen. “We had a mixture of ladies who attended, with varying viewpoints, one thing that did stand out is that we need to do more to help each other. I am passionate about helping women in business, which is why I am dedicated to supporting the wonderful work carried out by Smart Works. It’s evident from our discussions on the night that confidence and self-belief is what holds many women back, so for me, it’s about doing something that helps tackle that.”

The evening also saw the introduction of a Mentoring Connections Programme, that Scoutess have put together. “I’ve been lucky that I have been able to help many women get a job, however, I know we can do more to help women advance once they have found one” said Karen. “My background was originally training and development, so putting a programme together that enables women to help each other by providing support, advice and guidance, is a real passion for me. The programme is being supported by a team of business women, who are doing this on a voluntary basis to help a woman advance locally”.

The main purpose of the evening was to continue to fundraise and support Smart Works, which was achieved.

Having a purpose and using that to channel our passion and efforts, is what’s important to many women”, said Karen. “Our values at Scoutess are driven from our purpose, so being able to provoke action and make a real difference to women who need it, is at our core”.

Thank you to Scoutess for continuing to support Smart Works and to Hastings Direct for hosting this event.

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Location: Birmingham
Date: January 9, 2018

We are delighted to have been shortlisted for a grant from LoveBrum, a charity supporting hidden gem projects across Birmingham that are often volunteer led and that deliver real change, with outcomes that can be seen, measured, enjoyed, and loved.

We have been nominated for a grant of £2,000 to help us deliver our second anniversary event later in 2018. The event will be a chance to celebrate the achievements of all our clients who have been through the service. With 57% of them going back into employment, we are incredibly proud of all the ladies we’ve supported and will look to invite them, along with all those who have volunteered for us, donated and supported us since we launched in summer 2016. The event will also be an opportunity to engage new volunteers and trustees with the service to help us grow and so that we can support even more women from across Birmingham back into work.

You can vote for us across the last week of January. Please get sharing and voting so that we can develop our service!