Jacqueline Straub; Regina; @vanscheezy
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I usually can’t find a succinct way to describe what I do, so I’d keep it pretty vague. Something like: “I’m in the restaurant business” or “I work in hospitality.”
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I went to the University of Regina, which included a one-semester exchange to Louisiana State University. I have a degree in kinesiology and health studies.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
I worked for a non-profit community-based mental health organization, and I also kept a part-time job as a server. I loved the hospitality industry, so wasn’t quite ready to give it up even when I got a ‘real job.’
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
I’m a big proponent of keeping myself open to opportunities that come up, even when they don’t necessarily line up with my current plan, or what I’m “supposed” to be doing. In 2010, I was still working in mental health when my husband (then boyfriend), a chef, was approached by our current business partners to discuss the development of a restaurant next to their existing coffee shop. I knew I wanted to be involved—it’s not every day that you have a chance to build a vision from the ground up.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
I don’t think I’ve ever sat back and thought, OK, we’re good—we’ve made it, because the hospitality industry really requires constant innovation, adaptation and attention to detail. But when the room is full and our guests are enjoying a night out with their friends and family, it can be really humbling to think I’ve had a part in creating a space and experience that feels good for people.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
When we opened our first restaurant I had never been in a management position before, so that was certainly a challenge to overcome. I had to work hard to learn the business side of things but I’m grateful that I started from the ground up. I think the best managers are people who have been through a variety of roles, as they can relate to staff in a more thorough and understanding way.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Don’t be afraid to make changes—you’re never stuck. Take calculated risks according to your instincts, and know what you are (and are not) prepared to sacrifice for your vision.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
As a small business owner I often receive opinions on what we’re doing or suggestions about what we should do differently. Historically I’ve been a people-pleaser and that has been really overwhelming—at times I’ve been flooded with opinions and unsolicited advice. More and more, I’m learning to filter that information and really only take to heart what I feel intuitively is right for me and my businesses. Learning to trust that I know what’s best for me has made a big difference in managing my stress.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
I do believe there are noticeable differences in the expectations surrounding business leadership roles for women and men. Although I feel I hold my own in challenging circumstances, there can be a perception that the final authoritative word on an issue should come from a male business partner. Some people have a tendency to see my involvement as more of a supporting role when I’ve really been hands-on and directly involved in a lot of aspects of the business.
Also in the role of boss, I’ve felt the need to be conscious of not being too assertive or firm. A woman being directive does not align with common gender stereotypes, so that can be misperceived as ‘bossy’ or crabby. On the other hand, people come to you in a manner that they may not approach a man with because they assume you will empathize with their circumstances. I do have a strong emotional side but that doesn’t mean I can’t handle sensitive situations logically, fairly and efficiently.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
As a start-up entrepreneur, breaking down the money you make according to the hours you put in can be completely discouraging, but you have to keep the other advantages of entrepreneurship in mind. In that context for me, the income is fair because I’ve been able to dictate my own projects and truly be my own boss
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
One of the most common negative stereotypes of millennials that I’ve heard is that they have a sense of entitlement and don’t know how to work hard.