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Stepping Into Her Purpose: Lorraine Copes

Lorraine Copes is on a mission to bring racial equity to the hospitality, food & drink sectors. In June 2020, she launched Be Inclusive Hospitality CIC a not-for-profit and social enterprise, and has just released her first impact report––the results are incredible! In just two years, she’s built a community of 8,000 online, with 400 active members, 80 ambassadors, 75 mentors, and 50 corporate partners. She’s held dozens of events, offered scholarships, conducted important research, created an awards program, and won well-deserved awards herself–all of which have garnered millions in media impressions. Mind blown! Needless to say, Lorraine is a force and an inspiration, who is making a significant impact.

Lorraine Copes Be Inclusive Hospitality

Prior to starting Be Inclusive Hospitality, Lorraine held senior executive commercial roles for more than twenty years with global and national hospitality businesses including Gordon Ramsay Restaurants, Corbin & King, and Shake Shack. Motivated by her personal experience and the consistent lack of representation of people of color in positions of influence and the supply chain throughout her career, she decided to be the change she wanted to see. We sit down with Lorraine as she takes stock of all the progress Be Inclusive Hospitality has achieved.

Before we get to the Impact Report, tell me about your career path. How did you end up in procurement?

I completed a degree a BSc in Logistics in order to get a “well-paid” job after graduating. I started working in the pub sector, as a forecast and data analyst, which bored me to tears, but I realized I loved working in food and drink.

And then you pivoted?

I diverted my career path toward procurement. Over the years, I’ve worked for brands such as Shake Shack, Gordon Ramsay, and Corbin & King.

Why did you start Be Inclusive Hospitality?

Throughout my career, I noticed Black and Asian employees gravitated toward me, probably because it was so rare to see someone from a similar background in a senior role. I realized nothing brought me more joy than helping others progress in their lives, and I went on to complete a diploma in coaching.

Be Inclusive Hospitality came about because of the fact that while I had progressed in my career, my journey was mostly uncomfortable and lonley. I formed the company to allow me to combine two things that are dear to my heart: the hospitality sector itself, and helping people progress, particularly the marginalized.

Be Inclusive Hospitality Impact Report 2023

Tell me more about it, what is your focus?

We have two really clear areas of focus. The first is supporting people of color with professional development and well-being. Events are one part of that, and scholarships and mentorships are another. And then the second area of focus is building a community of hospitality organizations that want to advance change. We help support their education, whether that's through doing a report, workshops that we deliver, or through a membership community.

I think the single biggest barrier for any business, whether a social enterprise or as a start-up is financial resources. And I'm just really keen to grow as much as possible because the more money we have, the more impact that we can make.

What do you say to people who want to support your mission but don’t know how to begin?

On the topic of race equity, people who aren’t of color sometimes are not sure where to start, but one thing I’ve really learned over the past two years is that whether it’s a simple like of a social post, a comment, a share, the most important thing is to start to educate yourself, start to read and start to engage. It starts with a single step at the end of the day.

Be Inclusive is a community of people from all career backgrounds and all ethnicities and businesses within the industry. So if you are really keen on advancing change, get in touch with us and look at how you can be a part of our community, whether that's as an ambassador, a mentor, or a volunteer. We do really welcome all people that are keen to drive change.

One thing I am really clear on is that in the space that we're in, it's impossible to be impartial. You're either pro change or you're part of the problem, as far as I'm concerned. Quite simply, you can't be silent on this matter. There's been so much silence of people not actually speaking up or taking action to help advance change.

One thing I am really clear on is that in the space that we're in, it's impossible to be impartial. You're either pro change or you're part of the problem, as far as I'm concerned. Quite simply, you can't be silent on this matter. There's been so much silence of people not actually speaking up or taking action to help advance change.

What is your big dream for Be Inclusive Hospitality?

It’s right in our mission statement: To create a hospitality sector that is equitable and inclusive for ethnic minorities at all levels. We aim to support the upward social mobility of 10,000 employees and 2,000 business owners from within the Be Inclusive Hospitality community by 2026.

Be Inclusive Hospitality Impact Report

Quickfire with Lorraine:

What time do you wake up?

5:45. I’m a really early riser. I go to the gym by 6:30 and start work around 8:30

Your most enjoyable meal of the day?

Breakfast. I usually have a spread for breakfast. I have a small amount of porridge, a poached egg, and mushrooms. I have a grapefruit, too. I don't do that every single day. But if I have the time, I usually have a spread for breakfast. I love that.

How does the rest of your day look?

My day is made up of meetings and work and analysis. I've got a team of two. In the evenings, I will either spend time with friends, family, or quite often I'm out at events in the evenings as well. If I’m out, I stay out. If I’m at home, I go to bed, usually at half past eight. I don’t mess around with sleep!

What is the best part of being an entrepreneur?

The best part is just that you get to choose who you work with, and just by nature of building a true brand vision based on who you are, you just attract and act as a magnet for loads of brilliant and phenomenal people.

What are two of the things you enjoy the most?

In procurement, as a director, I had a lot of flexibility with my time, but this has accelerated tenfold as a result of running my own business, which is brilliant. Flexibility and variability are two of my key values in life.

As a recent entrepreneur myself, the downside of flexibility is that you have to prioritize yourself while still getting stuff done – what’s your secret for that?

Having lots of conversations with myself. It’s an ongoing learning to find that balance and making sure I build in self-care, rest, and relaxation

Are you a list person?

Yes, I am – I’ve got a to-do list broken down by day. I get satisfaction from ticking off what I’ve done. What I’m working on at the moment is not cramming too much in a short space of time because I want to do it all and I want to do it all now. Giving myself that space is important. The past two years have been a learning journey. Managing time and expectations for myself and others is something I’m really keen to do.

What is the hardest part of being an entrepreneur?

Sometimes it’s lonely because although I have a supportive advisory team, I’m still the sole person accountable for the business and the decisions. That has really pushed me to make sure I form those networks, and connect with like-minded people, women in particular, and entrepreneurs. There's so much that you can learn from each other and there's a beautiful camaraderie that can come about from just connecting with people that are walking similar paths to yourself.

What’s your favorite new restaurant in London?

Chishuru in Brixton, the food is west African. It’s amazing. The owner changes the menu every month. I love and adore the founder, Adejoké ‘Joké’ Bakare, she’s a lovely human and a real talent

What’s your secret London spot?

The Three Lions, a Portuguese spot on the Vauxhall Road. The food is so good.

Best advice you ever got?

If you can’t be your authentic self at work, find someplace where you can. If you really want to perform at your peak, you’ve got to bring all of you to work, to what you do.


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