KITRI Spotlight: Kate Stephens


Meet our creative, intelligent and simply brilliant friends who inspire KITRI in every single way.

As part of our #PrettyPowerful Campaign with Bobbi Brown and Smart Works, we have had the pleasure of working closely with the wonderful Kate Stephens. Kate's passion for helping women reach their full potential is infectious, and her achievements since being CEO at Smart Works speak for themselves. We would love to share a slice of this inspiration with our #KITRIgirls, so we sat down at her Smart Work's East London HQ and talk about Smart Work's mission, her career journey and her tips for all of us to reach our full potential.
Please could you tell us a little bit about Smart Works and how you help clients that are looking for help in reaching their full potential?
Smart Works is a UK wide charity (currently with 11 centres) that exists to empower all women who need help getting into work. We use the power of high quality clothing and one-to-one coaching to help unemployed women fulfil their potential, get the job and transform their lives. It’s really about confidence, giving our clients that boost they need to unlock their potential. It’s a deceptively simple but highly effective service – we have supported over 35,000 women to date, and 69% go on to get the job within a month of their appointment.
How did you become the CEO of Smart Works?
I began my career in political consultancy, coming to the charity sector a little later – in my 30s, I became a trustee of a childcare charity, which is a cause very close to my heart. Through that role, I fell in love with the dynamic, entrepreneurial nature of small charities and decided that was what I wanted to do as my day job.
The stars aligned, and I met our Founder, Juliet Hughes-Hallett, at roughly the same time. She had just launched this incredible London charity with a mission to use the power of clothing and coaching to help women succeed across the UK. It felt like it was meant to be – and 11 years later, here we are.
What has been your most rewarding moment as CEO of Smart Works?
Last year, we celebrated our 10th birthday with an event that brought together our retail, corporate, and referral partners, supporters, staff, trustees, volunteers, and clients from all across the UK. It was incredible to see so many key members of our community together in one room, celebrating the progress we have made in the last decade – but also looking ahead to the future and our plans to take our service to even more women across the UK.
It was a bit of a pinch me moment, and incredibly rewarding to see the amazing community we have built, who are so passionate about supporting our clients.
What has been your most challenging moment as CEO of Smart Works?
The decision to suspend the face-to-face delivery of our service during the Covid-19 pandemic was exceptionally difficult. It was unthinkable that we wouldn’t be able to see the women we exist to help every day, but ultimately, we had no choice.
Looking back, a lot of good came out of what was a very hard, very emotional decision. We didn’t miss a day of service, the team acting quickly to implement a solution including video dressing and coaching, with a wardrobe package and key materials delivered via post. Our virtual service was born and continues to thrive today - with travel to our centres no longer a necessary part of our service, our reach is now truly UK wide, and available to any woman, wherever she may be.
Please could you tell us a little bit about the Pretty Powerful Campaign?
The Pretty Powerful Campaign was launched over ten years ago by Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and has raised an incredible £1,000,000 to date. The secret to success has been the natural synergy between our purposes – to empower and enable women to connect to their full potential.
Through the creation of beautiful Pretty Powerful products to raise vital funds for our service, Bobbi Brown Pro Artists donating their time to our centres across the UK, and generally raising awareness of our charity, the Pretty Powerful Campaign has been a key part of our progress over the last decade. Together, we’ve gone from one centre to eleven, and helped 35,000 women with the tools they need to succeed at their job interview.
What makes you feel Pretty Powerful?
My amazing team, the staff at Smart Works. We have created such an amazing environment and culture here, so that when a woman walks in she is able to feel welcome and safe, but also connect to her potential and aspire to be her best.
How do you use fashion to help you feel your most confident self?
I always wear clothes that make me feel my best. I believe in the dress as the staple of a great wardrobe – it immediately makes me feel put together and empowered. And the best ones have pockets.
It’s also one less thing to think about in busy personal and professional lives, when needing to put an outfit together.
What are the big aims for Smart Works in the future?
Our ultimate goal is that any woman in need of our help will be able to find her way to a Smart Works centre, and get the support and confidence she needs to get the job.
Currently, we are about to head into the final year of our Three Year Plan, aiming to double our reach and support 10,000 women a year by 2025. We want to make sure that every woman who needs us knows we’re here – and the awareness the Pretty Powerful Campaign raises is a key part of that.
What piece of advice would you give to our #KITRIgirls that are looking to reach their full potential?
Don’t be too hard on yourselves. Very few people’s careers are linear, and you’ll have moments where things are going brilliantly and you feel on top of the world, and you’ll have moments where it’s really hard. Both are normal. Don’t lose connection with what you can achieve.

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