When Alex was 14 years old, she did her very best to avoid school homework and, after being expelled from school, decided that her time would be much better spent trying to make some pocket money. So, she started her first business, she was 15, selling sandwiches from the back of her bike (named Billy) in Saudi Arabia. Fast forward a few years, with a stint in-between at Ballymaloe and time spent at Oxford Brookes, Alex Head is now founder of Social Pantry, a London based event and corporate contract catering company with a multi-million pound turnover. Social Pantry was born out of an adoration for fresh, seasonal and delicious food; after a lot of hard work and late nights, Alex went from hand-delivering sandwiches to now owning and running a catering business with a big social conscience. What makes Social Pantry so unique is that 10% of the workforce are ex-offenders.
Who inspired your love for cooking?
My Mum and both of my Grannies were a big influence for me when growing up, as I loved to cook. I come from a big family so have lots of wonderful memories of fun, delicious and hectic family meals enjoyed at home round the table. Being taught to make crumble topping aged 8 is my earliest kitchen memory, mainly eating the sugary mixture – probably the real reason I loved making it!
What were you like at school?
I was extremely naughty. I was expelled at 16 and started selling sandwiches off the back of my bike, which is where it all started, every cloud!
What advice would you give your teenage self?
Relax, enjoy it, personally I wish I hadn’t worked as hard. To try keep a good balance of working and partying is important.
Have there been any barriers or setbacks in your journey?
Plenty! So many, oh so many mistakes!
My setbacks and mistakes are what I have learnt from, they’ve been the making of me and my business. If you are always getting it right, you would never learn. I am always learning and enjoy the challenge of it all.
Where did your passion to make a positive impact stem from?
As a result of always being naughty at school, I was always in trouble and I loved it when I was given an opportunity to prove myself. I now offer opportunity to anyone who is willing to work hard and excited for a role within my business, for me, anyone leaving prison has already done their time so deserves another chance.
How have you experienced being a female entrepreneur in the hospitality industry?
I love being a female entrepreneur, there is currently a lot of support for female led businesses which is always encouraging.
What is your recipe for success when leading your team across all your sites?
Lead by example and work hard. Getting to know your team and understanding what motivates each employee is key to the success of that person’s progress in your company.
What does your day-to-day job involve?
All sorts! It can involve anything from a prison visit, food shoot, running a high-end event, visiting one of my sites, recipe testing, finance meeting, new business pitch, panel talk…..I try to keep a balance of what I really enjoy doing and the parts of my job I don’t enjoy as much.
What chef do you most admire?
Thomasina Miers is a brilliant role model to me: she’s a great chef, a businesswoman and a mother who also finds time for charity…what a hero!
For more information on Social Pantry, visit the website here.