I joined Kelly in May 2014 and I remember our business meetings in a tiny portacabin with people wandering around in hardhats. Not your average office environment but it was because Kelly was about to launch her first café in her hometown of Hildenborough, Kent.
The building was a newsagent’s shop Kelly knew well – as a girl she had two paper rounds to get extra pocket money and later worked part-time in the shop. Kelly wanted to bring a community hub to the village. It was being demolished and redesigned with Kelly as Project Manager and, later in the year, was due to open as Café 1809 (pronounced one, eight, oh, nine!).
My first few months were focussed around learning about Kelly’s business life – speaking arrangements, travel, liaising with her agent, business manager, handling correspondence and responding to fan mail! More of that for later, though, as the immediate priority was getting ready for the launch of the café.
As a PA I believe it is really important to understand your boss’s business, objectives and values. Kelly is very focused and driven and has a clear picture of what she wants to do and how she would like things to be. I soon also learnt that she is constantly in demand.
I had always been used to working with a boss who usually sat just a few feet away! Initially I found it challenging that Kelly was not office-based. I quickly learnt to prioritise the key things in Kelly’s business life and communicate in a way that suited us both. We agreed to meet once a week, with everything else on a daily email. This is how we still work today.
Getting back to the café – catering and cafes were completely new to me! I learned quickly with lots of healthy food and refreshing smoothie research and sample testing. We ended up with a Rocky Road that can’t be beaten.
Then the renovations were complete. I sat in on interviews, created staff files, chased references for employees, checked sizing for uniforms and ordered products for the café. With tight deadlines, this was undeniably hard work.
James, our IT expert, and I created a hefty Health and Safety manual. With help on content from an industry expert, we made sure the information and documents were relevant to the 1809 building – fire and emergency exits and emergency drills, staff training, first aid training records and accident forms. All had to reflect Kelly’s brand and values so there was careful proof reading to get them just right.
Just before the café was due to open Kelly took part in Bear Grylls ‘Mission Survive’. She was in a remote area of South America with no phones, no technology and absolutely no way to check up on our progress! However she loved the challenge of the programme and adapted quite quickly to being uncontactable! We all adapted to just getting on with it.
We worked to a tight deadline and it was important that we did what we could whilst she was away. Because Kelly had been so involved she knew her team had a strong understanding of what needed doing and trusted us to get it done.
Having made it to the final three with Mike Tindall and Vogue Williams, Kelly returned a week before the launch. It was all in place – the food, the local crowd, the musicians from the local school and the press coverage!
I mention all this because we have just done it all again – recently in June she opened her second café 1809 in Gravesend at the Cyclopark. This time, as you can imagine, it was an easier process as the documentation was all in place. Unfortunately there was much less sampling as the food and drinks are similar in both cafes! No sledgehammers and hardhats this time either, just Kelly’s Café 1809 stamp to put on it – this is a warm and inviting environment where people can ‘Eat, drink, relax and smile’ – her café motto.
I was there on launch day and it has created lots of extra business activity – more interviews and filming, website promotion, requests for school visits and review of products for both cafes.
You may be wondering why 1809 (one, eight, oh, nine)? This very special number was on Kelly’s bib when she won her two Gold Medals at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
Hear from me again next Friday on another challenge and why there’s never a dull moment!