25th April 2022
Dr Jane Ellis-Brush explains how 1st Impressions is helping women into employment.
Penny Munro: Jane, for those people who don’t know about 1st Impressions, can you explain what the business does?
Jane Ellis-Brush: 1st Impressions enables disadvantaged women (including everyone who identifies as a woman) back into employment by providing an interview outfit and a capsule wardrobe for the working week, and, in addition, confidence building and interview training.
PM: What was reason for starting the company?
JE-B: After a long and successful career in the City and then later relocating to Budapest, I decided, along with my husband, for us both to change lifestyles and careers. We were lucky enough to get great jobs at the University of Bath and so began the move here to Bath. As our belongings arrived in our new flat, I realised – to my horror – how many clothes and accessories I had amassed in my previous roles. But that sparked the idea of donating the clothes to anyone in need of a working wardrobe….and so 1st Impressions was born.
PM: What has been the reaction to the business so far?
JE-B: I have been blown away by the generosity of people; since launching 1st Impressions and inviting people to donate, there have been so many fabulous clothes – in all shapes and sizes and from all over the country – arriving at our headquarters. But I think what has been most exciting is the difference it has made to our clients. The joy and confidence it has brought to our 1st Impressions community has been quite amazing.
PM: Why do you think clothes make such a difference?
JE-B: We all know what it feels like to wear something that makes us look good – it is empowering. And it certainly helps us to feel we can achieve the working role we would like to do. For many reasons, some women do not get this opportunity; we want to change that and give those women the confidence to look and feel good again.
PM: How many people do you have in the team?
JE-B: We have a core team of six keeping the business running efficiently and sustainably, and marketing the organisation. We also have a fabulous team of volunteers with skills ranging from styling to fundraising. And we are bringing more and more people on board all the time as word gets out about the difference we can make to the community.
PM: Are there any other companies or charities you collaborate with?
JE-B: We firmly believe in collaboration; throughout our journey, we have been supported by and collaborated with some fantastic local charities such as Mercy in Action, St John’s Foundation and Fairfield House. And we are always open to ideas for strategic relationships with other charities or businesses or individuals.
PM: What are your hopes for the future of the company?
JE-B: We have great plans for growing the business to support as many people as possible who have need of it. We are aware there are women who need styling and interview assistance and who can afford to pay for it and so, in the future, we would love to roll out the service to a wider circle. But right now, our priority is working to our current business plan and making that a success.
PM: For people interested in getting involved with 1st Impressions, what is the best route?
JE-B: We are very accessible and approachable and welcome contact of any kind, be it through our website, email, or a phone call. We know there are some amazing people in Bath and beyond who can help us make this happen so please get in touch.