“Offer something that you are proud of and passionate about, that you would happily do or buy yourself.”
Meet GirlCrew Dublin member, Melissa Curley, founder and Chief Tea Lady at SocialBee.
There are some events that pop up again and again throughout all of the GirlCrew groups, and one of those is afternoon tea. For those of you who have never indulged (what have you been doing with your lives!?), afternoon tea is the perfect grown-up treat. You simply flop down on a comfy chair while someone brings you more miniature cakes and sandwiches than you can shake a stick at, all washed down with lashings of tea, or something a little more adult if you are so inclined. My first experience of afternoon was as a goodbye treat for a friend who was emigrating – by some strange coincidence it was run by Melissa at the pop-up tea shop in 4 Dame Lane. Less your local greasy spoon, and more 1950’s kitsch it was a great day and we rolled out of the place after wolfing down everything in sight!
For Melissa, being a tea lady combines a lot of loves – “I’ve always had an interest in organising socialising occasions and events. When I was teaching I was always active on the social committee, planning and organising out of school events for the teaching staff.” While living in New Zealand Melissa had her first sip of the Afternoon Tea life and she caught the bug – “I’ve been hooked on the experience of afternoon tea, and how it is a wonderful way of spending quality time with your nearest and dearest, where conversation, storytelling and laughter are fuelled by endless pots of tea. Having said that, I never imagined that I would end up being a Tea Lady, and it took more than one conversation with my family to explain the logic of going from being a teacher to being a Tea Lady!” Thankfully, for us, she made the leap and hasn’t looked back. After completing a Postgrad in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UCD., SocialBee was formed. “Even though this course is geared towards starting your own business, I still found myself surprised initially that I had actually gone ahead and started one!”
Officially launched in April 2014, SocialBee has developed a strong reputation in Dublin and Melissa has served tea to some of Ireland’s best and brightest. “I started on an incredible high, for my first booking was at the official launch of an organisation in Dublin city centre where Michael D. Higgins was the guest of honour. It doesn’t get much better than being tea lady to our President!” With Christmas on the way the events are stacking up fast, but there’s always time for a cuppa!
1. What is the best thing about your role?
The best thing about being a mobile Afternoon Tea lady is the variety. I get to meet such fantastic groups of people keen to have tea parties in diverse locations ranging from their own homes, to parks and beaches, and even atop cliffs! The continuous creative thinking around how and where the tea party can be done next keeps me excited and on my toes.
2. What did you find most challenging about it?
When you’re a sole trader, as I am, then the buck stops with you for everything. You have to become an expert in everything from sales and marketing, to finance and accounts to customer service. Not all of it is the fun stuff! But it is an amazing way to see how much you are capable of, and I do appreciate, even when I am doing the tedious jobs like balancing the accounts, that I am learning so much that will stand to me regardless of what happens with SocialBee
3. What is your proudest work related achievement to date?
The pop-up tearooms that I created in Dame Lane last year. At the time, I had the idea and just ran with it, without thinking too much about what I was taking on. But it was the most fantastic experience. As a microcosm for running your own business, a pop-up is an amazing learning experience, where you learn, in a very intense way, so much about your own capabilities as a businessperson, as well as the viability of your business. I look back on photos of the tearooms, in its’ beautifully imperfect space, and I’m so proud of myself so doing it.
4. What would be your one tip to others who want to get involved in this industry?
Offer something that you are proud of and passionate about, that you would happily do or buy yourself. It won’t be perfect, at least not at first, but if you can stand back and be proud of what it is, regardless of whether it ultimately succeeds or not, that’s enough.
5. What would be your motto in life, and in work?
Be open and honest in all you do. This stood to me so well in teaching, where students respect your decisions as a teacher once you are open and honest about why you are making them. It’s the same with SocialBee customers. Be open and honest. I once forgot to bring the vintage teaspoons to a party, and had to run out and all I could source were plastic neon ones! The gay pride parade was on the same day and I joked to the group that I had done it on purpose as a nod to Pride! They were lovely about it and didn’t mind at all.
If you are a GirlCrew member and are interested in being featured in Meet the GirlCrew, just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! x