Cover Photo: Sarissa Schwartz and her daughter Milan Rebel Schwartz

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, some of our favourite women in the F&B industry share their experiences in juggling work and being a mum

Being a woman is hard. Being a mum in the food and beverage industry—which is known for its long hours, competitiveness, and gender bias—is even more difficult. Hence, we tip our hats to working mums who are able to juggle work and their family life with grace and dignity. And, in honour of International Women’s Day 2022, we talk to three female professionals who shared what it’s like navigating this industry.

Read more: International Women’s Day: Celebrate Girl Power at These 5 Restaurants and Bars in Singapore

Sarissa Schwartz

Co-founder of SJS Group

“Back when I entered the industry at the age of 14, the competition was fierce. You competed for the best shifts, which is where you'd make the most money. There was always someone trying to take your shift, or 'eat your lunch' as I would say. You had to be fast, sell the most, and cultivate a big client base to stay on the schedule. Of course, being a woman in the industry played a big role in this, and yes, I've dealt with more than my share of misogyny and discrimination from men in power.
I'm new to the F&B industry as a mum—my daughter is six months old as we speak. I have new challenges now that I am an owner of five restaurants. On one hand, it's wonderful that I have the ability to work my schedule around her and even bring her with me to meetings. On the other hand, juggling the inner working of five businesses and two restaurant openings while focusing on a new child has proved to be a big balancing act.

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I usually divide up my day accordingly and seek support when needed. I try as much as possible to dedicate my mornings to my work and wellness routine, and the rest of my day is for being a mum. Work has never, and cannot ever take a back seat. When you run your own company, there is no backup plan and my daughter's future depends on its success. While it's a great deal of pressure, taking time for personal time and a wellness routine is important to be a good mum.
I believe that to thrive in this industry, it is important to cultivate a stellar support system around you and be prepared for sacrifices. In the F&B business, nights and weekends are no longer your own, they belong to work. That said, you can hustle as a mum by working nights and weekends and be there for your child during the day.”

Lynn Yeow De Vito

Co-founder of Loop PR

“When I first joined the F&B industry, I faced a lot of challenges due to being young and female. It was an exhausting battle to be taken seriously. This also meant I had to work harder, faster and better to get heard and respected. Nothing can prepare you to enter this industry other than real-life experiences. If you are passionate about the industry, jump into it and be dedicated. As there are a lot of walls to break in this industry, it is important to have passion.
I was fortunate enough to be able to set up my own firm at a young age. This had allowed me to find a sweet spot between work and family, as I currently only handle a small part of the firm. As a working mum, it is important to learn to multi-task and be self-driven—it is a long but fulfilling journey which I am still on.”

In case you missed it: How to Break the Glass Ceiling in a Male-Dominated Industry, by Zalora’s Silvia Thom

Vicky Hwang

Founder of Atlas Bar

“While my husband and I were in the project phase of Atlas—especially as we came closer to our opening—there were many late nights and long hours to get everything done. I used to joke that we orphaned our children to Atlas in the very early days. I was very fortunate to have my mother come from Hong Kong and help look after our two girls.
Once Atlas was finally opened though, we took a well-deserved holiday with the kids to make it up to them and spend some quality time together. That holiday was very special as it felt like we were able to reconnect, come together as a family and create some beautiful memories. The kids now don’t even remember us being so busy and absent during those times. Now they love to come to Atlas and they feel it is as much theirs as it is ours.
I am very fortunate to have a great team who works with me for the day-to-day operations, so I don’t need to be in the venue and I can be flexible with my office hours. Being in the industry though, there are quite a lot of evenings out. There are also occasions when longer hours are required, but my husband and I try our best to be home for dinner with the kids. The one stable I’ve managed to maintain is scheduling an hour twice a week to exercise. I’ve found this to be very helpful for my physical and mental well-being, so much so that I’m trying to commit to an extra hour of tennis now, as well as a weekly nature walk with a girlfriend. As for the kids, weekends are family time when we do lots of swimming, barbecues and family lunches out.”

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