Before setting up Pout Promotions (now Phoenix Staffing) nearly 10 years ago, CEO Sarah was studying at The London School of Economics, and never worked a ‘full-time’ job. The professional world she knew was the promo and shot girl shifts she did whilst juggling studying, which led her to idealise setting up her own staffing company and avoiding the 9-5 status quo: “I was quite rebellious when I was in my early twenties, I couldn’t face the idea of being told what to do”. 

Pout Promotions supported and supplied Brand Ambassadors for the WE ARE FSTVL.

However, as a 21-year-old girl claiming to own a (now) large business, the road to success has not always been a linear upwards journey – every victory comes with its challenges. Sarah recalls the most difficult time in her career running the agency, where one of the biggest and most regular clients that Pout worked with (70-80 venues across London) changed CEOs and decided they would no longer use any outside staffing providers: “Overnight we lost three quarters of the business, I was emotionally distraught” Sarah confesses, and admits that dealing with this as a woman meant that it was hard to compartmentalise things, as naturally, women are more empathetic and maternal in instinct. Indeed, research has found that as leaders, women tend to use a more “transformational” leadership style which emphasizes emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. Instead of being defeated in the face of adversity however, Sarah chose to simply, rebuild: “For the next couple of months, I chose areas after areas in London, going around knocking on doors, building relationships and contacts, grafting, and making certain choices so that my business was more stable and not dependent on one large client”. 

Hetty, an upselling shot waitress at the Tropicana Beach Club.

Thankfully, every cloud has a silver lining; Sarah shares that despite the difficult challenges in her career, the most rewarding aspect of her position at the helm is seeing the lives that Phoenix touches and changes: “The most fulfilling part of my job is seeing the opportunity you can provide someone… not just financially, but with the community and culture we have created within Phoenix”. Whilst developing her leadership style, Sarah recalls she did not have any kind of role models, but admits that growing and working into a leader has led her to be vulnerable, honest, down to earth and most importantly, real. She also thinks that “everyone is born with leadership potential and influence” but being selfless and putting your ego out of the way, ultimately is what leads to decisions that is for the good of others above yourself. Sarah also believes that when leading, it is important to look for legacy and for people who’s going to leave an impact behind you, explaining that “to develop someone who does better than you, is the highest form of leadership. It is important to recruit up and recruit someone that is better than yourself, although you will never get someone who is 360 and amazing at every single thing”. 

Aeriel hoop entertainment by Phoenix performers at Cafe Ole.

When asking Sarah how being a leader as a female differs in the world of higher management, she defends that knowing your identity as a woman and being able to hold yourself is certainly crucial in a male-dominated environment like the hospitality industry. Despite the pervasive sexualisation and masculinity in the industry, society has nevertheless seen a massive cultural shift; women are becoming more and more accepted in leadership positions, and consequently businesses are thriving in unprecedent ways due to increasing diversity in management traits. Although there is always going to be judgement and negativity, Sarah explains that using your femininity in a way where you are not compromising, but rather celebrating it, comes with its paramount advantages and empowerment. 

VIP Hostess Carina G. at the opening night for Gabeto.

When asking Sarah what advice she would have given herself when starting her career journey out, she explains that perhaps one of the most important things for ambitious females to seek out, is mentorship and guidance in other people. She acknowledges, “when looking back, I could have connected with more people, built more partnerships and relationships and consequently learnt a lot more, a lot quicker.” Additionally, it is important to not despise small beginnings and be consistent with what you want to achieve: “the biggest reason why people aren’t successful, is because they don’t stick at it. If you have an idea, it’s important to go through with it”. 

Antillia guest speaking at an iWin event in London.

Exciting projects are in the pipeline for Phoenix. Sarah has announced that the company are launching a mentorship programme in January, around a series of different topics that have been prevalent with contractors in the last couple of years. For example, mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks, fuelling the need for having experts advise on what to practically do in these situations and state of minds, especially when you are on your own or on a shift. Beyond mental health, there are also plans in the future for workshops on tackling more practical issues, such as handling taxes, good finance management, and saving money. On a more fun direction, Phoenix also has ambitious plans to expand to Ibiza, giving girls the opportunity to engage in shot work with any new or existing links Phoenix has in the Balearics. 

Whether members of the Phoenix community are budding CEOs or femtrepeneurs like Sarah, it is clear she and her team want contractors to feel like they are in an environment where they have a safe space to grow and prosper: “We impact thousands of people but we care about the one person”. 

Written by Yasmin Coutinho