Next up in our International Women's Day series is an interview with Sylvia Garvin, founder of Sejuiced. We spoke about the importance of speaking out about women's rights, Sylvia's experiences as a female business owner, and the impacts of COVID-19 on her business.
Throughout February, we've been speaking to female business owners to find out more about their work, achievements, and the importance of celebrating International Women's Day. This week we chatted with Sylvia Garvin, founder of Sejuiced, to find out more about her business and experiences within the food and drinks industry.
Tell us a little bit about Sejuiced.
I've been in the drinks world for over 15 years, originally starting out from a pop-up juice bar on Portobello Road market. I started receiving customer enquiries to supply our drinks at events, so Sejuiced was born. We specialise in bespoke drinks for businesses.
Have you always worked in the food and drinks industry?
Not at all - my younger self would be very surprised at what I’m doing now! Prior to Sejuiced I was working in the education sector, running a subsidiary training company for a Further Education college.
That said, I’ve always been a foodie. I’m half French and food and drink was a huge part of my upbringing, so I think the attraction was always subconsciously there.
How has COVID-19 affected your business?
Sejuiced’s work very much relies on social contact in supplying to events and offices, so the effects of COVID-19 have been significant and we essentially lost all our business.
During the first wave, we focused on supporting the NHS in a voluntary capacity. We were approached by hospitals needing drinks for frontline medical staff who were dehydrated in their PPE clothing and needed nutritious refreshments on the go.
Then in June, I decided to rethink my business plan altogether. The pandemic was still very much present, and all our events had been postponed with no prospect of going ahead. I sold a share in my business to a large caterer Crown Partnership and I'm now running Sejuiced within their infrastructure. It's been a big change for me personally but I'm proud that I adapted to a difficult situation and feel that it's a positive step for the future.
More recently we’ve pivoted by offering our eco-friendly drinks service in reusable glass bottles, The Juice Round to retailers. Pre-pandemic, this was a service we were supplying to London offices to reduce their consumption of single-use packaging. We’ve just signed up our first retail clients (including one large coffee chain) and I’m so excited about the future. I really believe in what we’re doing to combat plastic pollution and spare the earth’s resources. Climate change will be the next global emergency after COVID-19.
What have your experiences been like as a female business owner in this industry?
It’s been mixed. On a positive note, I’ve gained some really supportive relationships with inspiring, talented and creative women who I thoroughly enjoy working with.
However, aspects of the events industry are very male-dominated, such as exhibition builds and break-downs. Some situations stand out in my mind, such as waiting for an access pass in a portacabin at one exhibition hall as the only female in the room, surrounded by men looking at newspaper pictures of topless women in newspapers!
I also remember one instance more recently where all the female toilets had been locked because it wasn’t deemed necessary to keep them open. Over the years I’ve steadily begun to notice more women in hi-vis jackets on the exhibition floor and on the road driving vans which has been great to see!
Having a family has been a wonderful life addition but also presented a different set of challenges. Juggling work, home, and parenting is a stretch. Added to this are the pressures of homeschooling during the pandemic.
Why is it important to celebrate International Women’s Day?
I think it’s important to keep the debate alive about women’s rights and access to opportunities. Women still earn less, save less, and hold less secure jobs. COVID-19 has reinforced these divisions by disproportionately affecting female-dominated areas of the labour market such as retail and hospitality. Women also typically do more unrecognised work such as unpaid care. We can’t assume that progress will happen, so we need space to have those conversations and strive for parity.
What advice would you give to women who want to start a career in the food and drinks industry or set up their own business?
Follow your passion, as this will be your source of strength, enjoyment, and pride. But keep an open mind and adapt what you’re doing to embrace new ideas and directions. We’re all constantly learning!
Would you like to order some refreshing juices for your teams to enjoy while they work from home? Check out Sejuiced's menu by clicking the button below. Sejuiced is even offering a Women's Wellness Box for International Women's Day that includes five juices that have been hand-crafted with the needs of busy women in mind.
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