WORK HARD. PLAY HARD: Pauline Shabani

Pauline is a young foodie, recent graduate, and business owner who is expanding her catering company Wooden Spoon across London. She often caters for fun events, drawing the strings tighter between the world of work and the party atmosphere of social-life.

Entrepreneurship and startup projects are a big talking point at the moment with a move away from faceless corporate jobs towards the dream of ‘making your stamp on your industry’. What is it really like being a woman under twenty-five breaking into the 21st century startup world? What sort of mountains present themselves and what is the future for bright female minds in our capital city?

Here are Pauline’s thoughts on work-life balance in today’s dining and street food industry.


What is your role now and what are the main responsibilities for you?

Well I’m the founder and currently the only employee. Everything I do needs to happen one after the other for a project to be successful. It all starts with an idea, for instance, when I wanted a way of selling my food and cut down on overhead spending, I did a massive brainstorm and in the end concluded that market stalls were the way to start. I then have to go through the process of organising my stall, buying ingredients and setting up a menu that the client loves! During this process I still have to bear in mind that yada, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook need to be updated throughout the day of the market itself. Of course I don’t do it all completely alone all the time, I have family and friends who help when and where they can.

How long have you been doing this for and what did you do before?

Wooden Spoon started as an Instagram page. In my family, I have always been the party planner/ cook for family events, especially Christmas. Last Christmas I decided to Snapchat while cooking and all throughout the day I was getting comments from friends of how amazing the food looks and a repeat of “when is the restaurant opening?”. Although they were joking, by the end of the day as I was looking through my Snapchat story I thought, yeah why am I not putting my food out there? I had 5 months left of university to focus on so I couldn’t do much, therefore I decided to just post photos of my food and the recipes up online. Within a month, I had gained a couple hundred followers and people commenting and enquiring about my recipes. I was then approached by a lady who owned a bar about hosting a pop-up in her bar, selling my food and things went from there really…

Can you think of any key challenges you had to overcome and how did you battle them to get to where you are?

Well Wooden Spoon is reasonably new. I’m yet to see any major challenges. One thing I would definitely say though, is before introducing your business to the world, prepare – prepare – prepare! Make loads of plans, cross lots off, be it because they have been completed or you are scrapping them, and repeat the cycle. Even seven odd months after launching Wooden Spoon, I am still planning.

Where would you like to see yourself in five or ten years?

The dream is for Wooden Spoon to be recognised by many online as well as offline. In the next five years, I hope to have at least six Wooden Spoon market stalls/trucks in the UK run by Wooden Spoon employees. There’s other long and short term plans/goals but I’ll leave that for you to see for yourself when they happen.


How do you find balancing lifestyle, time spent with friends and family, and downtime with your job?

Well currently things are a little hectic and stressful. My diary is my best friend (I wish I could afford a PA!). Its even tougher working a 9 – 5 job which sometimes requires me to go to events or have meetings after office hours. Nonetheless I do what needs to be done because growing your own business is never easy. Especially at the start. In terms of my family and friends, they are all extremely supportive so they understand my unpredictable availabilities. And downtime? I fit that in when I sleep!

If you could give one piece of advice to a young woman looking to start her career or a business, what would that be?

Do it. Don’t dive into it blindly, plan it. Then when you think you have finished planning, plan again. Make sure your business stands out. Social media pages are great and hosting events are great and setting a price then selling your product is also great. However, there are thousands out there who do things exactly the same. Even when it comes to Wooden Spoon, I don’t feel like the brand is distinctive enough yet, so that is still something I am working on.

And finally, what do you think is the best part about being a young business woman right now?

Being able to say “I own my own business”.


Thank you so much for talking to us and telling us about your experiences! We will be keeping an eye out for Pauline and her new ranges (the Chili Sauces are super exciting!).

Are you a young business woman? Do you have any tips or advice on how to overcome challenges in the working world? Let us know by talking to us on Twitter!

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