Welcome to the FHN Hotseat, this is a celebration of females in Hospitality, Events, Travel and Tourism.
We are passionate about females reaching/achieving goals and therefore sharing their experiences and stories with like-minded women is very important as we learn from others around us.
Feeling inspired and being part a community is at the core of who we are. Each month we will celebrate a female across the sectors and we would love to hear from you if you would like to nominate a friend or colleague as we shout out about their experiences.
Name; Becky Davies
Job Title; Head Of Spirit Development
Company; New Co
Please tell us a little bit about your career journey – what led you into the hospitality industry?
After a brief stint in retail working for my parents, my first job in hospitality was at the ripe old age of 14 working at the Slaters Country Inn in Staffordshire. I stayed there for five years doing multiple roles, and my career in the industry never deviated from this point!
I moved to Leeds for University and got a job working at a cocktail bar called Trio. This soon became a full-time job and my full-time passion, but I continued to juggle my University work at the same time. It was here where I developed a great love and passion for Spirits. The training and development at Trio was brilliant and the whole team was incredibly engaged. This probably explains why so many people from there have gone on to do great things since.
I then moved to Manchester, and worked at a number of venues including Harvey Nichols, Sandinista, The Liars Club and my last stint was at everybody’s favourite dive bar, MOJO. Mojo would be my last stint ‘behind the stick’. After this, I began to pursue my Spirits career and joined a company called Mangrove where I worked for seven years, working my way up from Account Manager to On Trade Sales Director. I love working in hospitality, and it was good experience both sides of the fence! You’re now Head of Spirit Development at Kingsland Drinks, please tell us about your role, the company and the type of projects you work on day-to day? I joined Kingsland Drinks at the beginning of March to head up its new Spirits business (which will be named very soon). My role is to build this new business from scratch, which is hugely exciting and empowering. My responsibilities include curating a portfolio of premium agency brands and crafting some of our own. I am also recruiting a team of industry experts to help me get these brands out there into the hands of the trade where they can then work their magic. Our approach in the short term will be to work closely with the On Trade to offer products with a real purpose and point of difference. We will aim to add value to our On Trade partners, businesses and teams, by offering things like interesting events and incentives, staff training and help with drink development.
What’s your favourite thing about the role that you do?
The idea of building something from scratch really excites me. I now have the ability to create a truly wonderful portfolio of drink brands and - more importantly - I have the ability to influence brands to do more to drive positive change.
Whether that be reducing their carbon footprint, sourcing ethical ingredients, looking to reduce waste or to give back to charity in one way or another, positive change will be a big part of what we do. It’s not about doing everything all at once, but actively moving towards what is right.
What would you say motivates you everyday?
I absolutely love having a team and empowering and encouraging them to be the best they can be. I suffered a lot with self-doubt in the past, and if I see similar traits in someone else, I want to do everything within my power to help them succeed. Some people just need to know someone believes in them and then they go on to do great things (an emotional boost if you will)!
I love the brands, but more importantly, I love the people behind them. It is such an honour to get to know these creative and passionate people and bring their incredible stories to the forefront.
I guess there is an underlying motivator here and that is probably people. I would like to make a positive impact on the people - and the environment - around me.
What’s been your career highlight so far?
Oh my gosh so many! But I guess my most recent highlight would be joining Kingsland Drinks and embarking on this new project, I’ve already learnt an incredible amount and built some amazing relationships. I just want to share what we’ve been working on with everyone soon.
Throughout your career have you drawn inspiration from anyone in particular? (male or female)
There are so many people that truly inspire me in this industry, it’s so hard to narrow it down. In my opinion, the people who are killing it right now are Steph Jordan, Co-founder of Avallen Calvados, Camille Vidal, Founder of La Masion Wellness and Leanne Ware, Founder of Distinctly Aware. All three women have started up their own businesses and are absolutely flying. It’s great to see!
What did you find most challenging about working in hospitality?
I used to really struggle with the fact that working in hospitality wasn’t seen as a ‘real job’. I think people in hospitality have some of the best soft skills that many other industries lack, and skills that you cannot learn from a book. These skills have helped me enormously in my progression through my career.
Do you ever feel pressures of being a female within often a fairly male dominated industry?
I believe that many women are still finding their place in business, but it’s becoming more and more obvious that being open, empathic and emotional prove to be beneficial for business. I often feel pressures, not because of the male dominated environment I am often in, but more because of the way in which I think and I think most women think. We tend to be so self-deprecating and critical of ourselves. I strongly believe men just don’t have those thoughts as often as women do. That’s not to say these feelings are bad - because of them, we tend to work even harder to prove to ourselves and to others that we are enough. It’s exhausting, but hey you get the results!
What advice would you give to young women who are looking to get into hospitality/food & drink?
Do it! I think everyone on the planet should work in hospitality at least once in their lives. The skills that you learn can’t be taught and if not for anything more than the feeling of being part of a team that feels like family.
If you could invite any 5 people to dinner, (alive or that have passed), who would they be and why would you invite them?
David Attenborough – Probably the most obvious choice and no explanation necessary!
Beyonce- Imagine being her friend!
Freddie Mercury - My all time favourite and an incredible talent
Stevie Nicks - Just to get to the bottom of all those rumours, if anything…
Dale Carnegie – I think I’ve read all of his books and would love to pick his brain
Thank you so much Becky it has been amazing to have you as September Female Feature of the Month for FHN HotSeat!
Name; Abi Dunn
Job Title; Founder
Company; Sixty Eight People
Abi, tell us a little about your journey? What made you step into hospitality? When did you realise that working in and for the Hospitality industry was something you were passionate about?
Well after spending my entire student loan over 4 days at the start of Uni – I needed a job fast! After many hours of searching I finally, and reluctantly I may add, accepted a job as a glass collector for Revolution Vodka Bar in Liverpool. (a company I ended up spending 15 years with!) I feel in love with hospitality pretty immediately. Creating great nights out for people – great drinks, great music and great service was something I adored and still do. After finishing my degree I became a GM of Revolution Oxford Road (when I look back now I can’t believe someone let me do that at 21) and it was ace! I went on to open many sites for them all over the UK. Eventually I wanted different things for my Saturday night and fell into recruitment. After a good grounding in an agency, I went back into Revolution and went on to head up their recruiting and training function. After having my kids I moved back out into agency and eventually knew I wanted to do something on my own. I hated the perception of recruitment consultants and wanted to prove that things could be different. Sixty Eight People was born about then. I’m obsessed with hospitality – and although I’m sure the readers of this may think I’m old – I feel like I’ve only just begun. I’m on a crusade to make recruitment great in the sector and support operators to create great places to work.
What three character traits would your friends use to describe you Abi?
Determined, positive and fun.
I think. I hope.
What/who did you want to be when you were growing up?
A forensic scientist. I loved chemistry and I loved crime (not committing it) – funny how things work out isn’t it.
Covid 19 has presented so many challenges for the hospitality industry. You created an amazing NOMORENOSHOWS Campaign. Can you tell us how this started and a little bit about it and how people can get involved?
The campaign. Oh its been such a buzz and the data this week is showing its had an impact which is amazing!!. I approached Antonia after her tweet about Gusto no-shows. I was gutted for them as I know how much blood, sweat and tears has gone into every reopening and wanted to do something about it. Antonia and I wanted to raise awareness with customers about the impact they were having and create a positive message to send out. We hoped that 100 people would share our tile….well it didn’t quite work out that way. The morning of the ‘thunderclap’ was just incredible. We had a fairly deflating appearance on BBC Breakfast that morning and started to get nervous about whether it was going to work. And it just went mental. All our feeds were packed with the image, celebrity chefs shared in, Axis Tower featured it, 450 billboards, national news channels. Hospitality came together on it – and it was ace!
I also would like to add here – what an absolute pleasure it was working on this with Antonia. We only really knew each other as candidate/recruiter. But it worked a dream – a great example of the sum being greater than its parts. Big Ups Lallement.
What would you say motivates you everyday? Now more than ever after the last few months?
I want to have made a difference to hospitality. My pursuit of that will always feature heavily in my life and is definitely what keeps me going.
Who inspires you Abi?
Lots of people inspire me. Anyone overcoming challenges with positivity, strength and determination I would be inspired by. I am totally in love with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez right now. If you haven’t seen her response to Ted Yoho in the recent press then watch it!
Hospitality recruitment can be 24/7 as of course is the hospitality industry. What do you do to switch off?
I find it very very hard to switch off to be honest. I’m constantly thinking of new ideas and how to improve the brand. I imagine you are looking for me to say yoga or green tea here……but its wine. I switch off when I drink wine. I love spending time with my family and friends in restaurants and bars. Or holidays……I do manage to switch off a little on holidays.
If you could invite any 5 people to dinner, alive or that have passed- who would they be and why would you invite them?
How about Bradley Cooper, a bartender, a soul singer, a chef and a floor server? Could that work?
What can’t you live without Abi?
I don’t feel I can write all these questions without mentioning my kids. I have 3 amazing children. At 30 I found myself single and pregnant with twins (long story). After 10 weeks in hospital, basically in labour, Toby & Jonah arrived 10 weeks early. The three of us had a ball, but you can imagine it didn’t come without its challenges. They made me who I am today. I was lucky enough to go on and meet my husband and have my third baby, Lydia. These humans are, without a doubt, what I couldn’t live without.
What advice would you give to young women who are looking to get into the hospitality industry?
Work hard without moaning, seek out any development you can, have fun, don’t drink too much and don’t take notes*.
(*a good friend of mine and I were discussing recently how in so many meetings it would be presumed we would take notes as we were the only girls. Don’t)
Thank you so much Abi it has been amazing to have you as August Female Feature of the Month for FHN HotSeat!