This week I am chatting to Billy who is the pub landlady of The Pheasant Inn Highclere on the Hampshire-Berkshire border. The Pheasant, is a 17th Century coaching inn - her history is a little vague but from what Billy and husband/partner in business Ryan can gather, she began life as a row of cottages before becoming the inn you see today. It is thought that the yew tree which sits just off to the side of the pub, was planted at around the same time that the building was built.The pubs original name was the Pheasant, before it was changed to the Yew tree in the 1980s, which it was then known as up until the 10th July 2019 when this hospitality power couple took over, and reverted the name back to what it was historically.
I met Billy and Ryan when they were looking after one of our favourite local pubs (and what an amazing job they did!) and since then have been following their journey and delicious food snaps on Instagram. So without further ado, let's get chatting to Billy!
Tell me a little bit about your business - where are you based, what services do you offer to your clients?
My partner Ryan and I run the Pheasant in Highclere, we have recently taken over the lease from the company that we had worked for, for just over 10 years. Pretty scary to have taken it on alone, but exciting none the less. Working the hours we do and having to sacrifice a lot of time with our daughters at the moment, is made a little easier by the fact that we know we are now working for ourselves, with the autonomy to make business decisions that not only work for the pub but for us and our family too.
I love following your journey on Instagram - the food snaps always get me! So stylish and delicious...
Tell me a little more about you and your background - I’d love to know more personal details about you like where you grew up and what you wanted to be as a child; as well as what inspired you to become a girl boss?
So I was born in South Africa and moved here when I was 8, I always wanted to be a pilot although that fell to the whey side (obviously a boy was involved) and decided to go to art school. I started working part time at a pub/Inn whilst I was at Uni and feel in love with it, I left uni, bagged my first assistant managers job at 22 years old, which is how I met my now fiancée (after proudly telling everyone throughout my career that I would never date a chef!) We started managing our first pub when I was 24 years old, fast forward 5 years, a successful business plus 2 children later and we are now running our own business.
A pilot! That's brave - I'm terrified of planes so to me that's amazing! You guys have such a cute family, and running your own pub business must take up a lot of time and thought. You guys are really creative - I always enjoy hearing what new items you have on the menu or exciting events happening at the pub! You certainly keep busy - how do you keep a balance between work and personal life?
I honestly don’t think it’s possible to, being a business owner often means that home life comes second but for the time being, while we get set up, I’m happy to prioritise in that way, safe in the knowledge that it wont always be like that. I do try to be strict though when at home and only start working again when the girls are in bed.
There's always more work to be done upfront but the rewards are incredible. What inspires you to keep growing?
I want to be able to give my girls and family security. My parents risked a lot and gave up a lot to move us all here and I want to make them proud and make sure that they are looked after in years to come.
That's so lovely - family is a big driver for me too. There's nothing better than the feeling of achievement when your family is proud of what you do and where you are.
How do you wind down after a long day?
This is a hard one.. generally I am just on the go constantly, I guess it’s the small things like reading books to the girls at bed time that help me switch off. Or doing a quick 25 minute home work out.
You need to inspire me with the home workout - I think I may be able to do 25 minutes! It's something on my list of things to try and do more of at home. Plus exercise helps with general productivity!
Any business owner would be lying if they said every single day is stress free and smooth sailing. I want to bring more transparency and honesty into the behind the scenes of building a brand. Tell me about a challenge you conquered in your business:
Hospitality is still filled with a lot of outdated gender stereotypes… theres a lot of customers, suppliers, peers and sometimes even colleagues who would prefer to deal with a man. A women can’t possibly run a business right?! That’s something which we are still working to overcome, but its an industry issue, not helped by the likes of Marco Pierre White and Heston Blumenthal’s outdated opinions on women in kitchens. I’m very lucky to have Ryan as a partner, in both life and business. Hes a chef that doesn’t conform to the outdated standards set by the rest of the industry, we are very much equals in the business and at home. I’m glad my daughters will grow up in that environment.
Cheers to that! It's infuriating how many industries still have outdated views on women bosses - and it's so lovely that you have a partner who is there to be your equal.
To wrap up, share a quote you live by and get inspired so other girl bosses out there can feel that energy and keep working at their dreams:
"No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else." – Pt Barnum
That's inspired me - thank you Billy!
If you're inspired by Billy's boss babe vibes, or want to find out more and visit The Pheasant, you can connect with Billy & Ryan on The Pheasant Inn Highclere or social media handles below: