One woman’s new beginning

"My new colleagues at Greene King were the best. They never made me feel ashamed for asking a question or saying I didn’t know how to do something. Everyone was always there to support and help me learn the ropes.”

On the day Wendy walked past a pub in Surbiton which was looking to hire staff for its grand reopening, she felt excitement – and hope.

“When I was let go from my job and couldn’t find another for a while, I found myself unable to sustain my rent and living costs, so my housemate kicked me out,” says Wendy, who has been working and saving money ever since she was 18.

Caught by surprise by this turn of events in her life, Wendy found herself sleeping on the streets for four nights while several charities tried to help her back on her feet.

“The little money I had, I spent on preparing for and travelling to job interviews. All I could do was hope that something would pop up. On the fourth night of being homeless, a charity organisation picked me up from a designated meeting point and set me up in a hostel.

After a month of signing on for benefits and job seekers allowance Wendy’s luck changed. She walked past a pub in Surbiton which was having its grand reopening in a few days. The sign out front read ‘New staff needed’.

“I felt hopeful but also worried,” says Wendy. “I have years of experience in customer service however I had never poured a pint before in my life. At the same time, I really wanted to try. It wasn’t just because I needed a job. I love to have a chat and I think I have a very bubbly personality. I like being around people. So, I went in and had an honest conversation with Alex Wells, the manager.”

Alex immediately liked Wendy and was impressed with her strength and honesty. That’s how, five days later, she started work in at the bar. It wasn’t an instant turnaround however. With little experience in bar work and financial worries Wendy had a long way to go.

“My new colleagues at Greene King were the best. They never made me feel ashamed for asking a question or saying I didn’t know how to do something. Everyone was always there to support and help me learn the ropes.”

“This was especially true of Alex, who would pull me aside and check up on me regularly. He even praised me, early on, for my hard work and dedication. I think he showed me what a good manager should be like. I remember thanking him for seeing in me what no one else had seen.”

Wendy’s amazing journey didn’t stop there. It didn’t take long for Greene King to recognise her natural talent and start training her to be a team leader. Not long after Wendy was made into a supervisor and signed up to get an NVQ qualification.

“I was in awe at my rapid progression. So much that I wasn’t sure I was ready for it at times but Alex always had my back. Anytime I had doubts, he’d push me forward because he believed I could do it.”

Today Wendy is Alex’s second-in-command, serving as his Training Assistant Manager. The two have formed an excellent working relationship and regularly bounce ideas off each other about the direction and future of the pub.

Wendy lives in her own flat and her story has been covered by the Metro newspaper, The Guardian, CNN and BBC.

“They wrote about a young woman who fell on hard times but boy did she rise up!” Wendy recalls with some pride. “I sure did but I couldn’t have done it without Alex Wells and everyone at Greene King.”

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