E12 Tess Crake – Sustainable Practices Distilled Success

Back of House, Front of Mind

“Back of House, Front of Mind” is a podcast presented by Healthy Mind Menu, an industry-led initiative that aims to improve the lives and normalise conversations around mental health for those working in the hospitality industry.

Welcome, Tess Crake

Tess Crake, born and raised in Perth, currently serves as the General Manager of Sin Gin Distillery in the Swan Valley. This thriving business operates in the hospitality and tourism sectors, producing and retailing spirits. Sin Gin has garnered significant recognition, including winning the prestigious Gold Tourism Award in 2022 and receiving multiple awards for their exceptional spirits.

With a degree in Tourism & Hospitality, Tess is a dedicated manager and leader with a true passion for delivering exceptional customer experiences. She consistently strives for personal and professional growth, actively seeking opportunities to enhance her skills and knowledge. Tess’s commitment to continuous learning directly benefits the Sin Gin business and contributes to the development of the industry as a whole.

Tell us about your journey in the hospitality industry?

I originally started out as a back of house/ waitress when I was 18 and very fresh to the industry. I was quite broke after returning from a gap year in South America so took on the first job that came along.

I spent most of my time out the back polishing cutlery and filling water bottles! I didn’t enjoy it too much, everyone thought I was 16, so I was underpaid at first and didn’t quite “fit in” with the over yound service staff. The role lasted 9 -10 months.

I took a long hiatus and return to the Hospitality industry in Jan 2021 when I joined Sin Gin Distillery as a weekend casual. From here I worked my way up to Events Coordinator & Project Manager to my current role of General Manager.

Tell us how you spend your days.

Vary varied! No 2 days are the same for me.
Usually an early start 8am to 4/5pm in the office, balancing zoom meetings, emails, phone calls, projects & other duties.

Can you tell us about your career and how you got to where you are today?

Childcare for 8 years, travelling for 18 months and then hospitality…

I met Kate Sinfield the CEO of Sin Gin Distillery through my older brother. They had met many years before through the Perth hospitality scene.

I had completed my degree in Tourism and hospitality management right before covid. Towards the end of 2020 I just missed out in a tourism job in Gascoyne Junction and was back working in before/ after school child care.
Like any person who has completed their studies I desperately wanted a job in my area of interest!

My brother connected me with Kate and she and I met for a coffee to talk about a work opportunity for me at Sin Gin. It went well as I started on as a casual weekend sales person. I was interested in full-time and she decided to take me on to join the admin team as an Event Coordinator & Project manager role, in May of that same year. I focused on growing tours, events & sales side of Sin Gin. Kate also owned the Murray Hotel at the time and I assisted from time to time as a fill in duty manager. Kate was travelling in March 2022, so I was promoted to General Manager to over see Sin Gin while she was away and fill in as duty manger 2 days a week.

It’s been a fun ride and we have now grown Sin Gin to 21 staff.

Explain the reasons why mental well-being has become important to you.

I have experienced anxiety and depression at different levels through early adulthood. Been to therapy, medicated, and unmedicated at different times (currently medicated) and I have come to the conclusion that we only have one life, and it’s too short for me not to prioritise taking care of myself.

I have seen people my friends, family & acquaintances also experience similar struggles.

We are lucky in 2023 that mental health is at the forefront of public discussion. It encourages people to be more open and share their experiences with others.

How do you prioritise self-care and balance it with other responsibilities in your life?

  • I read every night in bed, just started Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriaty. – I try not to squeeze too much into my days off. They should be a DAY OFF
  • Lots of walking usually with a good podcast.
  • Anything domestic with a good podcast
  • I regularly make time for friends & family and spend lots of quality time with my partner.
  • Hobbies I like to do are cooking, gardening & sewing.
  • Trying to get back into the gym!

I am lucky to have a great employer and some flexibility in my role, so can negotiate later starts if I have a late finish or take time in lieu as required.

Can you tell us about a person who has had a significant impact on your life?

Professional – my boss, Kate Sinfield, CEO of Sin Gin Distillery. She is an amazing powerhouse of an entrepreneur and human being. She has really mentored me as I have progressed through my roles and especially as a manager. She has encouraged me to take on new opportunities as they become available, sharing her knowledge and experiences.

Christof Pforr – he was the Course coordinator for tourism and hospitality management while I studied at Curtin University and one of my more frequent lecturers during my Tourism units. He is someone I still hold in high regard and it was his approach towards the tourism industry in connection to sustainability. What I have learned from him has shaped how I view the Hospitality Industry as well. I often ask myself the question – will this be sustainable? When working on new projects or strategies.

Prof. Ross Dowling – just what a legend!

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibotson. A book gifted to me at the age of 10 and which inspired my desire to explore South America & the world. This is what kicked off my sense of adventure & love for the tourism industry, which developed into a career in hospitality!

My partner Nathan, my family & friends! X

How do you approach goal setting and achieving success?

Small bite-sized goals! I can get distracted easily and be overly ambitious at times. Small goals to work towards a bigger goal help me.

What does healthy hospitality mean to you?

  • Open communication between staff and management. Staff should feel comfortable talking to management about issues.
  • Systems in place to minimise the strain upon mental health.
  • EDUCATION!! -for staff, management, and everyone in between. Education can fill knowledge gaps and improve staff performance, connection, etc.
  • A work environment my staff does not dread waking up to go to each day.
  • A physical and mental environment full of support and opportunity.

Tell us about your organisation and what you do.

Sin Gin is a nano Distillery for the Swan Valley that has been operating for 6 years. We specialise in all things gin! A d produce the seven deadly sins of gin local and international botanicals.

I am the General Manager. I oversee the day-to-day management and administration of the business, including tours management and event management which I job share. Basically, I keep everything ticking along as usual and work on new strategies to help grow the business.

How does your work support individuals to be healthy and thrive? 

We always encourage open communication, between staff and with management. This I think something we have managed to do well by reducing the separation between management/full-time staff and our casuals. I may be in the office Tuesday – Friday, but on the weekends you’ll see me doing the exact same role as any of our casuals.

Weekly team meetings and we always start and finish with the good stuff! Regular social events & team catch-ups- we recently did an escape room. We encourage taking holidays and giving time in lieu as needed.
We try to promote a healthy lifestyle through conversation.

Employers and managers play a crucial role in creating supportive workplaces. What advice would you give to them to be proactive in addressing issues and fostering a culture of support and understanding?

Major change cannot happen overnight, it takes time and needs to be sustainable. If you want things to change in the workplace you need to start actively taking steps and making small changes from now.

Encourage open communication. Approaching management with problems can be difficult for some people. Sharing stories helps break down those walls, where they are your own or what you have seen.

Never dismiss or brush someone off if they come to you to talk. Take the time to listen and offer support as needed.

Openly provided resources about mental health and where to get help if they need it or want to seek it themselves.

Does your organisation provide training? How can this type of training benefit individuals who work in various sectors, such as hospitality?

Staff are required to obtain their own RSA and Approved Managers. All training is provided during paid work hours and during weekly Zoom meetings. Any additional training is encouraged and if anyone wishes to seek more knowledge. We can help with finding courses.

Lack of ongoing training and education is a huge issue in the WA hospitality industry. It’s a cycle that is ongoing, with inexperienced staff being promoted to management or survivor roles with no prior experience or training.

Could you share some resources for our listeners who want to improve their health and well-being?

HeadSpace – government-run, in-person, and online mental health services for 12 to 25-year-olds. ITS FREE!

Mind Tools – a great website that you can subscribe to for more educative pieces. However, I am a big fan of the blog. You can find lots of posts relating to different areas such as handling grief, being a good leader, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and resume preparation.

Did you say something, Susan? By palette dale. This is all about assertive communication for women.

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Let’s make sure mental health is always on the menu!

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