In Conversation with Cafe Gilli

In Conversation with Cafe Gilli

We sat down with Carla from Cafe Gilli on International Women’s Day to hear what it means to her and her life journey. She has been working in the hospitality industry for over 30 years, spanning restaurants, cafes, new innovative startups, and her latest venture, Romanello. 

How can we ensure that International Women’s Day goes beyond a single day of celebration and becomes a catalyst for ongoing positive change for women globally? 

“I believe we are on the way to true recognition with ongoing positive change through a journey of integration. This involves actively supporting women-owned initiatives, engaging males as crucial allies, recognising that achieving gender equality requires the involvement and support of males as allies, and committing to long-term initiatives focused on women’s rights and development.” 

How has being a woman entrepreneur in the hospitality industry influenced your journey, and what advice do you have for aspiring women in the field? 

“Being a woman in the early days posed challenges, yet I developed resilience, remaining strong and focused. Exposure to unique challenges inherent in breaking into a traditionally male-dominated field has profoundly shaped my journey. The obstacles I faced magnified the importance of perseverance yet being a woman in this industry emerged as a source of strength. Navigating hurdles that are often amplified for women, I found resilience. However, it’s also been a source of strength, allowing me to incorporate empathy, attention to detail, and a focus on customer experience that resonates with a diverse range of guests.” 

“My advice to aspiring women in the field is to embrace your uniqueness and leverage it as a competitive advantage. Don’t shy away from advocating for yourself and your ideas. Resilience and perseverance are key qualities of successful entrepreneurs, irrespective of gender. Above all, believe in your abilities, trusting that your voice holds significance, and your contributions can create a lasting impact in the dynamic landscape of the hospitality industry and beyond.” 

Can you share what challenges you’ve faced as a businesswoman and how you overcame it?  

“While managing over 20 restaurants, cafes , and fast-food establishments, each has presented unique challenges. One of the challenges I have faced as a businesswoman is gaining recognition and respect as a leader while maintaining focus on outcomes and achieving a balance in life. This journey deepened my appreciation for the power of preparation and unwavering perseverance. By staying focused on our goals and remaining steadfast in the face of adversity, we were able to transform daunting obstacles into opportunities for growth and success.” 

Many women juggle multiple roles in their lives. How do you manage the balance between your business and personal life, and what support systems have been crucial for you? 

“As a single mom and businesswoman, achieving balance between my professional and personal responsibilities has been a constant juggling act. Managing the demands of running a business while also being there for my son requires careful planning, prioritisation, and a strong support system. My reliable support network of friends and family is crucial for me, leaning on for help and guidance makes all the difference.  

“I’ve learned, perhaps a little too late, that self-care is important. Taking time to recharge and nurture my well-being is essential for maintaining balance and avoiding burnout. Finding equilibrium as a single mom and businesswoman is an ongoing journey, but by staying organised, relying on my support system, and prioritising self-care, I’ve been able to navigate the challenges with grace and resilience.” 

Have you had mentors or role models who inspired you on your journey? How do you think mentorship can play a role in empowering women in business? 

“My business partner has been a constant source of support and encouragement, providing valuable advice and insights. Additionally, my wonderful customers play a crucial role in shaping my business and inspiring me to continually innovate and improve. Their feedback and support have been instrumental in helping me identify opportunities for growth and ensuring that my business remains relevant and responsive to their needs.” 

International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate women’s achievements. Can you share a moment in your career that you are particularly proud of? 

“My proudest moment to date is Cafe Gilli, mainly due to the challenges we faced during COVID. However, we not only managed to survive but also experienced growth during this period.” 

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for your hospitality business and how do you hope to continue making a positive impact for women in your community and beyond? 

“I am most excited about our new startup, Romanello. I will continue to be humbled by all the successful stories of women that I have been a part of their growth over the years.” 

Stop by Cafe Gilli at Queen Victoria Market on Monday and Thursday through to Sunday or follow @gilli.qvm on Instagram for more information.

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