By Karen Wang
Marked annually on March 8th, International Women’s Day is a global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Celebrated since 1911, International Women’s Day is one of the most important days of the year to raise awareness about women’s equality, lobby for accelerated gender parity and fundraise for female-focused charities.
LRC (the Ladies’ Recreation Club), which by the way is Food Made Good HK’s first private club Member, marked this day by hosting an International Women’s Day Celebration Lunch, a lunch dedicated to recognising some of Hong Kong’s female entrepreneurs. We first heard from Debra Meiburg, one of the first female winemasters in an industry traditionally dominated by men. Speaking about her experience as a female entrepreneur, Debra had five tips to share:
- Be oblivious – Debra never noticed that she was in an industry dominated by men. Instead, she focused on working on her passion and only noticed that she was often the only woman in the room when other people mentioned the fact.
- Be tenacious – don’t give up easily. Stay persistent in what you want to achieve, even if you are doing so quietly and softly.
- Be interesting and be interested – Debra found motivation for her own business by being adventurous and curious.
- Be good with your tongue – speak first, don’t hesitate and remember to take risks. You should also remember to say no when needed – don’t say yes to every project that comes your way if it’s not right for you.
- Be a woman – don’t be afraid to be a woman and don’t be afraid of other women, it is only through collaborating with other women that we can create an inclusive world.
We then heard from Jo Soo-Tang, Strategic Advisor at Food Made Good HK, and co-founder of Cookie Smiles, also a Food Made Good Member. She talked about her work at her social enterprise that she co-founded with Agnes Chin during the Covid-19 upheaval in 2020. Sensing an opportunity to spread hope in a time of despair, both women created Cookie Smiles with the goal of supporting underprivileged individuals by selling decadent cookies, handcrafted by a team of women who had been retrained to become bakers. They also support local charities by donating 20% of their annual profits; this year, they have partnered with Splash Foundation and The Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association and have already raised over HK$70,000 since their launch in June 2020! Find out more about Cookie Smiles in our Member Spotlight.
Finally, our very own CEO, Heidi Spurrell, spoke about her work at Food Made Good HK. Since founding the Hong Kong chapter just over a year ago, we have grown to a community of over 60 foodservice and supplier Members, engaged with five business partners to deliver consultancy projects, become a semi-finalist for the Rockefeller Foundation Food Systems Vision Prize and reached many more milestones that you can read about in our 2020 Impact Report.
Of course, at Food Made Good HK, we are constantly thinking about how we can use our food to strive towards sustainability and it was great to see LRC experimenting with a meat-free menu, paired with a selection of wines from wineries that are run by women, have women winemasters or have been changed by women!
Debra gave us a great introduction to all the female-led wineries, starting with Carol Duval-Leroy, who took over the house of Duval-Leroy when her husband passed away unexpectedly in 1991. One of her first decisions was to rename their Prestige Cuvee, settling on ‘Femme de Champagne’, as a reminder of the company’s new identity. She then hired 23-year old Sandrine Logette-Jardin in a brand new position of ‘Head of Quality Control’ which paid off in a ISO 9002 certification 3 years later. In 2005, Sandrine was made head winemaker, the first woman to hold such a position in the Champagne region. It was also great to learn that Duval-Leroy is sustainable in many other ways, including creating the first vat room in the world that combines solar panels, a rainwater harvesting system and a green wall for heat and sound insulation. They are also the first company to be certified Haute Valeur Environnementale or HVE (High Environmental Value), a sustainable certification developed by the French Ministry of Agriculture specifically for farms and vineyards.
The next wine was surprisingly from China, which has a rapidly growing grape wine industry, offering excellent alternatives for those looking to source wines closer to Hong Kong. This particular wine was from the organic winery, the Tiansai vineyards, which is run by owner Chen Lizhong, with Lilian Carter as consultant winemaker. We then learned about Ana Quintela Suarez of Pazo Senorans, a sustainable winery in Spain that uses technology to monitor vineyard conditions which allows them to have complete control over how much energy, water and electricity is needed to maintain the vineyards.
This was followed by a wine from organic Sicilian winery Planeta, run by Francesca Planeta, the winemaker, with her cousin Alessio Planeta. The winery is also sustainable, using solar panels to generate all their energy, and is part of SOStain, the first sustainability programme for Italian viticulture, developed in Sicily and recognised by the Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea Protection. The final wine was from Josmeyer, an organic winery with Celine Meyer as CEO and her sister Isabelle as winemaker. Josmeyer has been certified biodynamic since 2001.
In order to create change, we must be educated on what the issue is, why it exists and what changes can be possible, which is why learning about female entrepreneurs and female winemakers was such a fantastic way to celebrate International Women’s Day. Despite being a male-dominated industry, there are increasingly more women working in wine, especially in Hong Kong, which goes to show that it is possible to work towards a more inclusive world. As the United Nations says, a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change, so let’s all #ChooseToChallenge.
Thank you to the Ladies’ Recreation Club for inviting us to this wonderful event.