This was a brilliant event with truly inspirational and honest speakers. There really are some amazing women leading the way in the hospitality industry. These women have had very successful and “purposeful” lives—a word that came up a lot—but they were also unafraid to be honest about the challenges of the work-life balance with having small children. Not to mention issues of failures and confidence that they have overcome. 

This was really the very opposite of a dull conference. We heard the colourful experiences of the formidable Dorothy Purdew (the woman behind the Champneys brand) which included: being rejected for a job at weight watchers; starting her own slimming business to compete; swindling employees; and ugly million pound paintings. Anna Garood (former music producer who grew PoNaNa into an international brand, and now of The Coconut Tree) spoke of her personal jet trips to Ibiza with Liam Gallagher—who was unexpectedly good at scrabble. Well, on the flight out anyway! For pure drive, and a role model to us all, you have to give it to Sarah Willingham: founder of Nightcap and formerly a dragon on Dragon’s Den. Sarah worked her way up from nothing but was always inquisitive and bold; she understands her strengths and really knows how to scale a business.

Covid has been a very challenging time for hospitality, that we all know, but it was great to hear some of the positive stories arising out of Covid. From new businesses and business ideas, to changed perspectives with the drive to carry on making things happen quickly, these stories of success did prove to be inspiring.  

Judy Joo (executive chef, restaurateur, TV chef and founder of Seoul Bird) had a great quote that resonates with us at S4labour. When asked what the best advice you could give to someone running a restaurant, Judy stated: “Efficiency of operations will make or break a business”.

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