We spoke to Natalia Silvester, the entrepreneur behind Crepe Maison, Waffle & Co. and numerous other hospitality establishments around the island, to find out the secret of her success. Resilience, hard work and intuition all feature strongly in her story and she is a firm believer in the power of intention. She shares insights into her childhood in Poland, her family values and the unbelievably strong bond she has with her son.
Natalia is Listed.
From the age of 14, I understood that I would have to make sacrifices to achieve my goals, moving away from my family home in Poland to study at a leading equine college and embrace my passion for horses. I worked as a waitress to fund my studies and pay for my board until I qualified... And not many people know this, but I am a qualified horse trainer.
But there were limited opportunities to work in my chosen field and I knew that I had a flair for ‘front of house’ through my waitressing experience. So when an opening arose, I decided to follow my intuition and move to Guernsey at the age of 19 to work in hospitality.
My early years at home in Poland were difficult at times and money was tight. Seeing my mother's domestic situation fired a sense of ambition in me and made me fiercely independent. My father was rarely at home and although I have inherited his strong work ethic, I try to combine this with the family values I feel I missed out on in my own childhood.
I arrived in Guernsey determined to succeed and worked long hours in various jobs to get to know the industry. I met my now husband when I was working at The Auberge in St Martins back in 2012. We share a love of hospitality and a passion for business and exploring new projects.
The Catch Bistro and Bar was my first solo project, followed by The Love Shack. Seeing a gap in the market, I went on to open Waffle & Co, situated in the iconic Weighbridge Clock Tower. Crepe Maison was the next exciting project that I knew could be successful. However, a global pandemic came along and slowed down our plans a little and the opening was postponed until June 2021. When we were eventually able to open the bistro, it soon became a firm favourite with regulars and tourists alike. Selling The Catch in 2021 has allowed me to spread my wings and focus on bigger projects. Alfresco is one of my most recent projects, offering a quality outside catering experience for memorable moments. And watch this space... I'm in the process of buying another property in town for a new exciting venue coming your way in 2023!
As you can probably imagine, work and family commitments don’t leave me with much time for hobbies, but actually, work is my passion. I know first-hand of the opportunities that Guernsey has to offer if you are willing to work hard and follow your intuition. The toughest part, in my opinion, is letting go of your self-imposed boundaries. In all areas of life, I know we have an ability to experience the unbelieveable. Let me share something that happened with my son. When he was stung in his ear by a bee at nursery, the sensation was mirrored in me and I physically felt his pain, even though we were apart! I was sitting in a local salon, describing the pain I was experiencing to my hairdresser when my phone rang to let me know what had happened.
I know that my career expectations and my appreciation for life are driven by my formative years, and I try to channel my feelings into a positive experience by fostering a family atmosphere at work. I believe that the success of Crepe Maison is down to the team that works there. We want to create a relaxed family atmosphere, and this is partly achieved by investing in the happiness and security of my team. I provide them with subsidised accommodation and I think it's important that couples working for me are supported to create a home together. I strive to offer staff with children flexibility and encourage open dialogue on the challenges that come with being a working parent - something I know only too well as a working mum myself.
I am a firm believer that you should follow your intuition. When I first walked into the space that would become Crepe Maison, I felt an all encompassing feeling of positivity and excitement. I simply knew that with hard work and the right team by my side, I could make it a success.
As a very intuitive person, for me the power of intention is a key part of my success. You need to be able to visualise the future you want to create. But I'm also a realist. I know that if you really want something you have to work hard to achieve it. My latest project is a plan to drive a shift in the local outside catering scene with eco-friendly Airstream catering trucks - watch this space!
Despite my busy schedule, when I saw the images of innocent children fleeing war torn Ukraine crossing into my homeland of Poland, I was distraught. As a mother, I knew I wanted to do something to help. As a businesswoman, I knew I had the skills and the contacts to make it happen. I reached out to Polish charities and sent out an appeal to our community, giving local people an opportunity to donate items specifically requested by the frontline charities.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the charity that I set up, Humanitarian Aid Guernsey, has completed seven trips to the front line, delivering thousands of boxes of aid to Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. I'm extremely proud of what we have achieved so far, but there is still work to be done in the region. And moving forwards the charity will continue to offer aid to refugee crises around the world with the aim of 'delivering immediate aid where it is needed most'.
Humanitarian Aid Guernsey is currently raising money for food supplies and is planning to drive through Ukraine reaching people who desperately need it.