Five Women Talk Smart!

A review of the Smart Talks event as part of Henley Literary Festival.
Words by Lyndsey Spurgin. Photographs by
Carola Moon.

Smart Works Reading had an excellent evening at the Henley Literary Festival on Friday 5th October, with our talented panel sharing their thoughts with the wonderful Toni Kent hosting. The panel were:

Lape Adejuwon — Founder & Designer of Elle Won

Louisa Parris — Founder & Designer of Louisa Parris

Nayna McIntosh — Founder of British womenswear brand Hope

Sally Beaton — Founder of Women with Sparkle

Finding your role

One of the first themes to emerge lead by Louisa was the idea of playing a role as wife, mother, professional or friend. Louisa found herself between countries when living in San Francisco and commuting to London for work. Being a designer can be a lonely job, sat drawing all day and she needed to find a role that suited her. She found herself another purpose and started to volunteer and teach to give herself a reason to get involved in her community in the US.

Nayna went as far as setting up her own company in fashion to get away from the football chat in her Monday morning retailer meeting. Her advice is to work with your talents, interests and passions and then do it differently.

Lape certainly warmed to the same theme when starting her business after a health scare, she found pleasure from work and started to flourish, with her gift and travel experiences, then moved onto her first collection of handbags.

Put yourself at the centre

Sally had a lot to say on putting yourself at the centre of things, rather than put yourself first which her clients seem to find hard, put yourself in the middle to make things work. Having a quick break, a think and even to close your eyes for 5 minutes can refresh — put back in your “energy bank” and then start with the next round of activity. Stop the constant round of withdrawals from the energy bank and then expect there to be more.

Nayna’s favourite word is “delegate”, as head of a successful womenswear brand and wife and mother she has many tasks to complete. But with a strong 50–50 partnership at home and a great small team at work she finds that if you put yourself at the centre, you can build from there.

Building confidence

Sally started a conversation on body confidence that struck a cord with the rest of the panel, of women not fixating on a number on the bathroom scales or a number in the back of their dress to make them happy but a feeling. Focusing on a feeling to build confidence from within.

Nayna picked up the theme talking about her more positive sizing of her women’s wear brand, which comes in slim to super curvy sizes with a much more supportive and positive message.

Louisa also related to the topic saying that comfort made her feel confident and her brand is one size and everything comes with pockets!

The whole panel agreed that comfort and confidence go together and women need to get out there and try things.

Give back

All of these talented women make time to give back and get a lot from their association with Smart Works Reading. Volunteering and being inspired by the work Smart Works does to get underprivileged women back to work by building their confidence and dressing them for an interview — really makes a difference. With over 400 clients successfully now in employment after visiting Smart Works Reading we know there is a need. If you have valuable skills and would like to give back please contact Smart Works Reading — volunteer profiles are here.

This is the first event in the Smart Talks series, run by Smart Works Reading. Chairwoman, Sarah Burns, cuts the ribbon for the debut event. Look out for more events like this in 2019!

Smart Works Reading
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