To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, FOCUS is profiling female business leaders in the UK and China to hear their tips on correcting gender imbalance and discover how they got to where they are today. Here, Robynne Tindall speaks to Layla Wang, co-founder of TRiO Wine Bar in Beijing
What inspired you to get into your current industry?
I have always been interested in the hospitality industry and also had a passion for wines, as there are so many different varieties and so much to learn about and discover. This inspired me to get into the wine business and share my passion with others.
Have you ever experienced a tough time that made you want to give up?
Yes, of course, I think this is quite normal. When you are a small business you have to do everything yourself and work incredibly long hours, especially in the bar business. Things don’t always go to plan and sometimes it does make you want to give up. But the benefits of having your own business outweigh the downsides.
How important is it to have a role model or mentor? Who is your role model?
I think it is very important to have people with who you can share things, whether that is to bounce ideas off them, take inspiration from them or simply to have a sympathetic ear from time to time. I am very lucky to know a group of fellow female sommeliers who are some of the best in the country. We have become close friends over the years and we are able to discuss the challenges and share our ideas together, whilst of course also enjoying a glass of wine or two.
What resources have helped you to achieve more and get further in your industry?
Of course, I read as many books as I can about wine and there are some good ones out there such as The World Atlas of Wine. For anyone interested in Chinese wine I recommend a book called The Chinese Wine Renaissance by Janet Wang. From a business perspective, I recently started reading a book called Blue Ocean Strategy by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
I often do some admin in the morning, which might be discussing a new promotion with my business partner, designing a flyer or discussing new menu items with my chef. Then I might go to a wine tasting in the afternoon where I will try to find interesting new wines for my guests. I will usually arrive at TRiO later in the afternoon to make sure everything is ready for the evening and then as guests start to arrive, I am on duty making sure they have a great experience. I will usually finish up around 2am and then head home to bed, exhausted!
What is one thing people can do at work to help eliminate gender bias in the workplace?
I think one of the key things for any business is to be flexible. My business partner Ashley was pregnant when we started the company and so it was very challenging for her to juggle pregnancy whilst giving birth to a new business at the same time. By being flexible we were able to divide the tasks to ensure that she could play a pivotal role in the business whilst preparing for her baby.
If you could sum up your best bit of business advice in one sentence, what would it be?
I was once told to “start before you feel ready.” I think this is good advice because often when you are starting something new you can be tempted to keep adjusting the concept or the idea and never actually do anything. It’s far better to start even if you don’t feel ready and then adjust as you go along.