Employability is not just about the skills you have on your CV. It’s also about building self-confidence and bringing this to interview.

At our Employment Academy, we understand how crucial it is to bolster the self-esteem of our participants and provide the tools needed to present the best version of themselves to future employers. That’s why we partner with Smart Works and Suited & Booted – two UK charities that provide high quality interview clothes and interview training to unemployed people in need. Giving our participants the extra support needed to get back into lasting, good work.

This week, we catch up Maria, founder of Suited & Booted – a charity that specifically helps vulnerable, unemployed and low-income men into employment. She tells us more about her pathway into creating a social enterprise that’s creating a positive community impact and helping to break the cycle of homelessness.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do? How do you work with the House?

I was brought up in Hackney. After leaving University with a PhD I did various things, from teaching TEFL and ESOL – both here and abroad – to organising conferences and events. Running Suited & Booted, however, has been the thing that has given me both the greatest challenge and the greatest sense of fulfilment. It is really wonderful to see so many lives change for the better.

I founded Suited & Booted in 2012. I realised that there was a need to help disadvantaged and vulnerable men be successful in their job interviews. So our aim is to make participants look great; make them feel wonderful; and give our clients confidence by ensuring that they are dressed in clothes that inspire them to do their very best. That balance of appearance and motivation is really important, as appearance and motivation go very much hand in hand.

We see participants from the House of St Barnabas when they are nearing the end of their employment course. Our brilliant team of volunteers, including some professional stylists, help the House’s participants look and feel outstanding for their job interview.

What has the experience of supporting our participants by providing formal, fitted clothing over many programmes been like for the Suited & Booted team?

It’s always been a very special experience. Our House of St Barnabas clients come along as a group and our stylists spend around an hour with each client, selecting a suit and accessories for a working wardrobe. Once the suit or tie is on the reaction is so positive – the smile and the acknowledgment of a version of themselves they might never have seen before. Body language changes, shoulders go back and our House clients transform.  One of our House clients recently said that it was an experience to cherish and “feeling like a million dollars even long after the fact has been a massive boost to my confidence.”


(The Employment Academy’s current participants in their tailored Suited & Booted suits)

The last 12-months have been a challenging time for us all. How have you adapted over the last year?

We’ve had to make changes, of course. We’ve done some virtual styling and have delivered and posted out parcels. We have had to meet clients at places other than our Office, such as tube stations and churches. But even with social distancing, there is nothing like the human touch and being able to meet our clients in person.

What changes from 2020 do you think, or hope, will stick?

Our styling sessions are complemented by a session with an interview advisor who provides individual help with drafting or fine-tuning a CV and developing interview techniques. We started to offer support for this over the phone and will continue to do so.

What’s there to be excited about in 2021?

Everything. As a charity, we are always looking at ways to keep helping our clients and how we can be innovative and flexible.

Is there anything else you want to share with us?

We have to move from London Wall Buildings next year, so we are currently looking for new premises. If possible, we would like to stay in the City of London, where we are currently based or nearby, as it is very accessible for our clients. We see over 1,500 clients a year from all over London so good transport links are essential. Should anyone be able to help with finding a new home for Suited & Booted, please do get in touch and we would be so pleased to hear from you.

To find out more about Suited & Booted and their work in the community, follow their website – here. To contact Maria about a lead for new premises, email – here.

Who else in our community would you like to have an audience with? Let us know!