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Model & Mompreneur Cara McIlroy-Grogan: "Hong Kong Has A Lot Of Inspiring Entrepreneurs"
Australian-born, Hong Kong-based, Cara McIlroy-Grogan is constantly battling the desire to do everything. She is a model, a TV presenter, a wife, a businesswoman, a free spirited gypsy, an entrepreneur, and her most important role to date; a mother. Together with her husband Jesper, she is raising two young daughters: India and Freija.
RocketHub spoke with Cara about being a mompreneur, running her business Genie Juicery, and her every day challenge to combining everything she loves in life: "I spend a lot of time with my kids and I spend a lot of time at work, so that leaves little time for myself..."
Cara with husband Jesper and their daughters India and Freija.
What or who inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
"I'm not sure if anyone really inspired me to become an entrepreneur. I guess I just always wanted to have my own businesses, and I have always been driven to do my own things. Becoming an entrepreneur came natural to me."
How did your modeling career influence your business?
"I think my modeling career influenced my business very much. My passion for eating well, living healthy, and keeping fit slowly turned into a lifestyle, and modeling kind of paved that way for me. I starting with this lifestyle so I could look and feel good for my job. But after changing both my eating and exercise habits, I was overly impressed with the improvements I saw. not just in my physical appearance but in my energy, my strength, and my confidence."
You started Genie Juicery together with your friend Mel. What's the best part about working together?
"The best part about owning a business with your best friend is that you know each other's strengths and weaknesses so well. Because Mel and I know each other so well, I know exactly when she's having a bad day and she knows when I am having one. On those days, one can pick up the slack of the other or fill in when the other one needs a rest. We launched Genie Juicery almost five years ago and it works very well. Our strengths are very different which makes us a great team that enjoys working together. I could not have done this without her and I think it goes the other way around as well."
Do you both have clearly defined roles in the business and what are they?
"Yes, our roles are very clearly defined in Genie Juicery. I am the creative one, and Mel takes care of the business side of things. We both work on recipes and we continue to develop the brand together. Like I said before, we both have our strengths and weaknesses but together we make a strong team. We share a passion for healthy food, keeping fit, eating in general, and healthy food in particular."
Cara (right) with best friend and business partner Melanie Barnish (left).
Earlier this year, you opened a new store at Hollywood Rd. A new Sai Ying Pun store that specializes in smoothie bowls opened in July. What can you tell us about that, and do you have more store openings planned for 2016?
"We are trying to branch out and open more stores. We want to continue trying new things and moving forward. That's why we opened the new Sai Ying Pun store. Smoothie bowls are something both Mel and I are in love with. We felt inspired to start making our own smoothie bowls for quite some time but we didn't really have the means to do so. But now that we do, it's something that we're really excited about it. Mind you, it's only very early days. We haven't really had an proper opening yet, we're just getting to know the new staff and new products. For 2016, we plan to open more stores, maybe one or two more this year - or at least in the next twelve months."
How do you combine your career with raising two young daughters?
"It's very difficult to be a working mom with two kids under the age of three. It's not easy to find a balance and I am still trying to make it work. I spend a lot of time with my kids and I spend a lot of time at work, so that pretty much leaves little time for myself. It's a struggle, but I don't regret it and I love every second of it - but it's not easy."
What do you think of the term "mompreneur" and do you consider yourself one?
"Yes, I consider myself a mompreneur. Mompreneurs are ambitious women who run their own businesses - whether at home or outside of their homes - while juggling the duties of motherhood. I think there are quite some mompreneurs these days and they should get a lot of credit because it's not easy to find that balance in life. Don't get me wrong, stay-at-home moms deserve that credit as well. Being a stay-at-home-mother is also a full-time job. But it's never easy being a mom trying to juggle a full-time job with a family life. You have the constant struggle of maintaining that elusive balance. It's very challenging and time-consuming and there's no down time. Being a mompreneur, you're constantly 'on', you're never switched off. But it feels great to be both available for my children and fulfill my career aspirations. For me personally, being a mompreneur gives me the confidence that I can provide for my family. It might be one of the toughest things I have ever done, and yet, I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Do you have any tips for moms thinking of starting a business?
"Be sure to think this through very well. Starting a business takes a lot of financial investment and time, so you need to be a hundred procent sure that you are dedicated to make it work. Your time is so precious and you will have to manage that time very carefully. Ask yourself the question, do you want to be spending that time with your children or building your business? You have to be super passionate about your business ideas before you start otherwise you're not going to get through with it. But if you are, go for it. It will be a struggle and it won't be easy, but it will be very rewarding."
Can you describe a typical day in the life of Cara Grogan?
"I get up with Freija, my youngest daughter, at about 5.30am, 6.00am on a good day. I have a cup of coffee straight away and she has her bottle. India, my other daughter usually wakes up between 6:00-6:30am and then we all have breakfast together and I start preparing for work. It depends if I have a modeling job or if I need to go to the store. If I have time I drop my eldest at play group, and I go buy groceries or head out do a modeling job. Usually I am running back and forth all day, but whenever I can, I try to come home and have lunch with the girls. I aim to finish all my work around 3:00pm, so I can spend the afternoon with them and bring them to bed in the evening. Obviously there are some days that this is not possible because of modeling jobs or other responsibilities, but I do my best."
What do you do on a day off?
"Whenever I have a day off, I choose to spend this time with my family. We go hiking to the waterfalls or we spend the day at the beach. We enjoy going for long breakfasts and brunches, or we walk the dog together. I don't really do anything overly exciting but those days spend with family are just lovely."
Cara with daughter India.
Are you active in your community, and what does supporting local mean to you?
"I feel like I am quite active in the community. I do a lot of volunteer work, although not as much as I used to do before I had children. But helping out charities is something that has always been a strong passion of mine. I once spent two months volunteering at an orphanage in Thailand, that is one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences I've had in life. To me, giving back is very important. As I said, because my babies are still young I haven't been volunteering as much but once they get older and I have more time, it's definitely something I will get back into."
Can you name another entrepreneur who inspires you, and tell us why?
"I think Hong Kong has a lot of entrepreneurs that are really inspiring. But if I could name just one entrepreneur in particular, it would be my sister. She's always been quite a role model of mine. She owns a decorations company in Hong Kong, called iDecorate. She works very hard and she is very intelligent. She is someone I have always looked up to. She is super inspiring to me."
What does the future look like for you and Genie Juicery?
"The industry has become quite segregated in Hong Kong but the future for Genie Juicery looks bright. I believe we will be one of the brands that will survive and prosper. I am excited to expand our business and continue creating new ideas, healthy products and inspiring concepts for Genie Juicery. Hopefully, you will soon be seeing Genie Juicery all over the place, not just in Hong Kong. We have already opened two franchises in Taiwan and we hope to open more in the next years. Who knows, maybe you will see Genie Juicery outside of Asia one day!"