In our regular series, big cheeses remember where they first matured
Hi, Lottie! Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Lottie Unwin and I’m founder of Copy Club, which is a support network to anyone who works in marketing, which can be a lonely place. Knowing you’re not alone is what any industry needs.
What was your #MyFirstMcJob?
Manager of a sushi restaurant in Soho, age 18.
How did you get that job?
I started off as a waitress at the branch in Clapham, but was so uncoordinated that I spilt champagne all over a very rich woman and was quickly ushered into an administrative role at another branch in Soho, where I demonstrated some leadership capacity early on. I was on my gap year, desperately trying to save to go travelling, so worked at the sushi restaurant by night, and by day, as a PA for a man that ran a male order catalogue out of his home in Clapham for over-70s women’s fashion. He kept homing pigeons in the garden, so there were pigeons everywhere. I mainly managed returns, which was just me and a roll of Sellotape on the floor.
What were the perks of the job?
Fancy people would come in and order a disgusting amount of food and eat none of it, so we would eat their leftovers. There was an office above the restaurant where I was supposed to be doing admin, but would sleep because I was consistently exhausted, working two jobs. And the tips were incredible. Then every Saturday night, we’d close at 1am and would have a massive party until 5am because the restaurant was closed on Sundays. Sunday were my one day off, and I’d go all over again.
Did you manage to save up enough to go travelling?
Yes. I went to South America for seven months, but I saved so much more than I spent that I came back with some serious leftover cash.
Did anything particularly funny happen?
The barman — this French guy — has been voted one of London’s top 100 barmen by something or other, which he’d really taken to heart, and did not like being managed by a 18-year-old girl with no experience. His bar was this tiny cupboard at the bottom of the stairs in a really hot sushi kitchen, so I learned about leadership by standing on the stairs, having screaming fights, trying to get my point across to manage his misogyny. It wasn’t funny as such, but definitely formative.
What skills did you learn that you still use today?
How to hold my own in a conversation. How to engage a team. I used to start every shift with a Japanese sushi quiz for the staff, so I’d be on the Northern line, learning the Japanese names for different bits of tuna. I learned a lot about customer service. The place to learn the customer is always right is on the restaurant floor.
Why is alumni important to you personally?
I feel sad that I’m not still in touch with any of these people, because I left both jobs and went on on my merry way, even though the sushi restaurant in particular was very kind to me when I left. In my company now, I make a huge effort to ensure that when people leave the business, they leave happy, knowing we will stay in touch.
Why is alumni important generally?
Experiences and shared connections are huge chapters in your life and shape who you are. Relationships are formative, so you really want to maintain them.
What would happen if you went back and did a shift on the sushi restaurant floor?
I would still be terrible! It’s really hard work and people are horrible to you. I have so much respect for waiting staff. If I went back and was a PA again, I think I would be exceptional because before I was terrible.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you say?
“Borrow some money off your mum and dad!” I worked so hard for five months, working two jobs and sleeping five hours a night, to the point I felt like a dead woman. I didn’t take a penny from anyone and I should have let someone help me out. I tell myself I’ll have other opportunities to travel, and it wasn’t my one time to do everything.