Leadership is often considered something one is born with. However, the world has seen leaders who came from very humble backgrounds with no privileges and went on to impact the world with their imaginative thinking. Though the world has seen many great leaders, no one has been able to pin down a specific definition of leadership. However, there are some people who have somewhat given the business world a gist of the ideal definition of a leader. Hannah Sharman-Cox and Siobhan Payne, the co-founders of “London Cocktail Week” possess all the attributes of a good leader and have impacted the hospitality industry with their work and exceptionally grounded leadership. An inspiration for everyone who intends to step into the dynamic and growing hospitality industry, Hannah and Siobhan are indeed a guiding light and an excellent example of passion and persistence. With their never-say-never approach, Hannah and Siobhan have been leading their organization from the front and continue to think big and expand their vision despite the pandemic.
In an interview with Aspioneer, Hannah and Siobhan shared some key insights into their journey to the top and the future plans.
Cocktails made compelling
Hannah: “Founded in 2010, “London Cocktail Week” is the largest cocktail festival in the world. It is an annual city-wide festival with just the two of us working on the project. Over the last twelve years, it has welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests and injected millions into the London nightlife economy. On an international stage, the festival has become a blueprint for multiple Cocktail Weeks across the world and is universally recognized to be the best example of a cocktail festival globally. We’ve remained incredibly consistent with our original core values of the brand – inclusivity, education through experience, and elevating the industry from the inside out. We have always found the hospitality industry incredibly welcoming and supportive. It is a pleasure to be part of the community and we take the responsibility of running such a large-scale, impactful event incredibly seriously…with a cocktail in hand!”
Women hold most of the senior positions in almost all of the companies we work with. Many of these women also have young families, have a fairly decent work-life balance, and are all - without exception - brilliant at their jobs.
In competition with self
Siobhan: “We’ve always been fairly fearless and are strong believers in trusting our instincts but the advice we still give ourselves is to be consistent. If you keep showing up – it will pay off. Oh, and start with the worst job. Just get it done and then – phew. It’s done.
We are lucky that we don’t feel in too much competition with anyone else. We’re friends with other event organizers, especially those here in London, and ensure we don’t clash with timings or concepts. However, it’s imperative we keep evolving and improving as a festival experience and so we spend a long time after each annual event discussing the pros and cons with as many people as possible – be that sponsors, bar partners, investors, and most definitely guests. After the two years just gone, we’re in a position to change the format of the festival slightly and ensure it’s the best it can be as the landscape returns to vaguely normal. This pre-work is exciting for us and what keeps it fresh after all these years.”
An industry that nurtures
Hannah and Siobhan: “The hospitality industry is a wonderful place to be and there is increasingly more care given to nurturing and promoting talent. One of the best things we’ve seen recently is the outstanding work of Equal Measures – launched in 2021 by two friends of ours Deano Moncreiffe and Hannah Lanfear. They are currently allocating grants for 2022 and Equal Measures is open to anyone underrepresented in the cocktail and spirits industry. This could be due to ethnicity, gender, sexuality, neurodivergence, or another given reason. Great work by great people! If you are truly starting from scratch and you want to get a foot in the door – we suggest either sitting at your favorite bar and talking to the staff about how they got their job or if it’s a more ‘behind the scenes’ area of the industry that you want to go into – just simply send an email. This industry is so welcoming. There’s no one we can think of that wouldn’t appreciate a polite request for a coffee and a chat. Over the years, we’ve hired so many people that way and it’s always worked out great.”
Striking the right balance
Hannah and Siobhan: “Women hold most of the senior positions in almost all of the companies we work with. Many of these women also have young families, have a fairly decent work-life balance, and are all – without exception – brilliant at their jobs. We feel it says a lot about both the men and the women in our trade that this is the case, and we’re extremely proud of the inclusivity the industry as a whole is showing. If we were to make a sweeping generalization (sorry chaps) a female brain is also sometimes better suited to the diverse nature of the work we do – which involves unbelievable layers of multi-tasking and acute attention to detail.”
Adapt, embrace, and win
Siobhan: “We are confident that we won’t be back in the full force of Covid-19 again, but for the last two years, we have had to make some enormous changes to our business. As the first lockdown hit, we were planning the 2020 event, but all plans went out the window and we had to reformulate the structure of the event entirely. We knew immediately that as long as the bars remained open we could activate a format that would be beneficial to the industry. Once we felt confident in the plan – we went out with a lot of trade press and social media campaigns and so quickly became pivotal to many brands’ ‘bounce-back’ plan. By us being steadfast in the run-up to the event – we helped our sponsors navigate that difficult time and gave a structure for brands looking to support bars in the capital. It felt daunting at times, but once we understood the rules the government was imposing, we could confidently move forward, knowing we were staying well within them but also benefiting our industry. In 2021, we changed absolutely nothing. It was the kindest thing to do for bars and brands who were still coming to terms with the ‘new normal.’ We’ve actually been extremely fortunate with timings over the last two years and while there were definitely some sleepless nights, we tried VERY hard not to let that show. Over the two years of the pandemic, London Cocktail Week injected ¾ of a million pounds directly into the nighttime economy, but over the twelve years we’ve been running – it’s obviously much more than that. Going forward, we are about to launch The Cocktail Week Collective – a network and shared space for all the organizers of Cocktail Weeks around the world! As the most established of these events, and following such adversity for the hospitality and events industries – we felt it was our duty to join the dots. Shared experience is so valuable and while this certainly won’t be a commercial endeavor – we hope it will inspire some brilliant conversations, foster new relationships – and involve lots more global travel while we’re at it!”