“If it isn’t going to matter in twenty-four hours, why let it affect you now? If it’s not a life or death situation, we shouldn’t be putting ourselves in fight or flight all the time.”
Phoebe Lovatt is on a quest to bring the working women of the world together by providing them with a space where they can connect, support and inspire each other. In particular, The WW Club ‘Work Party’ is an opportunity for freelancing women to share career advice with each other.
For this edition of Work Party, Phoebe interviewed Shelley Kleyn Armistead, a partner at Gjelina Group, the company behind renowned, beloved and Instagram-worthy L.A. restaurants Gjelina, GTA, and Gjusta. The event took place at one of our Venice Breather spaces where dozens of women were lucky enough to hear Shelley’s many words of wisdom.
Read more below!
When I started The WW [Working Women’s] Club in my former base of Los Angeles in 2015, my goal was to make work feel fun again. Specifically—and somewhat selfishly—I wanted to find a way to enjoy my own work, as a freelance journalist and editor. I was missing the big gang of creative friends and contacts that I’d been lucky enough to grown up among in my hometown of London. I wanted to see if I could recreate that vibe in my new home, where my career was actually going really well but that sense of camaraderie and collaboration were painfully amiss.
I wanted to explore the ever-changing world of work from every angle, and in every location, with the goal of helping young women work better, and work happier. This aspiration has seen me host panel discussions, workshops, fitness sessions, live podcast recordings, dinner parties and happy hours in cities around the world. Work Party was an event format I introduced almost from the beginning: an informal coworking session in a beautiful space (initially, a downtown L.A. rooftop) that would provide a low-key weekly network for entrepreneurs and fellow freelancers who needed a break from hustling from their front rooms.
The Work Party has evolved into a live, one-on-one mentor session, in which I interview a woman with a truly aspirational career (i.e. creative, self-directed, and ever-evolving, as opposed to just IG-famous) in front of our attendees, and livestream the whole thing on Facebook. Viewers and guests then have the chance to put their own questions to the mentor of honour, before I lead a guided coworking session that focuses on finding clarity, meeting useful contacts, and gaining fresh-eyed support from your fellow Working Women.
On a recent trip back to the West Coast (The WW Club is now helmed from New York, where I’m now based), I was lucky enough to interview Shelley Kleyn Armistead: partner at Gjelina Group, the hospitality group behind Gjelina, GTA, and Gjusta. In addition to literally running the show at three of the most popular dining spots in Los Angeles, Shelley has just opened Gjusta Goods, where she sells a beautifully curated selection of vintage and new tableware, clothing, and assorted goods; showcasing the impeccable taste levels that have seen her through her incredible career.
Speaking of that career: When I met Shelley, she and I were both working at Soho House; Shelley as Operations Director and myself as editor of member site, House Seven. From the start I was struck by Shelley’s ability to oversee such a vast operation with complete poise and grace. It’s an incredible skill that I’ve since seen in action at Gjusta, Gjelina, and GTA. At all three establishments, lines are often long and the turnover is high, but somehow the vibe is still relaxed and the service and food impeccable. How? In large part, because of Shelley.
It was this type of management acumen that I focused on during my conversation with Shelley, as well as her illustrious background working with designer, restaurateur and retailer Sir Terence Conran and the team at London’s highly-regarded River Cafe. As with anyone who is really good at his or her job, the ‘secret’ to Shelley’s success and skill lies largely in her sheer work ethic and experience. Nonetheless, there were a few key takeaways that we can all apply to our lives and careers:
On her career evolution:
“I get very interested in the different aspects of the work...I’m just generally incredibly curious about it all, I want to learn it all, I want to know it all. Sometimes it’s been more food-related, sometimes it’s been more finance-related, or legally encompassing, or design, I find myself in a spot now where I’m a mini jack-of-all-trades—a mini expert in my fields—which makes my day-to-day super fun.”
On how she makes it all work:
“My day doesn’t necessarily have a switch-off time, but whenever I choose to finish my day, I will write myself a list about what I want to tackle the following day. What actually needs to happen, because there are certain things that actually need to happen. And I prioritize. It’s kind of cheeys—and my staff laughs at me for this—but I do “A, B, C” it. So A is everything I need to get done that day, B is anything I need to get done within 24 hours and C is anything that week, and at the end of that day I’ll calibrate it and if for whatever reason I’m feeling super inspired in the morning, I’ll get through my entire list in about an hour and a half to two hours.”
On making room for the unknowns:
“What that [ABC] system allows for is space for any of the unknowns to come in. So, we may get a situation where all of a sudden we lose power in one of our properties. If I haven't given myself a moment when I wake up to really tackle the first part of my list— which allows me the freedom to tackle other unknowns—then I’m going in and saying We’ll see what the day brings. I end up compounding that list too much, and then I feel out of control and I’m not able to remain calm. So I do have a list, I also allow a good chunk of my day to be creative and to move through the spaces and have conversations that I wasn’t anticipating having. At the end of my day, I swim. So I start it calmly and I end it calmly, but in the middle of the day I love for movement to happen.”
On the ‘common thread’ of all the places where she has worked:
“Nobody I’ve worked with did it because they were chasing the cash. They did it because they were chasing something that they love, and because they wanted to create an environment that they either wanted to, eat in, or sleep in, or hang out in.”
The best piece of advice she’s ever been given:
“If it isn’t going to matter in twenty-four hours, why let it affect you now?” Because everything passes, minute to minute, hour to hour. If it’s not a life or death situation, we shouldn’t be putting ourselves in fight or flight all the time. That is something a very wise 19-year-old once said to me.”