This month we speak to Karina Jadhav, owner of the very popular Menagerie restaurant and bar in Manchester. Karina is September's MERABI POWER WOMAN as she’s been on a long journey to get where she is now, with highs and lows. She has really taken control and steered her business through the difficult times they have faced this year with the ability to learn and evolve when COVID nearly destroyed her business.
We talk to her about building a business, coping with this year and juggling being a mother.
Q..Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Funnily enough I never, ever thought I would run my own business. My dad was a doctor and when I grew up and he was very risk averse, the idea of credit, loans and all these things that are instrumental when starting your own business were very much not something I was used to.
It all started when I was with my ex, he worked at Lidl and one day had enough and decided he wanted to run his own business. I helped him and worked at food and drink festivals, we figured it out as we went along really. I was working as a journalist at the time but ended up getting more involved in the marketing of the business then learned the bookkeeping side of things. I just loved how we saw results and could make quick decisions to directly influence sales.
We opened a few restaurants, Southern Eleven, Neighbourhood and Victors that were all very successful, I thrived keeping busy running them all.
Q..How did Menagerie come about?
We got divorced in 2015, I knew I had it in me to set up and operate on my own, I was just very fearful, I was insecure and had plenty of people telling me it wouldn’t work. I had to dig deep and have some serious chats with myself, I knew if I didn’t do it I would regret it. Following the split I was feeling very low and was surrounded by a lot of negativity. I had used the businesses as a crutch while going through the divorce and now I knew I needed to make the plunge by myself. It was a case of Jump off the cliff and build the plane on the way down, I went for it.
I knew I couldn’t have copied what’s been done, my new venture needed to evolve, but I was stuck in a mentality where I felt like I had it nailed. I took some time to realise things were changing, I looked at fashion brands and social media, I decided we needed to create something different, something not purely food and drink but experiential and something aimed at women. Something aimed at me, most restaurants are aimed at men, but I wanted something different.
So we made it more than a restaurant, we made it fun, a free space, with a giant cat walk running down the middle for entertainers, giant frames for photo opportunities, neon lights and bath tubs, somewhere to get dressed up and have fun.
Me and the initial team made it a successful business, weathered a lot of storms and came through the other side. A strong business that can withstand whatever has been thrown at it.
MENAGERIE restaurant & bar, Manchester, UK
Q..What motivates you to succeed?
Previously I had been feeding off fear and shame from previous relationships and being made to feel like I wasn’t good enough. I’d listened to the voices around me too much and had been knocked down for a long period of time, I was told I wasn’t going to be taken seriously, that I was just a marketing girl, not a business woman, these things were fed to be for a long time.
I had been so broken down, I had to rebuild and find myself again and feel confident with who I am.
I’ve never been driven by money and in time I realised it was more to prove something to myself than anyone else.
I had meningitis in 2018 and that really wiped the slate clean. I had terrible memory, felt fatigued and thankfully only a week in hospital. At that time I realised I had no time for noise, I just focussed on the bare bones of what needed doing. No time to worry about the hangers on or the fluff, just to focus on what’s important.
Why do I want to succeed now? I want to provide a beautiful life for my son. I want him to experience every beautiful thing life has to offer. I don’t mean financially either, just through the restaurant we have some incredible experiences. When Drake came to the restaurant I was six months pregnant. I can’t wait to tell him he was there.
Q..I imagine this has been a really difficult year for you, and many others in the hospitality industry. So tell me, how are you coping with everything?
This has definitely been the most difficult year I have ever faced in terms of managing a business and keeping it afloat.
My biggest fear was I’d have to let some of my team go, I have a team of 60 in total and they’re like a family to me, I thought I could only afford to keep them hired for a month without being open, but thankfully when furlough came in I was able to furlough the staff so we haven’t had any job losses.
Previously my coping mechanism was always to bury my head in the business, to ignore everything else and to focus solely on that. However, on a personal level I was really able to cherish some time with my son who was 8 months old when we went into lockdown. I would never ever have had that time, I’m very fortunate that all my family have been healthy and we’ve been able to have that time together. It puts everything into perspective, not worrying about everything, we started going on long walks and cooking at home, I’ve cooked in a professional kitchen but I’ve never done it at home. It’s been great to reflect on what’s actually important.
It’s changed the way I cope with things, when things are overwhelming now I go home and immerse myself in that family love and that’s all that matters. If everything else is taken away from me I’ve got what matters the most, my family.
Q..You’ve got a huge venue with lots of staff, it must have been so tricky. As one of the places to be on a Friday/Saturday night how will the curfew affect you and how do you plan to deal with it?
In the last 10 years of being in hospitality this is the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced when running a business and in particular now with the new restrictions we have really had to take stock of what we do as a business and what we are about.
We’re all about partying, big celebrations with friends, getting people together to have a good time, so we have had to evaluate and adapt very, very quickly to the new restrictions.
One of my favourite quotes is “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives and it’s not the most intelligent, it’s the one that’s the most responsive to change” and that’s how I’ve always thought about the business, it’s how quickly we can adapt to things, that’s survival and that’s how I’ve always looked at business, to respond to change so you can continue to strive. If you are not evolving you are stagnating.
This is the biggest challenge ever faced, it’s not necessarily new, it's just on a different scale to anything we’ve all faced before. Although it feels like a pressure cooker at times we are making the changes we need to make to adapt.
I can only control what is in my power, anything beyond that I just have to try to work around and deal with it. It’s key for every business at the moment to adapt.
A few of the ways we’ve looked at adapting are pop up office parties for Christmas. Usually by now we are fully booked for December and it’s our busiest time of the year but that’s not the case this year so we’re looking at how we can offer different services and how we can make the changes that work for our customers and still keep them, and my staff, safe.
We’ve extended our opening times and started communicating that to our customer base and we are offering discounts for midweek dining to to change that pattern of trade. All of these different elements will work together so that we can continue to be successful, by adapting to the changes.
Q..It’s one of the hottest restaurants in town, you must be so proud. Did you picture it being so successful?
I always had a gut instinct that I could make it work and be successful even though I had lots of voices around me telling me I couldn’t do it. People would come up to me from the old restaurants saying “Wow we didn’t think you’d make it, we put bets on how long it would last.
I had my wobbles but that drove me to be successful so helped all along. It’s amazing doing something that I love, creating a life for me and my family that I love.
Q..Who is a Power Woman to you?
The ultimate power woman is Michelle Obama, she is just unreal, I read her book while doing night feeds with my baby. She inspired me with her message of strength. She is regal, she shows it’s all about how you decide to behave, you can only control your own behaviour and that’s the attitude of a queen. She really respects her morals. I love “they go low, we go high”, it shows integrity. She’s someone who isn’t scared of others' opinions and knows the difference from right and wrong and walks the right path. You’re going to get more out of life by being more Michelle.
Also, I’m so lucky to be surrounded by so many strong women. Watching Nadine be a mother to gorgeous Víví has been amazing. She’s a strong and successful business woman but a soft and beautiful mother. You don’t have to be a bitch to be good at business, we can be all of those roles and we can pull it all off.
You can be a good person but know your own strength and follow through with it and I get that from my friends.
Thank you SO much for speaking to us Karina.
To find out more about Menagerie and to book a table please check out their website here