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Chatting with the Queen of Shops

Our co-founder Jude Kelly is a guest on the latest episode of Work Like a Woman, as part of the second series of this podcast from Mary Portas.

At SmartPurse, we’re big fans of Mary: crowned Britain’s “Queen of Shops,” she’s a business woman, advertising executive, retail expert, Government adviser, broadcaster and consumer champion.

Mary's journey

Mary worked her way up from shop girl at John Lewis to Creative Director at Harvey Nichols. She joined the board in 1989, having been credited with Harvey Nick’s transformation into a sexy fashion destination. In 1997, she launched her own creative agency and consultancy.

She’s had her own BAFTA-nominated TV show (Mary Queen of Shops), become an ambassador for British consumers, and conducted an independent review for the Government on rescuing our failing high streets. And she wants to use her experience to make even bigger changes.

A new way to do business?

Her most recent book, Work Like a Woman, is a self-styled manifesto for change. In it, she delves into her personal experiences in business, and how she found herself playing a game where the rules were set by men. So when she started her agency, she wanted to build it around values that mattered to her. She says:

“Now I want to share what I’ve learned, and am still learning, to change the way you work. I’ll challenge every one of you – women and men – to make the way we work better, wherever that is and whatever you’re doing. It’s a change that will see female energy and power as the most valuable currency in today’s new world of work.

Mary Portas

Each week the podcast carries on the conversation started by her book with her guests. She’s joined by Emily Bryce-Perkins, Head of Culture at Mary’s agency, Portas. The episode featuring Jude is, unsurprisingly, all about financial independence.

Enter Jude... and SmartPurse

Mary was a key speaker at our private launch back in June 2019. And Jude first met her when she gave a talk at the Southbank, about how women can effect change as consumers and household decision-makers. So who else would Mary invite in to chat about financial independence and how it can change women’s lives?

In this episode, Mary and Jude look back at Mary’s Southbank talk and discuss how it inspired Jude, and many other women, to think about women’s unrealised power as consumers, and the ethics of consumerism. They discuss how we’re still not using this decision-making power today.

Jude relates this back to how SmartPurse came about – during a number of Women of the World (WOW) panels, she asked women what they needed to feel confident about money.

They said they needed the education and support to help them feel comfortable with money, not advice.

It turns out that Mary and Jude had an example of the SmartPurse audience sitting right with them: Emily declared that she needs SmartPurse, because even she has left her finances to her husband! Jude said she’s a classic example: even a younger, educated, solvent woman didn’t feel part of the money conversation. Women have been excluded from finances and therefore exclude themselves. Mary's advice to Emily?

“Knowledge of money, having done it myself and running a business, is one of the most freeing things.”

Mary Portas

Your money can change the world

Also in this episode, Mary talked about changing our priorities for doing business – how if we put social capital at the heart of communities, economic capital will follow. It’s a huge part of the theme of her book too. She says:


“We have the power to make these choices, we can make that change happen, we can stop… these massive businesses… killing our earth.

Jude and Mary had a long discussion about how women need to harness their power. We can do this by thinking about our buying choices and even in our investment choices. That’s why one of the key topics on the SmartPurse learning journey is sustainable investment – it’s one way we can really make our world a better place.

(To find out more, read Your money can change the world)

Jude tied this back to how women have been excluded from many places of power in the world, finance being just one example.

Hear their conversation

We felt that Mary, Jude and Emily’s chat had loads to say about women and their attitudes to money. But don’t just take our word for it: tune into the podcast, to hear their anecdotes about their working lives and the possibilities for change in the future.

If you like what Jude had to say – or if you have a different take on things – you can let us know.

Listen now!


Highlights to listen out for

10:10 – Jude’s first experience of the barriers facing young women in her working life

13:40 – Jude describes Mary’s Southbank talk on our power as consumers

16:00 – Mary introduces SmartPurse, as empowering women with knowledge

19:00 – How Olga and Jude got together on SmartPurse

20:45 – Emily admits she leaves finances to her husband (and rolls her eyes in pensions meetings!)

21:40 – Jude: “There’s a wheel that goes round, that ends up with women disconnecting from finance.”

22:50 – Mary: “Knowledge about money…is one of the most freeing things.”

25:35 – Jude: “We’ve been generally encouraged to feel power is distasteful …. because nobody wants us to be in those spaces. If we were in those spaces, what would we do differently?”

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