Mimi Gilmour on being a businesswoman

20 June 2016 / Published in Business

New Zealand businesswoman and Co.OfWomen’s recently appointed board member Mimi Gilmour was acknowledged by the 2015 Hall of Fame for Women Entrepreneurs; so in celebration of this year’s ceremony we sat down with her to ask some questions about being a businesswoman.

Mimi is the CEO and Creative Director of Burger Burger and Fish Fish, and former Director of The Mexico Group.

How did you get started on this career path and end up where you are now?

I was brought up in hospitality. My mama, Emerald Gilmour, had one of the top restaurants in Auckland in the 80s and it is the way my family chooses to show love to the people in our lives. It's my life’s passion.  

Where does your ambition come from?

It comes from my heart, and from my parents telling me I could achieve whatever I set my mind to. My mother had a piece of paper on my wall as a child that said 'discipline and persistence'. I realised that I wanted to be able to impact a positive change around me and I felt that the best way to do that was through leading a company that would shape change through good people, creative innovation and hard work. I also want to be able to build a stable financial future for my family.  

What’s your biggest goal?

My biggest goal in life is really our company’s vision: to make people's lives just a little bit better every day. My biggest business goal is to build Burger Burger into a sustainable hospitality model that will nurture and challenge young Kiwis to put New Zealand hospitality on the world stage whilst also making it financially rewarding for their future and ours. 

What gets you through the tough parts of running a business?

The people I love and knowing that nothing will get in my way of achieving my goal. As they say "nothing worthwhile is ever easy.”

What’s your favourite part of your job?

The people, the food and the freedom to be creative every day. 

What career achievement are you most proud of?

When someone in my team tells me that they love working with us and that we inspire their ambition and have challenged them to be the best version of themselves. I am such a big softy; it always brings tears to my eyes. 

Can you tell us about the app you’ve been working on?

We wanted to be able to make the arrival process easier and faster for everyone so we have been developing a way to cut out the waiting. If you have visited us you would have experienced it when you arrived, the host would have taken your details down on an iPad and then text you when your table is ready. We are currently working on moving it to its app form, which means you will be able to jump in the queue before you get there.

How have you found going from the restaurant industry to now the tech industry too?

It is a whole new world! What I have learnt is that it’s reasonably challenging to get to the point where you have a stable platform. Find some coding ninjas and leave it to them. It is not a cheap exercise but if it is done once properly, it is a whole lot easier. I also think you have to keep reminding yourself to focus on the core offering and not get too overexcited and adding a whole lot of unnecessary extras. My brain is a busy ideas machine so this is a challenge for me.

While you’ve incorporated digital into your restaurant with this app, you’ve also said that people are still at the core of what you do – can you please tell us how you balance the two?

For me the digital aspects are just there as tools to take away the mundane aspects of what we do so our customers can get straight to the good bit: the dining and eating. I will never take away the service aspect; I think that is crucial. We also like to use technology to give us financial and productive transparency. This allows us and our managers to make informed decisions day to day and spend more time with our teams and customers than crunching numbers and putting out fires. 

Last year you were recognised in the Co.OfWomen Hall of Fame. How has your experience with Co.OfWomen helped you in your career?

Co.OfWomen has hugely contributed to where I am today. No one tells you how to grow a business, so it can get pretty lonely at the top. Co.OfWomen has allowed me to navigate some of the trickiest challenges I have faced to date, as well as given me access to some really special and clever women who have parted with invaluable advice and support. 

Why do you think business support organisations for women, like Co.OfWomen, are important?

Because being a woman in business means you are in the minority. We are different creatures to men, therefore we face different challenges. I have a lot of really special men in my life too, especially my husband Stephen with whom I run Burger Burger day to day with, but women have different conversations when they are not around men and somehow that just works a little bit better.   

Are you doing now what you thought you would be when you imagined your life as a child?

When I was a child I wanted to be an air hostess because I thought they were glamorous, a checkout chick because I thought the beepy checkout scanner would be so fun, and what I called a passer-outer – a waitress because I love food, and I love sharing it with people even more. I guess I did follow my dreams! 

Is there a woman in New Zealand business who you look up to?

There are so, so many. My mama because she is fabulous and taught me to have good work ethic, Sarah Paykel because she is always so positive and creative, and Jo Doolan because she is just a financial ninja and knows how to kick butt.        

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a young woman starting out as an entrepreneur?

It's okay to not always know the answers. Don't be afraid to recognise your weaknesses and ask for help. Don't be ignorant to not; it will cost you time, energy and money. You are the heart of your business – your energy needs to go where it is best used to keep it alive.


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