Brigid Kennedy established Simmer on the Bay seven years ago in the upmarket Sydney precinct of Walsh Bay, and has grown it and associated eatery Simmer Cafe into two of Sydney’s premier function venues.
Originally from New Zealand, Kennedy has lived in Australia for 25 years and has worked hard to establish herself as a well-respected chef and caterer, who focuses on using local, seasonal produce.
Kennedy’s what you could call a jack-of-all-trades, spending her time as a chef, caterer, farmer, mum, author and property developer. Despite a hectic daily schedule which includes shopping for ingredients at the markets, helping in the restaurant kitchen and meeting with clients about upcoming events, and a weekend schedule that sees her travel to her farm in Berrima to harvest fruit, vegetables and herbs she grows for her restaurant, Kennedy insists on maintaining work/life balance, taking time out regularly to spend with her partner, son and friends.
In this interview, Kennedy tells Dynamic Business about coping with pressure, how she creates work/life balance, and shares her secrets to business success.
1. How do you suggest aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners balance their work with the rest of their lives?
Sometimes it can be difficult to find work/life balance but I insist upon it. It is very important to set special time aside for friends and family and try to stick to it. Wednesday nights are always date nights with my partner. It’s great as it’s just the two of us and we get to spend some quality time together. I also bring a picnic to my sons school twice a month to enjoy with all his friends. I find a great way to catch up with friends is to throw a dinner party in your home and invite them all along. There are certainly ways of balancing work with the rest of your life; you need to remember whom you are doing it all for.
2. What tips do you have for coping with the high levels of pressure and stress that come with being an entrepreneur?
Dealing with high stress is part of the package of being an entrepreneur. I find the risk of start-up, staff management and the constant need to stay relevant can be both daunting and stressful. To mitigate the stress, I have always found that working with people you like and can trust is hugely important. Diversifying outside of your core business can help reduce stress if outside economic factors come into play. A great family life helps keep you level and working with the earth on the weekends on my farm always has me fresh and ready for the week ahead.
3. What three tips do you have for business success?
- If you create a great product people will come. I believe to be successful in business you need to be bold.
- The location of your business is a major factor. We are located right on the water so many people come just for the view. For Sydneysiders, a view of the water is very important. And for us, our great food makes it a winner.
- Create a niche product. If you can offer people something that no one else has, you are on the right track to becoming successful.
4. What piece of advice would you give your younger self, if you could?
I dreamt of what I am doing now when I was 15 years old so I always knew this is what I would do eventually. It probably took me 10 years to get partying out of my system. If I could give advice to my younger self it would be to start sooner. If I had started five years earlier I would be five years ahead of where I am now. I would also tell myself that I will get a much bigger kick out of success in business than I even imagined. I wish I had leveraged more property starting out, rather than just one or two at a time.
5. Do you think entrepreneurs in any industry, whether it is food, IT, finance or fashion, need to have the same core qualities and personality traits?
I believe that no matter what business you are in, they all have to be run in a similar fashion. Sound financial backing, cashflow control and good business practices are important in every industry. Tenaciousness, the ability to control one’s own destiny and making sure you have control of your business are common traits to all successful entrepreneurs. But I believe it takes very different traits to be attracted to each individual sector.
Hospitality entrepreneurs need that “Mine Host” drive, the need to see that all patrons in their establishments have the very best of food and service. The unsociable hours mean that, often, the business becomes your social life. Everyone wants to be financially successful when you get in to business but to get into hospitality, it isn’t the deciding factor.