Lord Wandsworth College - Real Estate Management
Oxford Brookes University
Lily Simpson was studying real estate management with the goal of becoming a chartered surveyor when she decided to listen to that little feeling in her gut that said it just wasn't the right career path for her. So, she left school and started her own catering company called Lily's Lovely Bites, an events company called Simpson and Simpson and most recently launched a new lunch delivery, The Lovely Lunchbox. When she isn't busy making sure her clients are full and satisfied, she works as a consultant, does graphic design work, spends time with friends and family, and of course, eats good food and drinks nice wine.
The harder you work, the more rewarding it will be.
How did you discover your current job?
I have always loved cooking, and eating for that matter. Although I studied real estate management with the full intention of becoming a chartered surveyor, I knew that it wasn’t the right industry for me. So, I start running my catering company on the side of my full-time job, and after four years I decided to go it alone and pursue the catering industry full time.
What is your typical day like? What types of things do you do in your job?
Every day is completely different. If I have an event coming up I will mostly be meeting with my suppliers, testing recipes and meeting the client. I also focus on marketing and client relationships. It's so important that I maintain a strong relationship with all my clients, so I try to keep in touch on a weekly basis.
I also cook nearly every day and post my recipes on my blog. I'm also in the process of redesigning my website, which is taking up a lot of my time at the moment.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
The most rewarding part is hearing that people enjoyed my food. There is nothing better than making people smile through food. I also love meeting other foodies and getting inspiration from them.
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
At the start I had to make a big financial sacrifice. I went from a well-paid job as a project manager to suddenly having no income stream. Although I knew I had a few events in the pipeline, and that kept me motivated. When you start you own company you have to always look six months ahead.
What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?
Just don’t stop. Whether you are having financial troubles or things just don’t seem to be going to plan, be open-minded, always be positive, and just keep going, because the harder you work, the more rewarding it will be.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
I think it’s really difficult for women to balance their lives. When I worked in the property industry, I wanted to prove myself, and so I worked silly hours, and it really affected my social and family life. Now that I have my own company, I work just as hard, but I can be more flexible with my hours, which really helps. There is such pressure on women to choose between a career and a family, but I believe you can have both if you are in the right industry.
Who are your role models?
The first person has to be my mum. She really showed me that you can raise a family and be successful. She has an amazing ability to pick herself up when times are bad, and that has been a real inspiration to me.
I have so many role models in the food world. Jamie Oliver is astounding and the hardest working person I have ever known. I think Gizzi Erskin is great, and I love her unconventional ways.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Just be yourself, and follow your heart. Don’t do things because other people think you should! Eat as much food as your head tells you, too, and if you crave chocolate, just bloody well eat it.
What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?
I ran my company on the side of my full-time job, and this is a great way to start, because you build up a client list and hopefully a reputation with it.
Never compromise on quality.
Start a blog and document everything you do.
Network with as many foodie people as possible.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I hope that my company is still successful and I have lots of happy and full clients. I want to publish a cookbook in the next two years and hopefully develop a reputation for great, simple, delicious food.