One messy, glorious year of building community
This time last year, surrounded by half-assembled furniture, the last of the boxes and not a little builders’ dust, I settled down on the banquette in The Cellar, our sparkly new restaurant and bar and tried to get some sleep. It was the night before our opening, and the pizza oven needed to be lit throughout the night to dry out so it could be used the following day. Having spent a fortune on renovating our building, I was anxious about leaving a gas fire burning with no one in supervising so I decided to keep it company. We had been working non-stop day and night to get Kindred ready and open by 14th December 2018 — and it felt appropriate that after weeks of sleepless nights, I was able to spend some time breathing it all in; the quiet, the stillness, reflecting on what the year ahead would bring — and the lessons I had yet to learn.
And there have been plenty of lessons. It astounds me how much time and resources we spent on fruitless activities at the beginning that seemed so important at the time but amounted to nothing. I learnt that people want you to succeed and are generous with their support and advice which is often far more valuable than anything you could pay for. I hadn’t anticipated that growing and managing my team would be where I found my most joyful moments, as well as my most painful ones.
People often ask me what have been my proudest moments at Kindred. It’s a hard question because as anyone who runs their own business will undoubtedly relate, we are often our own worst critics. Everything is seen within the frame of “this is good, but we could be doing better”. The predominant positive reviews get eclipsed by the few negative reviews that keep us awake at night. We always need to be working faster, harder, more efficiently. Then we need to be better at leading, better at listening and reflecting, better at providing the ‘bigger picture’ while also being better at picking up on the details. But then there are the moments, where pride rears its head momentarily. I’ve learnt now that you need to breathe it in and grab it while it lasts, because before you know it the toilets will pack up again, or a customer will complain about something, or the HDMI cable doesn’t seem to the working – and you’re back in the hamster wheel trying to make everything perfect.
But those moments, those few and far between wonderful moments do happen, fleetingly. My proudest moments are seeing customers crowd into The Cellar with every table taken; people outside walking past, doing a double-take, deciding to try us out and staying for the whole evening. Seeing our chefs work together to prepare beautiful plates of food; churning out huge orders for events going on upstairs; seeing our bartenders shake endless cocktails for our now popular happy hour. Watching people who have never been to Kindred before get up and dance because the band is just so good. Seeing our members, who previously didn’t know each other, come in especially for our Monday morning coffee club, setting their intentions out loud and making new connections in the process. Last week we hosted our members’ Christmas lunch. We had 20 people sitting around the table who had not known each other a year ago, but are now all key players in the growing Kindred community. Looking at membership applications and reading time and again how people feel aligned with our values, how they genuinely want to meet new people and be a part of our community. This is why we’re willing to bleed and sweat and cry for our businesses; moments like these make it all worth it.
And now for the new year. Building a community stronghold takes care and attention; and we plan to take our time to make sure we’re doing right by our values and the needs of our members. But we also have ambition for this next chapter. We’ve gone through a year of stumbling around in the dark, pressing random buttons just to see what might happen. This year we’re a bit older, not that much wiser, and mistakes will continue to be made – but we have lit up the path ahead and know now where we’re aiming for.
The key to Kindred has always been and will always be its belief in the power of human connection. Despite the hard lessons and the moments of angst along the way, I feel genuine joy when I see our members using the space we’ve created like it’s their home. We set out on a mission to make a place where people could come back to the heart of what it means to be human; connecting with others face to face, sharing thoughts and ideas and intentions. Where people feel recognised and a sense of belonging by simply walking through the door. We don’t pretend to have everything right, and we’re always wanting to listen and make things better where we can. If there’s one thing that we can promise in 2020, it’s that we’ll do everything we can to protect what we’re creating, uphold our values and keep listening to our community as to what they want us to be – because I have a feeling that we’ve hit on something just a little bit magical here.
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