ELLAS: Empowering women in the hospitality industry
● WHAT IS ELLAS?
Ellas is an ambitious project with the aim to create a strong female community in the hospitality industry to promote visibility and inclusivity. It is a community focused on using female role models to inspire, support, and empower. This will be done through the organization of bartending events across Europe, knowledge sharing, and networking through the use of social media.
● WHY DID YOU LAUNCH THIS PROJECT?
I launched Ellas Empowerment because, as a woman and bartender in the industry for 12 years, I felt that I would have greatly benefitted from having someone to share my doubts and questions with. It was a necessity for me to create a community that amplifies each voice, represents, and offers more visibility to women in hospitality. Additionally, it provides support, and promotes inclusivity and gender equality.
● WHEN DID IT START?
It all started in March 2021, with the name arriving a little later After bartending for multiple guests, I noticed that it was rare to see a female bartender behind the counter. Furthermore, women seemed to be in the minority during major events, and for women with late shift, a safer work environment was needed.
● WHO IS INVOLVED IN YOUR COLLECTIVE? AND WHAT ARE THEIR ROLES?
I am the founder and the face of it. Two other powerful ladies are involved: Alessia Bellafante, chief ambassador for Italy, and Bianca Grisolia, communications strategist.
● WHAT ARE THE MAIN GOALS AND TOPICS COVERED BY ELLAS?
Sisterhood rather than competition among women!
Giving the opportunity to every woman in hospitality to feel included, supported, and understood at every stage of their career, in order to grow and improve professionally.
Providing more visibility to women via our channels and expanding the community internationally through networking, new activities, and services.
Mentoring the youngest to help them understand our industry and accomplish their dreams.
Offering solutions for a healthier and safer work environment.
● WHAT HAVE YOU ACHIEVED SO FAR? AND WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP?
During the past year and a half, we have organized 20 events and taken part in 2 national bar shows in collaboration with brands in Spain, France, and Italy. It gave us the opportunity to connect with the European industry, discover different realities and share our ideas. We hold various masterclasses presenting Ellas Empowerment, our mission, and our vision. However, there is still a lot of work to do. The main goal of this project is to educate around inclusivity by creating workshops and masterclasses to raise awareness on diverse subjects about women working in hospitality, that often go undiscussed.
● HAVE THERE BEEN ANY OUTCOME OR CHANGES YOU NOTICED THANKS TO ELLAS IN OUR INDUSTRY?
We are making a positive impact day by day. Just like other communities sharing our mission and philosophy around the world, like: Celebrate Her, Mapa de Barmaids, Speed Rack, etc...
With our recruitment activity, we are becoming a reference point for some businesses looking for female profiles to hire. Thanks to the rapid growth of our community, we can recommend amazing professionals able to cover different positions.
● DO YOU WANT PEOPLE FROM OTHER COUNTRIES TO JOIN ELLAS AND CREATE IT WITHIN THEIR MARKET?
I would love it! This is actually one of my biggest dreams: Ellas worldwide! The more people that can relate to it, the more helpful it can be to everyone.
The idea that someone wants to join and help spread the message widely keeps me going. Ellas is for everyone, everywhere.
● HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO TAKE IT FROM AN IDEA TO A REAL-LIFE PROJECT?
It came naturally, with time, and I consider it a result of my journey and growth in this industry. When I was a younger bartender, I felt like I would have needed way more psychological and emotional support, as well as more experienced female figures where I was. I always hoped for a female mentor. It is also about being at “the right place, right time”. A few years ago, I would never have thought about myself as the founder of a project with so much potential, nor be able to hold a speech in front of hundreds of people trying to communicate my message. I grew up with the example of Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix, founders of Speed Rack, they inspired me! One of my dreams was to replicate the competition in Spain or Italy. When I started Ellas Empowerment, I was driven by my heart and a burning desire to create something powerful and useful. I don’t have any background in marketing, social media, or communication, and I’m learning in the process, but what really makes me proud and motivated is that in less than one year we already achieved big results and continue to progress with more and more people aware of Ellas.
● WHICH ARE THE STEPS, THE DIFFICULTIES YOU ARE FACING, AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THEM?
First, I didn't really know how to put my idea into action. I’ve never studied or been trained in business development, marketing, or communication. This was the first barrier I encountered.
It's really hard to address a topic like feminism and express ideas in a comprehensive way, especially nowadays. It is a challenging topic to discuss because people are still frightened by it, usually by a lack of knowledge. Ellas is not about politics, but certainly has an important social impact.
Ellas wants to give solutions and find the best way to make everybody feel included and deservedly valued in the hospitality industry, both women and men. It is about fairness and meritocracy.
I want to make it clear that it isn't about opposing genders. Our goal is to talk about opportunities, improvement, and growth.
One of the biggest challenges is the preconception that talking about equality means fighting against the opposite gender. This prejudice leads to a shutdown instead of opening the conversation. And last but not least, ending the circle of women’s competitiveness we’ve been taught since childhood, is paramount to creating a supportive environment.
● HOW DID YOU WRITE YOUR PLAN AND GET PEOPLE ON BOARD?
With patience and dedication. We knock at every door we think should be a part of our project. We normally approach them by contacting the person on Instagram and asking to have a catch-up. This allows them to get to know us, as we can explain what we do. Sometimes they are the ones to reach us because they had heard about Ellas on social media, or during our events. Sometimes they just show up personally asking to be part of it.
● HOW WAS THE TRANSITION FROM LEAVING THE BAR TO FULLY DEDICATING YOUR TIME TO A PERSONAL PROJECT?
I spent one entire year working in bars and on Ellas. I challenged myself every day by doing my long shift at the bar and also keeping my dream alive. But after a while, I had to prioritize and make a decision. It’s been a couple of months since I dedicated myself to Ellas, and new projects that are coming out in the upcoming months. working on new projects coming out in the next months.
Even as a financially sustainable project, Ellas still requires effort and sacrifice. Thinking about what the future holds, justifies the energy you put into a project. Every day Ellas is evolving and becoming a substantial project.
● WHAT DO YOU PRESENT IN YOUR MASTERCLASS? WHY DO YOU DO GUEST SHIFTS?
Since Ellas is a new project, the masterclasses allow us to present the concept and mission, alongside other topics close to our hearts. For the upcoming classes, specific issues will be discussed, including inclusivity, job recruiting, self-recognition, and psychological support.
Guest shifts, on the other hand, are a huge opportunity to obtain and give visibility, whilst showing your skills behind the bar. These events are always the chance to meet and share moments with new people from different backgrounds, allowing us to build a greater network.
● HOW CAN WOMEN AND MEN USE ELLAS? YOU ARE ALSO HELPING PEOPLE TO FIND A JOB, WHAT ARE THE OTHER SERVICES YOU ARE PROVIDING?
Ellas is a tool for everyone, men and women, who want to share a moment of their story with us. It is an opportunity for everyone to gain visibility, find job opportunities, and do some consultancy. One of our services is recruitment. Thanks to our network, we are able to help people find jobs, and companies find professionals. We value the support of men who want to make a change and help us improve the mentality in the industry. Everyone needs to be part of the change! Another main focus for Ellas is to inspire and motivate young hospitality workers to keep going and keep pushing to achieve their goals. If you can visualize it, you can make it happen!
● WHERE DO YOU SEE ELLAS IN 5 YEARS?
I’d like it to become a communication agency and an event organization in the hospitality world, aiming at supporting gender equality and inclusivity. I’d like to see this industry becoming freer and less politically correct.
● IS ELLAS MORE THAN A PLATFORM FOR WOMEN?
Ellas Empowerment is continuously growing and evolving. We still need to do a lot for women, but other communities need to be heard and
The professional value of an individual should never be judged based on gender or sexual preferences. It is important to disassemble certain stereotypes in order to create a more open-minded bar industry. Everyone can make little changes, and when the message is understood and shared widely, it starts to have a powerful social impact.