— 12 Mar 2020, 11:29 by Daniel Dear

This year for International Women’s Day, the theme is #EachForEqual – exploring how our individual actions, conversations, behaviours, and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society through ‘Collective Individualism’. 


At BOXPARK, we’ve hosted a variety of events to celebrate the occasion from panelled discussions and debates on activism, live podcasts on feminist art and expression, vision board stations, and special live performances.  


We’ve invited a handful of fabulous, inspiring women from across our sites to come forward and share their success stories, top tips and experiences. 


Let’s put our hands together & embrace #IWD2020!

Meet Eve Burns from BadAxe, BOXPARK Wembley


Eve was born and raised in West London and is of Italian/American & Irish decent. Her family moved to Florida when she was 15 years old and she returned to London about six months ago. Eve has a diverse range of interests including fire-spinning, metal art, and performing, and she has had a breadth of customer service jobs in the UK and America. 


When she found an opportunity at BadAxe, it was the perfect fit for her – and she’s absolutely loving it! She is the first person in the UK to be officially crowned ‘Axe Master’. This role involves the day-to-day running of the venue, training customers to axe throw in a safe and respectful manor, maintaining the equipment, helping to train / supervise staff, and has even gained the privilege of training celebrities who have come into the venue such as TV stars Ant & Dec!

Meet Heather from Longboys, BOXPARK Wembley

Heather is a former executive pastry chef at two five-star London hotels: The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park and the Shangri-La at The Shard. Originally from New Zealand, Heather first landed in London when she was 19 on NZ-UK Link Foundation scholarship, via her chef’s apprenticeship at Auckland’s Stamford Plaza Hotel and Peter Gordon’s Dine restaurant. 

From there, she worked her way through some of the world’s most-famous eateries, including a stint at The French Laundry in California’s Napa Valley and a year at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant Maze in London. Alongside her husband, Heather is now Co-Founder of Longboys, a London-based gourmet doughnut and coffee business. 

Meet Uzma Pattani from Thai Express, BOXPARK Croydon / Wembley

Uzma is the owner of Thai Express UK. Her role within the company is Operations Director, Head of HR and since by trade she is a Graphic Designer, she also does all the marketing materials and store murals. 

Meet Chantal Codougan from Mama Jacqs, BOXPARK Wembley

As Director of the company, Chantal is the driving force of Mama Jacq's vision and future. Chantal is ultimately responsible for the overall running of Mama Jacq's and she focuses on product design, brand, sales and funding.

Meet Jade Simpson from Nanny Bill’s, BOXPARK Wembley

Jade Simpson is Head of Operations for Nanny Bills, managing all aspects of the business; a team of 20+ staff, customer and supplier relations through to events and accounts.


When you were younger, what was your dream career?


Eve: I didn’t dream of a specific career but was always dreaming. I definitely wanted to be a jack of all trades when I grew up. So, my dream career was having all of the careers. Though it was always a weird mix, like part-time hairdresser, part-time astrophysicist and part-time international superstar all at the same time.


Heather: I trained to become a chef from the age of 16, first completing an apprenticeship in my native country of New Zealand, and later moving to London to further my career. I had always loved cooking, so it was a natural career choice for me. I spent the first half or my career in the hot kitchen, before moving to patisserie.


Uzma: I wanted to be an Investigative Journalist. I'm slightly obsessed with criminal investigations particularly.


Chantal: I wanted to be a portrait artist. My father was an artist and I always wanted to be like him. Throughout high school and sixth form I would spend all my lunch breaks in the art room creating pieces. My intention has always been to make people happy. Food has allowed my family and I to make people happy without having to say a word.


Jade: I wanted to be a footballer when I was little, then a detective, then an architect or interior designer - ultimately, I decided to just be me and see where it took me.


Who is your biggest female role model and why?


Eve: My mother for sure. She is so smart and driven and just takes on life with such a positive attitude every single day! If I turn out to be half the woman she is then I think I’ll be in pretty good shape.


Heather: Right now, probably Jacinda Ardern, PM of New Zealand. I am grateful to come from a country which has been a front runner in equal rights for women, and which sustains a number of women in high profile business and political positions. Jacinda has particularly approached politics from a family-orientated position, championing policies that benefit families, maternity and parental leave, childcare and greater flexibility for women returning to the workforce.


Uzma: My mother for sure. A legend in her own right. Especially in the Canadian/Pakistani society.


Chantal: Besides my mother, Rihanna is my biggest female role model. She was born in a small island like me with very little money, however through hard work and determination she is now the first black woman running a luxury brand, a makeup entrepreneur and remains one of the highest paid musicians. She has shown me that it’s not where you’re coming from that matters – with determination and discipline you can accomplish your goals.


Jade: My inspiration and power come from the one and only Nanny Bill. She always worked the hardest she could, always made people happy with her presence and food and never took any rubbish from anyone.


How did you start the career path / business you’re running now?


Eve: Most jobs I’ve held have had a strong customer service focus and I was always keen to be doing something out of the ordinary. So when I found BadAxe was opening its first location in the UK I just jumped on the opportunity to utilise my skills in a fun and funky environment. Thankfully, the owners saw my quirkiness and passion and took me on as part of the start-up team.


Heather: Prior to Longboys, my partner and I also co-founded Smart Patisserie, a successful hospitality consultancy firm. We wanted to bring a unique and fun concept to London, hence Longboys was created. My previous roles in the industry have included Executive Pastry Chef of Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park and Shangri La At the Shard, working in numerous Michelin starred restaurants, as well as being a private chef and travelling globally.


Uzma: When I moved to London 10 years ago, I saw a gap in the market for a "fast, casual” Thai brand. I noticed that it was a sandwich society and hot fresh food was not so common, especially for a city lunchtime crowd. Being a HUGE fan of Thai Express from Canada, I approached the brand to see if I could open one store in London. They were not interested in a one off and I then took a much bigger risk and bought the Master Franchise Rights for the UK. This took a lot of persuasion, as I was one individual with zero background in food/restaurants, and more importantly zero financial backing! With the help of my husband we managed to open our first store in Guildford, Surrey in 2012.


Chantal: It was actually my brother (Allen Codougan) that came up with the company name and concept at 14 years old. He used to sell snacks in school and then eventually started selling our mother’s sauces in jars with small quirky handwritten labels in Watford. My brother knew I could paint and draw so he asked me to sketch a few logo ideas, and after completing sixth form, I convinced him to allow me to help grow the business. I invested all my savings I had made whilst working in retail and created a logo working with a local consulting company in Hampstead, London. I borrowed a small government loan to help me buy equipment. Mama Jacq’s LTD was officially founded in May 2013.


Jade: I came on board with Nanny Bill's about a year and a half ago; I always helped out here and there and was running a reuse charity when he asked me to join our sibling forces full time. 


What is one of the most difficult challenges you faced in your career and tell us how you overcame it?


Eve: A big one within this job was that I didn’t know how to throw an axe when I started! But now, I train people every day, I participate in the World Axe Throwing League, and I am pretty darn good at it now (although it took a lot of practice). But, outside of BadAxe, one of my biggest professional obstacles has been the belief that after having finished University in 2017, I should be on a ‘traditional career path’. I struggled for a couple of years to find where I could fit in and feel satisfied in a ‘desk job’. But that’s just not me. I am glad a trusted my gut and ignored that little voice in my head telling me to ‘try to be normal’. 


Heather: The hospitality industry is notoriously testosterone-fuelled, and I’ve had my fair share of dealing with sexism in the workplace. Despite holding a 1:1 degree, I’ve been told I wouldn’t know how to read a budget, asked to wear a pink apron, dealt with unequal pay etc. I believe success comes from working hard to achieve your dreams, and once you rise to the top you can begin to change the system little by little. Empowering other women to become strong and successful in the long term creates a stronger and more united society.


Uzma: Understanding how to do business in the UK. Being Canadian, things are done very differently...from how to negotiate, what the employment laws are, even standard food temperature checks are a few degrees off. So, having to re-educate myself on every aspect of owning a business in a different country was difficult. I made loads of mistakes, but the key was to make sure it was set right and that mistake never happened again. I sought professional advice very early on from lawyers and consultants to help me grasp things more quickly. 


Chantal: The most difficult challenges I have faced has come from making the switch from selling Caribbean sauces and hot food at markets and festivals to launching our first permanent base with BOXPARK Wembley. It’s taught me so much! I had no clue about the legality of running a restaurant and the operational aspects. I had to learn how to create systems within the kitchen to allow orders to be sent out on time. The biggest challenge is yet to come as we are working on expansion.


Jade: Honestly, being able to know my own worth. I think I have always been taken advantage of in my past positions and my brother has been able to give me the support and confidence I needed to strive.


What is your proudest achievement to date?


Eve: I’m not sure if I could pin down one specific thing. But I am generally quite pleased with the direction my life is going. Since finishing University, I have travelled quite a bit – moved to the UK (twice, the first time with only £100 to my name!). I’m figuring out how to be an adult in London and in less than a year have two jobs that I really enjoy, a house share with a great group of flatmates, and a great group of friends and a partner that supports me in all of my endeavours.


Heather: Running two businesses with my partner, and juggling family commitments between us. That keeps us busy!


Uzma: I was two weeks into the first store opening and one of the cleaning staff from the food court came to ask if we were hiring. He spoke little English and told me his cousin was arriving from Nepal that week and if I would consider hiring her, so I invited her to do a trial. Her name was Meena – and she immediately felt like family because we both spoke Hindi and were able to communicate. I remember that night after closing I walked into the back kitchen and saw her scrubbing the floors on her knees! I told her that was unnecessary, and she could just use the mop. She told me “NO, you get a much better clean when you are close up”. I knew she was not doing this to impress me but rather because her work ethic was strong and nothing she would do from that moment onward would be half-arsed.


Shortly after I invested in an English tutor and Meena had lessons twice a week following her shift. Within six months she became supervisor and fast forward six years, she now OWNS that store. She is my first franchisee and we just celebrated her welcoming her first born into the world as well as the news that she will soon be opening her second Thai Express location. Meena Gurung is most definitely my proudest achievement in business to date. I invested in her from the beginning, because I realised that almost everything can be taught...BUT hard work you either have, or you don't.


Chantal: My proudest achievement to date is that I am able to maintain restaurant quality since opening in December 2018. A customer that was present on the launch of BOXPARK said “the curry goat tastes the same as when I first had it, and that’s why I’m still here”. For me that’s all I could ever hope for. He brings his family every week.


Jade: At the peak of last summer, I managed 7 successful sites, operating underneath the biggest landmarks across London with over 60 employees.


What is the one tip you would give to young women seeking success?


Eve: Trust yourself and what makes you happy! Demand respect, be kind, and don’t panic. There are so many paths that lead to success, and you don’t have to take the motorway, sometimes the meandering country roads gets you to your destination on a more enjoyable route. School only partly prepares you to find success on your path, you have to search to find the direction you want travel. There are so many things that you can do with your life. Trust your gut and don’t try to squeeze yourself into any mould for a job. If you are yourself and completely unabashedly so, then you won’t have to change yourself at all. The right job for you is the job where you can be yourself and it moulds around you, not the other way around.  


Heather: Hard work and dedication pays off. You can achieve your dreams if you tackle them one step at a time.


Uzma: Persistence. It goes a very long way and shows commitment and passion. If you keep at it, refine it, change it, adapt it, learn from it, things will eventually begin to persist


Chantal: I would tell her not to be afraid of getting her hands dirty! Though she would need assertiveness I believe a successful businesswoman needs to know the overall running of her business inside out. It’s the only way you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. As cliché as it sounds, you’ve got to be in it to win it!


Jade: It's all about the bounce back – in our work and personal lives we all find things that knock us down or things that don't go right. It's not about the 'thing', it's all about how you bounce back.


Why do you think International Women’s Day is important?


Eve: It’s a celebration of all the amazing things that women have done. We are all told that throughout history men have been the dominant force behind change and technological advancement, but that’s just not the whole story. It’s important to highlight some of woman-kinds best achievements to inspire the next generation of women so they have someone to look up to, someone they can recognize so they know that they too can do anything they put their minds to; be anything they dream of. As women we are often silenced and ignored and raised to ‘do’ but not seek the recognition for our accomplishments. Women of all kinds need to talk about ourselves.

On top of being the Axe Master at BadAxe, I am also a Duty Manager at the newly opened Vagina Museum in Camden and I have a strong belief (which was thankfully reinforced by my upbringing) that women and men should be able to do all of the same things in society for the same pay and social standing. We have worked for generations to achieve that, but we still have work to do! And International Women’s Day highlights the achievements of women that have helped us take those steps forward, but have somehow still been swept under the rug and left out of history books for so long. 


Heather: It’s important to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women through social, cultural and political spheres. Throughout the world there are still many societies where women do not have equal rights, or the support systems we are lucky to have. Whilst in our own societies there is much to celebrate, there is also much more than needs to happen to create a truly equal and tolerant society, not just for women but all minorities, ethnicities, religions etc.


Uzma: It’s an amazing time in history to be a woman, and that must be celebrated. This day reminds us of all the struggles and achievements, and in a way it has created a bond across the globe for all women and that "bond" gives motivation and confidence to the next generation.


Chantal: It’s a great day for self-reflection and celebration. A day when all women can look back at all their accomplishments that year and set goals for the year ahead.


Jade: It is a chance to come together as women; to appreciate each other’s successes and triumphs on the world. It's also important to honour a time where women in the UK were not free; free to vote, free to work, free to live freely. Even more importantly it should highlight and raise awareness for the women who still suffer inequality across the world. Everyday should be International Women's Day. 

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