Jane Hunt: The social entrepreneur changing the jobs market

Jane Hunt - Fitted for Work CEO

As the 2012 Telstra Businesswomen’s awards open for nominations, Dynamic Business is chatting to twelve former winners about the impact the program has had on their businesses.

Jane Hunt launched Fitted for Work in 2005, after seeing the need for a more personal approach to assisting disadvantaged women to return to the workforce.

As CEO, she’s built a not-for-profit business that offers much more than the mainstream job services. Fitted for Work prepares women for job interviews and dresses them in high-quality professional second-hand clothing in a boutique retail environment – all of which is designed to improve their confidence to approach employers. Hunt’s innovative streak has meant she’s expanded her business’s reach in recent months, by launching an online store – the vintage boutique of its kind run online by a not-for-profit – which she believes sets a benchmark for similar for-profit businesses.

Hunt won the Victorian Nokia Business Innovation Award in the 2011 Telstra Business Women’s awards, for her contribution to over 6,000 women’s lives around the country since launching in 2005. Now, she’s sharing her thoughts on the importance of innovation with Dynamic Business.

Q. How important is it for a business owner to have an innovative spirit?

An innovative spirit makes your business come alive – and often in ways you never imagined! At Fitted for Work, innovation is ‘baked-in’ to the organisation – it’s seen in our services to clients, the Dare-to-Wear campaign we run annually and in our online store, Dear Gladys.

For our team, innovation means looking at issues from a different perspective, having fun and striving to be better at what we do. Most of all, innovation goes hand-in-hand with resilience; accepting that sometimes we make mistakes, but that we can pick ourselves up and succeed next time.

Q. What is the most significant way innovation has impacted your business over the past year?

Fitted for Work is built on an innovative concept. We turned the traditional method of helping people get work on its head – instead of focusing on what stops women who are disadvantaged secure work, we decided to treat them as the most important women in the world. In a beautiful boutique, every woman is dressed in gorgeous clothes by caring and skilled volunteers. In that moment, the women look and feel great and re-discover their courage to secure work and lift themselves and their family out of poverty.

But we didn’t stop there – we’ve also built highly effective mentoring and transition-to-work programs and we assist women who are exiting prison.

Q. What innovative activity do you have planned for the next 12 months?

We decided that the same way we want women to be financially independent – we as an organisation also want to be.

Retail’s changing and realised we had an opportunity to be at the forefront of the not-for-profit sector by embracing this trend. So, based on our bricks-and-mortar Dear Gladys store in Northcote, Victoria, we’ve launched an online store. It’s the first vintage boutique of its kind run online by a not-for-profit and we are proud that other for-profit businesses look at our store as setting a benchmark.

Over the next 12 months we’ll be focused on growing this business as well as building an online community that supports women looking to get back into the workforce.

Q. What advice would you offer other aspiring businesswomen and female entrepreneurs?

I love the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “A woman is like a tea bag: you never know how strong she is until she is in hot water”, so my advice would be try something different – your courage and resilience will surprise you.

Q. How has being nominated and winning a Telstra Business Women’s Award impacted your business or organisation?

Winning the award has had a profound impact on the team at Fitted for Work. The recognition has helped us feel valued and proud of our contribution and the award has increased awareness of Fitted for Work in the broader community and has inspired organisations and supporters to work with us.

Best of all, it’s meant that the women we help also feel proud to be part of Fitted for Work. I’ll never forget a single Mum struggling to get work saw the framed award on the wall and said: “Did you get that award for helping women like me?” I replied: “Without you I would have never got that award!”

We both looked at each other and smiled with happiness.

Do you know a deserving businesswoman? Nominate her now. Click here for more details.

  • Sharyn Coles

    Well done to Jane and the FFW team, not forgetting Dear Gladys.
    A great article especially this part:

    “I’ll never forget a single Mum struggling to get work saw the framed award on the wall and said: “Did you get that award for helping women like me?” I replied: “Without you I would have never got that award!”