Paige Aubort on taking the Coleman’s Academy nationwide

25 July, 2018 by Andy Young

In 2015 Paige Aubort, the then bar manager at Lobo Plantation and former Australian Liquor Industry Awards Bartender of the Year, founded the Coleman’s Academy, with the aim of supporting and empowering women in the hospitality industry.

Since then Coleman’s has developed and evolved, and with a partnership with Jameson’s now secured, the Academy is going national. Over the last six months, Coleman’s Academy launched in Brisbane, and hosted satellite events in both Melbourne and London. Now, with the support of Jameson’s, they’re launching a national events program – adding regular events in Melbourne and Perth to their schedule.

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Aubort spoke to TheShout about the thinking behind Coleman’s and how it has evolved since it launched.

“The inspiration behind Coleman’s was that I looked at the hospitality industry and a huge issue is the disparity between how many women are sitting in senior positions within hospitality, how many are represented in bar ownership positions, how many are in senior management and brand ambassador roles.

“I knew that I wanted to do something for the industry and I really wanted to do something for other people. So I focused on what it was that I was passionate about and obviously supporting and empowering women was huge; I also wanted it to have an educational aspect and really Coleman’s was formed out of that. It was super-organic, and it still is really grass roots. In a lot of aspects it is very much the same as when it started, but then in a lot of other aspects it’s really grown and evolved, which has been great.”

Aubort’s passion for that evolution and development of Coleman’s is infectious as she explains how those changes have manifested.

“It’s great having Jameson’s on-board now and it would have been good to have sponsors along the way, but because it was my own it brought something else. It meant that when a session would finish a girl would say ‘holy shit, that’s the best session I’ve been to’. And when I asked why they would say because it was themed, or because it was structured, or because it talked about these issues and because it had access to that person. That helped me in thinking, ‘I’ve just got to do that every time’.

“It’s also grown organically because when I started out, I thought that I wanted to target 20-year-old girls, that’s what I want. Because we seem to have gender representation in pubs, and entry-level hospitality. You walk into a pub and there are just as many women behind the bar, so what is happening? Where’s that jump, from women entering pubs, to getting into cocktail bartendering and then where are these girls?”

OPEN TO WOMEN WORKING IN HOSPITALITY

Aubort told TheShout: “I thought there wasn’t much point working on the minority at the management level, I had to focus on keeping girls in the industry. But it evolved because all the women I know are more experienced women in hospitality, so it naturally gravitated towards that.”

In terms of who should come along to a Coleman’s session, Aubort said: “This is 100 per cent open to any women working in the hospitality industry although we do see the concentration coming from bartending.

“The thing is this in not about how your posture should be behind the bar, or how to make a particular cocktail. Our sessions are about, OK, you are suffering from imposter syndrome: what do we have to do? What are the conversations we should be having? Should we be talking about mental health?”

The partnership with Jameson’s is a recent development for Coleman’s, but once the brand received the formal proposal from Aubort, they were quick to get on-board.

“It is great to have Jameson’s on-board, the whole thing of sponsorship and Coleman’s has been a bit of a ride for me. I felt like we constantly had brands saying ‘we fucking love Coleman’s and we want to support it’ but no-one was really staying up to properly support Coleman’s.

“So I decided it was time to put a proper proposal together and show Coleman’s as a truly professional brand and Jameson’s didn’t hesitate, they wrote back straight away and said ‘yes, yes, yes’. I feel incredibly lucky to be partnered with a brand like that, which is really forward-thinking, they always do really interesting and creative initiatives and they are so on-point with us, there is a real synergy.”

And for any women in the industry thinking about heading to a Coleman’s session, but is unsure, Aubort has this to say.

“On a day-to-day level come to the sessions; close to 70 per cent of all the attendees come on their own, so the whole idea of ‘I’m not going to know anyone’ – everyone is in the exact same boat. The environment is created for people coming on their own and those that do know each other met when they came to Coleman’s before. Don’t be daunted by coming on your own.

“Then on a broader level – I hope millions more of this style of communications pop-up but for the time being, there are very few things that I have ever attended where I have left feeling as whole as I do with Coleman’s. There is so little required to have so much output, if you come along you will definitely leave feeling a lot better.”

Attendees to Coleman’s Academy events are welcomed with food and drinks from Jameson’s on arrival, with a focus on supporting local, independent businesses. The two presenters then speak independently with a Q&A session after each talk.

Every session is filmed, providing access for anyone to engage with the content and learnings presented at each session. Previous sessions can be viewed on the Coleman’s Academy Vimeo page.

Confirmed upcoming dates for 2018:

  • 1 August, Melbourne: Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero (Speed Rack)
  • 4 August, Perth: Paige Aubort (Coleman’s Academy) and Harriet Leigh (Archie Rose)
  • 2 September, Brisbane: Speakers TBC

Attendance to regular Coleman’s Academy events is free for any female identifying woman over 18. Dates and speakers for the rest of the year are still to be confirmed.