Project to help the unemployed wins crowdfunding support

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A not-for-profit organisation that will provide smart interview clothes for unemployed men has won the latest crowdfunding event hosted by Sheffield Soup.

More than 100 people paid the minimum £5 entry fee to eat soup and listen to four local entrepreneurs pitch their ideas at The Printhouse in the city centre.

The Suit Works, which collects clothing donations to help unemployed men suit up for job interviews, was voted the crowd favourite.

Launching in January, the organisation will offer styling sessions, free clothing and mentorships.

Founder Vanda Kewley took home £615, which will go towards basic equipment such as irons, steamers and heavy duty clothing rails.

She said: “I was delighted. I was quite surprised because the other pitches were really strong. I felt really honoured.”

The 57-year-old Hillsborough resident modelled her business on the London-based charity Suited and Booted.

She volunteered at the organisation after she was made redundant at a local charity, and learned how important it was to help people make a good first impression.

Vanda said: “Your employers are making snap judgements about you the moment you walk through the door. It’s just what people do as human beings, so making sure you’re telling the right story is critical.

“I don’t think you can underestimate it – you dress these men, and maybe they’ve gone through quite traumatic experiences. It gives them an opportunity to see themselves in a different light and recreate the story.”

Other entrepreneurs at the event hoped to throw a Christmas party for the elderly, offer free birthday cakes for kids living in poverty, and provide mattresses for babies in need.

Pennie Raven, founder of Sheffield Soup, said: “I think it’s something to do with the time of year. We’re coming up to Christmas, so we had four very charitable ideas come forward. All of them got offers of help and support.

“There was a room full of 125 people bursting with good will, caring about their community. I can tell you that feeling is amazing- it’s addictive. There are people who are passionate and engaged about our city, right from 16-year-olds to those older than 70.”