After attending the Smart Works charity sale, in London last November, when EWiF’s Business Support Administrator heard they were having a fundraiser cycling challenge, she thought… why not!

Smart Works Charity is EWiF’s chosen charity. We admire and support their values to encourage women back to work by giving them the best chance to succeed. They do this through interview and career coaching, and provide them with an interview-outfit and enough outfits to keep them going to their first pay day. The women who come to Smart Works are referred from Job Centres, mental health charities, women’s refuges, homeless shelters, the prison service, care service and youth organisations.

Over the last 10 years, across 11 centres in the UK, Smart Works has empowered over 35,000 women, many of whom are at greatest risk of economic hardship and discrimination.

In the last year:

  • 44% of clients had been unemployed for over a year,
  • 18% had applied for over 50 jobs,
  • And 10% had applied for over 100 jobs before coming to Smart Works.
  • In addition, 37% were single mothers,
  • 16% have a disability
  • 52% were from an ethnic minority.

95% of them said they feel more confident, like Deborah: “It’s interesting how much the way we visibly present ourselves can make such a difference. I was able to reconnect with my old self, catching a glimpse of the person I used to be. Thank you for all [the team] do to make the lives of women so much more meaningful. I’m living proof your actions really do matter.”

Smart Works’ clients gain financial security, empowerment, self-belief, economic independence, hope for the future, and happiness, as Diane can attest to: “I never buy myself anything; my children come first and what’s left, which isn’t much, goes on shopping or essentials. I was so blown away by the outfit, shoes, bag, makeup, and coat – it felt like Christmas had come early. I’m so grateful for the help your charity gives to people who are desperate to get back into work. The difference you make is incredible.” These are all values EWiF supports, so we decided to take on the challenge to cycling a minimum of 100 miles each!

Well… turns out cycling 100 miles is actually a bit hard!

5 of us were brave enough to sign up on behalf of EWiF/Coconut so myself, Paul Clegg, Steph Gutmann, Nathalie Buckley, and Mark Harmon set off to cycle our 100 miles over 2 weeks.

Armed with my snazzy leggings, and podcast sat the ready ,I hit the gym bright and early to start my challenge. I calculated I’d need to cycle 11.5KM a day over the 2 weeks. I managed 13.75km my first ride and felt good about it, so my second I did 15km. Then life happened- I missed a few days and then it was the weekend- so I smashed out 20km and felt great!

Like most of the team, I’d never cycled this far or consistently before, so my new challenge was against the clock. My first 20km took 71 mins, the second 68 and third 64! I was determined to get under an hour and by the 4th try I achieved my personal best of 59.40! Honestly, I was doing a roadrunner impression towards the end, just to beat the clock!

I’m ashamed to admit that since finishing the challenge, I haven’t set foot back in the gym! So, for me, having the challenge and marking off the miles ridden was super beneficial to get me motivated. I’ll be attempting the couch to 5k for the, I think, 6th time and I’m determined to finish!

I’m delighted to have raised £140 for Smart Works, with the Team raising £612 all together! There is still time to donate if you’d like to here. This will help the charity reach their goal to double the number of women they help from 5,000 to 10,000 clients a year, by deepening their reach through the existing centres, and opening new centres in new areas of the UK.

EWiF will continue to support Smart Works, so keep an eye on our social media and website for updates.