It’s hard to remember Cheltenham pre The Lucky Onion. The Promenade without No 131, Saturday Mum’s nights out in town without a before or after dinner drink at Crazy Eights. The Wheatsheaf… the perfect venue for a lazy Sunday lunch (especially if the kids are with Granny for the weekend!) As we are so often finding to be the case in our beautiful town; behind this amazing chain lies an inspirational mother.
CheltenhamMaman HQ is thrilled to get twenty minutes with Georgie Pearman, the genius behind the unique style that can only be found in the six local establishments owned and operated by Georgie and her Partners, collectively christened, The Lucky Onion.
CMHQ: Good Morning Georgie. We’re so pleased to have you on the site. We start every interview here at CheltenhamMaman by asking you the most important thing…. tell us about your small people?
Georgie: We’ve got two children one 8 year old and one 11 year old both of whom love the hospitality business unsurprisingly!
CMHQ: So back in 2008, you and your husband Sam bought and gutted The Tavern, the first of the Lucky Onion collection. What was it that enticed you and your family to Gloucestershire and how did you see the potential in what was a run down old pub next to a taxi firm and a chip shop?
Georgie: Sam, my husband, went to school in Cheltenham and I’m from near Pershore so we’re both local really so it was an easy decision to move back as we knew and loved the area.
Sam was running a Michelin starred restaurant in London and I was a lawyer and we had had our first child and decided that we just wanted our own place. We had tried to get a restaurant in London but we kept being outbid by everyone. The Cotswolds seemed like a very good alternative and actually a better one. The Tavern was our first site and you’re right in that it had been shut for years, was packed full of litter, had been used as a squat but Sam was quite excited by it. It took quite a bit of persuasion on my side!
CMHQ: You had enjoyed a ten year career in law, what prompted the change?
Georgie: I was working really long hours in the City and had done for over 10 years. I didn’t really want to go back to working into the early hours of the morning every night after I’d had our first child. Sam was also working long hours and I just wanted to be with her really so I wanted more of a balance to my life.
CMHQ: How did you manage having babies and kick starting such a successful brand in the early days with no guarantee that it would be a success?
Georgie: I carried on working part time as a lawyer which paid the bills as the Tavern didn’t earn anything really to start with. Sam ran the front of house, we had Humphrey the chef and then me doing sales and marketing upstairs so we were both fairly flat out. We had someone in the village who helped to look after Lily whilst we were working but we were able to tag team it a bit in that Sam could take Mondays and Tuesdays off and I could work and then he would work weekends and I would be off. It wasn’t ideal really but we sort of muddled our way through it all.
CMHQ: And now that The Tavern has been joined by the Wheatsheaf, No 131, No 38 the Park, The Chequers and The Wild Duck presumably you have a bigger team around you. Has that made balancing work and family any easier or is just as much of a struggle?
Georgie: The first few years are the most difficult because you have a lot of risk. We had to take out loans and credit cards and try and run everything off a very limited cashflow. In the last 6 months it has got much easier because we are much bigger and have a management team in place – managers at each site, HR manager, Sales Manager, COO etc so it has helped a lot but you never stop worrying about it all really so there is very little down time.
CMHQ: The style in your venues is unrivalled. It’s inspiring Mums all over the country let alone the county. When you take on a building with a view to making it into the next place to see and be seen where do you start creatively?
Georgie: I’ve actually got a complete block on at the moment in the sense that I’ve got to design 133 and I can’t think of anything – there’s a void! I’m sure it will come though. Generally I start with magazines, books, photos of places we’ve been, instagram, pinterest, websites etc and I just keep printing off the photos and ripping up magazines and slowly things start to come together then I source all the fabrics, wood, tiles, lights, paints etc and put it all together. Finding all the furniture and art is more difficult as it’s these finishing touches that really make a difference.
CMHQ: Is your home as eclectic as the restaurants? We’d love to know some great style tips for how you created the children’s spaces.
Georgie: Doing things to your house is so different because when we do a hotel its about expectation in that if I went mad and put blue and orange walls into 131 people wouldn’t go whereas at home you can be more adventurous and do whatever you like. Having said that I haven’t put blue and orange on the walls!
Our children’s rooms are really messy but very sweet. I’ve put lots of bright colours which I wouldn’t usually do – white walls but then bright rugs, bed linen, pictures etc. There isn’t any science to it – just put up what you and your children love and it doesn’t need to be expensive.
CMHQ: What does the future hold for The Lucky Onion. We’ve loved the addition of some amazing products (100 Acres for instance will both be making an appearance at upcoming CheltenhamMaman events) – any new product secrets you can share with us all?
Georgie: I know I’m very biased but I love 100 Acres. It’s made with natural botanicals and essential oils so there are no nasties in there and it smells amazing. I worked on this when we were launching No 131 because we needed something special for the place which was natural, made in small batches so not mass produced and fitted in with what we were doing. People liked it and wanted to buy it so we set up a website and it has led onto a small business selling online and in various shops.
At the moment there isn’t anything else that we are planning to do – we have enough on our hands!
CMHQ: Finally… you have devoted your recent professional years to making sure the women of Cheltenham have some achingly hip places to spend our weekends. Talk us through your dream downtime?
Georgie: I just love being at home with the children, Sam and the animals. That’s my favourite Sunday really just to be at home with the fire lit, friends for Sunday lunch and then a family movie on Sunday night. Heaven.
So many thanks again Georgie. We really can’t wait to see what else you and your team have up your sleeve. Thanks for supporting Mums in the workplace and for being an inspirational local #MumBoss.