It is very difficult to see a female butler who even manages a lucrative hotel chain that houses large numbers of visitors.
However, Sheila Tonui has defied such odds to become one of the popular butler personnel in Kenya as she traverses on the hobby her heart is set on which are; food, beverage, and offering guest service.
The popular and successful butler personnel, Shella Tonui has served in different hotels in the country thus, making her experience in the field very broad. Among the hotels she has served are; Sarova Whitesands, Safari-Park, and others.
Currently, the 29 years visionary young lady is the head of butler in Hemmingways, Nairobi.
Shella was present in today’s series of women in business where she used the opportunity to share her remarkable story with the audience.
While narrating her experiences, she gave a brief highlight on her career paths, challenges, and how she was able to create a balance between her personal life and work which is about providing and maintaining a high level of management, monitoring, and supervision.
Her answers to the questions she was asked in the event are as follows:
How did you start your career?
I pursued a course in hotel management from Kenya Utila College. I had an opportunity to train and work with Safari Park Hotel, Sarova Whitesands, Nairobi Serena, and currently Hemingways Nairobi. I had the chance to undertake butler training from Nova-Siluxus R. Hospitality Limited based in the UK which exposed me to my current position
Did you always envision being a butler?
Not at all. Butler service is a new concept in Kenyan hospitality. When Hemingways Nairobi opened its door in 2013, I applied for the position, taking all the risk as it was the first time to learn of this unique role. I am passionate about food and beverage as well as guest service and the butler position was the perfect blend of my passion.
How do you always manage work-life balance?
By accepting there is no perfect work-life balance, some days you focus more on work and certain days you might have time for family and friends and balance will be achieved over time. It calls for flexibility and being open-minded to redirecting and assessing my needs on any day and this is key in finding balance.
What does a typical day look like for you?
When I wake up in the morning, I prepare breakfast for my family getting my kids ready for school. I take pride in grooming and ensure my wardrobe management skills (a key aspect in my career) are extended for my family before seeing them off to school. When I get to work, I attend the mangers briefing which details the arrival listing of the day, expected VIPs, and any other event that may require my attention.
I then brief the butlers and assign them duties. The mornings are usually busy with departures, packing, and unpacking, luggage handling, valet service, laundry request, organizing excursions, restaurants, and spa reservations and recommendations, as well as preparing the guests’ suites.
I always try to see guests off to get their feedback, since this enables me to know the areas in which we are doing well and those that need improvement. In the afternoon, we get to receive guests arriving and those who might have stepped out for the day’s excursions. Depending on my guests’ requests, I normally leave work between 5 pm and 6 pm. I get home to spend time with family and bond with my kids while assisting them with their school work.
What is the most interesting thing about your job?
My job entails meeting and interacting with different guests from diverse cultures. By treating each guest as an individual, their needs are varied hence not repetitive.
Working closely with other departments to ensure guests’ stays are seamless and going out of my way to exceed their exceptions of Hemingways is what I take pride in. our services are personal and sincere offering a luxury experience for discretion and convenience.
What are some of the challenges you face as a female butler?
Part of my duty is handling guests’ luggage and this at time pose a challenge, especially with male guests. Some won’t accept my assistance. Knowing my guest’s backgrounds and their culture plays a role in anticipating my guest’s needs and with this information, am better placed to seek the assistance of my male colleagues.
What do you think should be done to address them?
Teamwork plays a role in addressing such a situation and remaining professional with respect to guest wishes.
How would you encourage other women in the hospitality sector who eye a position like yours?
I would encourage other women in the hospitality industry to take up the role of female butlers. We ladies are better placed as our ability to multi-task which is vital in this role, attention to detail, and anticipation of needs before a guest asks for service come out naturally with the right attitude and determination, we can excel in any opportunity we set ourselves to undertake.