Bronwen Vienna (MA Creative and Media Enterprises 2005-06) is managing editor of What's on Foodie? The What's on Foodie? experience platform showcases both offline and online events allowing people to connect with others over food and drink. Collaboratively, the What's on Foodie? community connects people who love cooking or producing with sociable people who enjoy eating.
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When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I almost always wanted to run a dotcom. I had my first for profit site at 16. Before that though I wanted to be a ‘big time’ real estate developer — in my primary school yearbook I declared I wanted to be “the next Donald Trump”. That blurb still gives me the giggles, especially as other 11 year olds' write-ups include statements like “I love animals, so I would like to work with ponies when I grow up”.
What was the best careers advice you were given?
I don't remember much formal ‘career advice’, except from a career software program in junior high school! After 30 minutes of questions the system spat out a list of ‘recommended careers'. I didn't think I took that list to heart but it turns out I have worked in both areas it listed — journalism and recruitment. Looking back now I must say that is a pretty impressive algorithm for back in the day!
In all seriousness though, probably the clearest message was from my parents. For as long as I can remember they encouraged me to choose my own path and do something I love. I always had a strong belief that by following that way of life, like they have, everything else would fall into place from there — the financial success, the professional achievements etc. I must say their advice is working and has brought me a lot of happiness along the way.
Describe yourself in three words
With twitterverse language:
What is your job?
I am a co-owner of What's on Foodie?. My daily role is as Managing Editor and I am responsible for daily operations of the company. We are a global listing for food and drink events, as well an online magazine. Despite the name we list every kind of foodie experience but the restaurant — food and drink festivals, tasting, culinary experiences, cooking classes, foodie tours, as well as supper clubs and underground restaurants, which is where, we got our start.
What's on Foodie? has a team of about 20 part-time and full-time individuals. If you view the site now (May 2012) it is our temporary platform as we are in the process of transitioning to the new platform. Soon we will move to our new platform, which I have been building with our Head of Technical Development. The tasks are so varied and stimulating, every minute of every day is super exciting and fulfilling.
Can you tell us more about What's on Foodie? and how you became a co-owner of this dotcom?
Guestaurant.com (now What's on Foodie?) started at the University of Cambridge in 2010. At the time I was professionally working in the world of events in London, when Christopher Jen (our CEO) approached me for advice and some contacts. I stayed closely in touch with Christopher and followed the team's development of Guestaurant from a university project to a business. With my professional experience (online, marketing, events and journalism), as well as my education (journalism and then a postgraduate at Warwick in Creative and Media Enterprise) Guestaurant was the perfect outlet for my skills and passion. When they offered me a place within the team in early 2011 I made the big life decision to go for it and join them, I haven't looked back since. I am grateful they invited me in, the team is one of those perfect start-up teams I always dreamed of working in: clever, tech-savvy, passionate, top-of-their-game kind of people!
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
These are the areas which I have heard can kill some entrepreneurs — working around the clock, needing to have 100% confidence in your actions, having no income coming in, facing new competitors with bigger budgets, navigating legal issues and paperwork, new technology learning curves, research, sourcing of staff, and travelling.
For me these areas are not the most challenging. The most challenging is actually the outside of work part. There are a few unexpected ‘challenges’ that I wish I had an entrepreneurial handbook for.
a) Juggling the personal life
I wholeheartedly believe that you have to be 100% in it to win in, 'it' being your business. Prior to What's on Foodie? I was out 5-6 nights a week. I can handle not being out at the pub or the club, as I feel I am making the right, and only choice for my business, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have an impact on friendships and relationships. When I have a meeting on Skype at 1am my time with UK and then a Skype meeting at 3am my time with Australia… there is no going to the pub, even just for 1 or 2 drinks, you need to be 100% on form.
I moved out of London in 2011 and for the last year have been based out of Canada as part of our strategic expansion plan. I try to maintain my friendships in an online capacity, but it is not quite the same as giving them your time in person. I know I have missed out on a portion of my 20’s, but what can you do? As an entrepreneur you want to be there for your friends but you have to make hard choices. You have to be extremely selfish with your time.
b) Lack of entrepreneurial friends/contacts in my network
Probably the biggest surprise in the early days of business, in 2008, was discovering that I am one of the few entrepreneurs in my social network. I found this especially hard over the last 14 months.
Running a business is also a very interesting exercise because you find out who of your friends are really 'invested' in you as a person. For many people understanding my journey was like talking about derivatives, or something dull and also complex in nature. This was quite surprising because I thought since people use the web and online systems every day there would have a natural curiosity about it. There have been friends that disconnect because they cannot really follow, but then there are some that step up to learn about your business so they can support and follow you. It goes without saying that I am very appreciative of those who are supporting me.
What have you done that you are most proud of?
Nothing yet, I'll get back to you in a few years on that! :)
What single thing would most improve the quality of your life?
Wow, interesting question, my quality of life is probably the best it has ever been, because not only am I doing what I love, but also I am challenged on a daily basis. I love how I am always learning and growing. It is very satisfying to use my skills and experience to the maximum.
What three objects would you take with you to a desert island?
My mother, father and brother — as entrepreneurs we could get that island up and running in no time and make it a destination that we could promote once we swam back to the mainland! I once stayed in an ice hotel, so what about a sand hotel… like a massive sandcastle… yes...that could be different….
Maybe I would replace my brother with a Structural Engineer… yes we would need one of those.
Where do you hope to be in 10 years’ time?
I would like to be financially supporting young entrepreneurs and helping them realise their dreams. Part of this would ideally be by setting up a formal framework whereby I can offer a regular stream of small grants. This would allow young entrepreneurs to purchase small but extremely important tools like business cards, software, legal fees etc. that ramp up really quickly. That early support I feel is very important. I hate to see an idea that our world really needs die just because someone cannot raise capital for the very basics.
I would also like to own a UK football team… aiming for a League 1 or 2 team though, not the Premier League!
What are your favourite memories of your university years at Warwick?
Cheerleading was pretty darn fun, boxing at the student gym, and of course the student union.
On an educational note my course in Creative and Media Enterprise was really fulfilling as well, I loved how the course brought in real world business experts. I interviewed a Warwick student earlier today for a Regional Editor role, and we were discussing how the postgraduate programmes at Warwick are really fantastic in bringing in guest speakers.
Do you have any advice for new graduates?
I believe Rachel Kerr, a former Warwick alumna of the month (who I am a big fan of), summed it up really well:
“My advice to new graduates is to value your time. Don’t waste time in career options that are to please other people, follow your heart, work hard and success is guaranteed.”
Anything else you would like to add?
Yes, if you are a foodie or love events please check out our site: What's on Foodie?
Bronwen Vienna: the facts
|Lives:||UK and North America|
|Career:||Events, journalism, online, marketing, PR, recruitment, and production|
|Interests:||Business, property, sports and music|