Interviewed by Lauren Hogan
If you’ve ever dined at Egg, you might be familiar with the 'put an egg on it' tagline - the first of many venues falling under Happy Place Hospitality Group, the founding of which Camden notes is her ‘proudest accomplishment’. Since the opening of her first restaurant in 2015, Camden has done much more than just scrambled, poached, and boiled; she has hatched a whole collection of diverse venues around Shanghai.
Originally from small-town US, Camden studied art, which led her to a career in advertising in London, and eventually, Shanghai. This is where she decided to follow one of her dreams - either be a cowgirl or have her own restaurant - and take the leap from following the orders of others to taking the orders of others. While evident in her venues that she still has an eye for the finer things, since becoming an entrepreneur she has expanded her resume of daily duties from marketing and design to all things that fall under the ‘owning your own business umbrella’.
Read on to learn about a day in the life of Camden Hauge, her biggest challenges, and why she tries to embrace her fears.
As an entrepreneur you wear many hats. What would you say that involves?
I have a hospitality group – Happy Place Hospitality Group – comprising seven brands across nine venues in Shanghai (plus a pop-up in Shenzhen) and also an experiences agency called SOCIAL SUPPLY, that specializes in food and beverage-focused events. I basically surround myself with food and drink! It’s a lot to manage but I have amazing teams across all of the businesses who are the real rockstars making everything happen.
An ‘average day’ is hard to describe but on most weekdays, I wake up, make coffee at home and let my puppy Happy out to ‘make friends with’ the cats in our lane and try to meditate before he pushes the door open and jumps into my lap. I feed him and take him along to a string of meetings – our core group meetings, weekly operational meetings across the venues, or SOCIAL SUPPLY status meetings – that usually span the length of a workday, punctuated by more coffee, snatches of whatever food is being tested in our kitchens and trying to clear my phone messages. After meetings are over, I’ll go see some potential sites for new venues or events, have an early drinks meeting with an advisor, and then try and catch up with friends for dinner or many bottles of wine.
If it’s the weekend, I mix in a run on Saturday mornings with my women’s run club, will try to sneak to a friend’s new opening for a meal, and then go out to see other friends play music at a club like All or Elevator. We’re surrounded by talented, passionate people here in town and so we’re never at a loss for people to support or things to do!
Busy! What’s your most effective daily habit?
Getting a dog – you have something to keep you accountable, whether that’s early mornings, midday walks, or a perfect excuse to leave a party.
That will do it! What is one of your biggest learnings through your entrepreneurial journey?
There will be endless challenges, ups and downs, and you just have to retain perspective – everything will be fine in the end. It’s taken me a long time to learn to release the need to control everything and feel positive about it – I often think of the Buddhist notion that ‘attachment is pain’. It’s even better phrased the way that a good friend and very talented hospitality professional once put it to me: “It’s not life and death – it’s lunch and dinner”. There’s nothing that can’t solve a problem like taking a minute to breathe and check yourself when the small things are adding up.
Love that! What is the largest obstacle preventing you from realising your dreams?
Practical – silly – considerations like ‘budgets’ (pshh) often stand in the way of me going completely wild, especially when it comes to hiring talent that I know would be advantageous to making all of the wild dreams we have for Happy Place come to life! My own time management skills often also stand in my way – I am often overly optimistic about my time when planning my days and don’t prioritize slots to think about important but not urgent matters that will make exponential differences in what we can achieve… but I am aware of and working on this.
What would you try if you had no fear?
Seek fear. I’m a comfortable risk taker, so when I feel a shadow of fear is when I learn most about myself: “Why am I resisting this? What does this say about me and how can I grow through this?”
What a great mindset. Do you think you live more in the past, present, or future?
I live mostly in the future, dreaming up fun new projects and thinking of the ways to build them into existence, but because of this I often need to remind myself to breathe, not to mention accept myself for being a work in progress. I am working on being more present and exercising more patience with myself and others.
What goals have you set for yourself and how are you working to reach
My goal for this year is to live my life and not have my life live me – I think I can achieve this by being better organized, practicing gratitude, being more present, and leaving space for exploration (of self + the world around me).
Who inspires you and why?
Shanghai’s owner-operators and my team are my biggest inspiration. These owner-operators, especially those from the forum I founded two years ago, are constant supporters of each other as well as founts of knowledge and experience that I am lucky enough to have access to, while my team gives me the biggest reason to be the best version of myself every day – they are brilliant and work incredibly hard and so I owe it to them to create the future they deserve.
What is success for you?
Looking back on a life to which I can never say, “I wish I had tried…”.
Along with inspirational people, what’s an inspirational message that you could leave us with?
Many, but I keep returning to: “We are human beings, not human doings” – this one found me on the wall of a bathroom stall in the middle of the desert in the American Southwest, and it was the kick I needed to start learning how to seek balance in my life at a time in which my work life intensity was at an unsustainable level.
If you would like to know more about Happy Place Hospitality Group you can find them at:
Happy Place 餐饮集团