It’s Working Women Wednesday! Every Wednesday The Woking Bees are sharing the journeys of successful women in and around the UAE. This week we caught up with Olivia Manner, owner and Co-CEO of Hello Chef, a fabulous e-Commerce site for food delivery with a twist. Olivia tells us how she and her husband quit their day jobs to chase her passion….
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I was always debating between the professional basketball player and sports journalist. I have always enjoyed sport and writing. In my late teens, I got in a hurry to make myself pocket money so I could travel and I lost interest in studying. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. I learned about working hard, earning money and paying taxes at an early age. Later I went back to school and got a degree in hospitality management. By total coincidence, I ended up working in IT and project management instead which gave me the opportunity to learn and advance my career in large international companies and travel. Later, I moved to Bahrain with work and that was a real adventure. Not only I met my husband, but I got to travel in the region and slowly the dream of good home cooked food started to surface…
What is the worst job you have ever had?
When I was 14 I worked through my summer holidays as a cleaner in an airport hotel. That was tough. Not only was the hotel far from home so I had a long commute but I was also the only one in my friend group who worked that summer. I missed on all the fun! The job itself was not great, but again it was a great way to get exposed to the life of people for whom this was their full-time job. I met amazing people and got a lot of perspective in life. One thing was sure after that summer, I was going to study just a little harder at school…
What was your journey like to get to the position you are in now?
It’s a series of big and small decisions. Quitting my job was a huge decision but I knew I wanted to do something else and I knew that I needed to give it 100% of my time and focus for it to be something real. I took a course with Mumpreneurs and Impact Hub in 2015, met some wonderful female entrepreneurs that I am lucky to call my friends today and started learning. I made lots of mistakes but I was constantly seeking for help and guidance. Which I got! It only took 2-3 amazing customers who believed in me and have been with me since September 2015 to give me that push and belief that I can grow this business into something bigger and help more people. In December we took another huge decision which was for my husband to start working with me full time. Since I knew that I needed help and conveniently – exactly his skill sets. We are involved in communities with other entrepreneurs, take courses and try to learn as much as we can along the way. Small steps at the time…
I don’t do back-ups – It’s full steam ahead. If I fail, I will have to regain strength and try again.
Describe your typical work day?
I wake up at 4.50 am and meet my running friend at 5.20 am. We are practicing for the Creek Marathon in December. I am back at 7am, take the kids to school and reach the office by 8.30am. We have a quick huddle and go through the priorities of the day which need to be in-line with what we have decided on our weekly meeting. After that, it totally depends on the week. I am in charge of most customer matters so I get to be close to my customers and get their feedback etc. I am also in charge of all things related food, so there is a lot of menu planning, recipe testing and recipe writing. On Saturdays, I am onsite all day to review products and the packing process. This means I work 6 days a week. Usually, I finish by 6.30PM apart from Mondays when I take my kids to the Finnish School and leave the office at 4PM.
What is the best and hardest thing about your job now?
The best thing is that I know that I am helping people. When I get great feedback from my customers – whether it’s good or constructive – I am really happy. The other great thing is that I get to be connected to other entrepreneurs. It’s an empowering group of people and I am blessed to have them in my life. Also knowing that you can change, make a difference and have the final say about what can be achieved is really thrilling. The hardest thing is the shift from the employee mentality to entrepreneur mentality…having a job was so much safer and I used to have 2 day weekends!
What advice would you give to any women who wanted to work in your industry?
F&B is a great industry. There is instant gratification in a job well done and the interaction with customers is a wonderful school of life. Being an entrepreneur is another beast. If you are willing to learn and unlearn old habits and ways of thinking, you will do just great!
Is there another dream role you would still like?
I am sure something else will come up soon enough. For now career wise I am way in it and it’s difficult to see too far in the future. I wouldn’t mind being a full-time food and grape tester – wouldn’t that just be the life?!
What would be your backup career and why?
I don’t do back-ups – It’s full steam ahead. If I fail, I will have to regain strength and try again. Anyway – I think I am too old now for being a professional basketball player…
We will see you next week for more inspirational from women around the UAE.
– The Working Bees