Kate Schrire | Founder & Co-Owner of The Creamery Ice Cream Company.

Kate Schrire

After becoming a chef, Kate Schrire worked for several years in the non-profit world, mainly on sustainable food projects. She always knew that she wanted to run her own food business along Slow Food principles, but it wasn’t until she started making ice cream at home, for her friends and family, that Kate discovered how much better handmade ice cream tasted than anything else available commercially – and that you couldn’t buy the stuff anywhere in Cape Town. Kate realised that ice cream would be a wonderful platform for celebrating locally grown, seasonal ingredients, that would allow her to continue working directly with small emerging growers and family farms. That then birthed the idea of The Creamery Ice Cream Company.

My Definition Of Success | I don’t really like the concept of success. It feels too much like a destination. Especially since everyone seems to be chasing it! When you eventually reach that destination, you find it’s moved further away; you’ve changed as you’ve grown, as has the world around you, and now the landscape is different. You also discover it’s a moving landscape, especially in the course of a human life. Your business could still fail even if it’s successful right now, your next product could be a disappointment, the criteria by which others judge you might change. I think it’s healthier to try and enjoy and feel satisfaction with the journey. It makes it easier to move the focus from your goals, which are finite, to your values, which you carry with you and should apply to everything you do, and shouldn’t change much over the course of your life.

My Highlights | A recent highlight for me was getting medical insurance for all of our staff, both part and full time. It’s almost unheard of in hospitality industry, but even staff who only work for us on weekends are now covered. It makes sense for us as a business – sick staff who delay getting medical treatment tend to get sick repeatedly – and ethically, as a business that views its people as its biggest resource.

The Difference Between Good And Great | The greats have what the Coca Cola corporation calls ‘constructive discontent’. They believe they can always do better, be better.

A Key Talent | Focus more on your values, less on your goals. Goals are targets, they are finite, and they will change constantly. Values are your philosophy you bring to everything you do. They are never ‘done’ or ‘finished’, and shouldn’t change much over the course of your life. By focusing on how you do things, you make sure that even if your goals or direction change, you are doing things in a way that you will be proud of when you look back on it. Focusing on your values is hard work, it’s tempting to say “never mind right now, let’s put money/success first and we’ll deal with the how later”. But the how is what matters. By growing my business according to values rather than goals, I’ve built an organization which has strong foundations and really amazing people in it, developed a quality brand, and a product which is respected. Which is exactly the company I want, even though I didn’t always realize that.

How I Use My Mind | When stuff goes wrong, it’s important to be calm, and always focus on problem-solving. I have yet to come across a problem that cannot be solved. Pretty much every situation short of death – which is mercifully rare in the ice cream business! – can be solved or improved. So for every problem, there is a solution, or usually multiple solutions. It’s a matter of figuring it out.
It’s really hard to do anything effectively if you are panicking or really upset. When something goes wrong, I try to keep perspective by asking myself whether this problem will still be a problem in two weeks, a month, a year’s time. 90% of the irritating things that happen daily won’t even still be on your radar in a week.
You can’t always control what happens to you, but most of the time you can control how you respond.

Kate-Schrire-3Dealing With Doubt | I like to imagine that whatever is worrying me is someone else’s problem, and they have come to me for advice. Other people’s problems are always easier than your own! There’s an expression in Yiddish, “Oh, to have your problems!” that I think is really accurate. So I pretend whatever is worrying me is someone else’s problem. I find I instantly gain some distance and perspective.
I also really aspire to be a ‘fearless leader’. When you’re in charge, the buck stops here. I try to tackle things that scare me quickly and face on, whether it’s a difficult staff discipline issue, a customer I have let down, or a supplier who is taking advantage.
My golden rule is, I don’t let myself worry about things when I can’t sleep. Absolutely nothing makes sense when it’s 2am and you’re exhausted and worrying in the dark.

Performing At My Peak | Getting enough sleep (whatever that means for you and your body) is a good place to start. Generally safeguarding your health – if you’re rundown, if your body’s not working right, everything’s just going to be so much harder. It’s also important to not let work take over your life. You can put a lot of your life on hold for a week, a month, maybe even a couple months, but not much longer than that. Relationships need engagement, bodies need nurturing, and your mind needs a break. Don’t be all about one thing.

Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | I learn a lot from following others in my field online. It’s so easy, with social media and the internet, to follow what other small food businesses are doing around the world. I also am much quicker now to reach out to experts, and to pay experts, for their advice. Having a fantastic accountant, a human resources consultant – these are wonderful resources for my business and for my own development. And in particular, having a local community of other small food business owners I can talk to is invaluable to both accessing information and resources, and getting practical advice and support.

On Inspiring Others | Firstly, believe great people are out there! It’s easy to get demotivated when you’re searching for staff or collaborators and no one’s a good fit.Kate-Schrire-2
Next, don’t drop your standards out of desperation. Sometimes, we interview twenty people for a role, and none of them are the right fit. It’s tempting to say ‘well let’s take the best out of the twenty’, but you must always measure according to your standards, not the standards set by a group of applicants. And set them high! If you don’t like your colleagues, and you’re the one who hired them, you’ve only yourself to blame.
Find talented people, good people, nice people and make them your tribe. Take care of them. It’s depressingly easy to create a nicer work environment than most people have experienced. Communicate clearly, praise frequently, treat them decently, even when (especially when) you are correcting or disciplining them. If your industry allows for flexibility, trust them to set their own hours, and work remotely some of the time. Freedom’s heady stuff.
Surround yourself with good people, whether it’s colleagues, suppliers, mentors. It also becomes self-fulfilling – most of my staff cite their colleagues as one of their favourite things about working for my company. And happy staff make for a productive, motivated and happy work environment.


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