Ten of South Africa’s foremost bar industry experts will mentor 100 previously disadvantaged bar staff through Diageo SA’s newly-launched The Hand-Up Mentorship Programme.

The ‘by bartenders for bartenders’ programme aims to upskill entry level bartenders to become competitors in Diageo’s World Class competition, which has supported, trained and inspired more than 400 000 bartenders across 60 countries.

“We are looking at helping create better bartenders so they can have great CVs and can get themselves good jobs,” said Brent Perremore, one of the programme founders, World Class 2021 champion and owner of Art of Duplicity.

“We decided to focus on a diverse group of young women and black men bar staff as, every year, the Diageo Bar Academy gets solid entries from them, but they tend to drop off before the national finals and don’t make into World Class. We want to focus on upskilling these bartenders by providing them with stock, equipment and training to practice mixing drinks to help them improve, thereby adding diversity to those working in the bartending industry.”

Diageo SA - Katlego Tlhatlhedi, from Roodepoort & Siphiwe Ngcobo, from Ekurhuleni, two mentees at the first Mentorship Training session in JHB showcasing their bartending skills

The idea for The Hand-Up Programme was born in 2019, when bartender and World Class 2021 champion, Perremore, was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome and left temporarily paralysed. “The community fundraised to help give me a hand up and help me fund leg braces. I started thinking of ways to give back and, in tandem with industry players Bradley Jacobs and Cassandra Eichhoff, came up with the idea for a mentorship programme for bartenders who need a hand up,” Perremore said.

The nine-month campaign, worth more than R450 000, starts in August 2021 and sees the mentees prepared for the World Class National in April 2022.

Mentees were selected from staff at bars that are Diageo SA customers and are primarily female and black. “Our mentors and sales representatives selected deserving candidates, who they believed, were displayed a passion for the industry and a dedication for self-improvement, but who had not yet had an opportunity to take the next step.”

Some of the mentors are Perremore, World Class 2021 champion and owner of Art of Duplicity; Casandra Eichhoff, finalist at World Class 2020; Mish Cherrie Channah, four-time World Class contestant; Haroon Haffegee World Class National runner up; Sabrina Traubner World Class regional finalist and trainer at EBS; Chantelle Horne, former World Class Ambassador; and Casandra Eichhoff, third place finalist World Class 2020 and winner of Mentor of the year at BAR awards to year in a row.

The programme will run in Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town, with mentors split between the cities.

The Hands-Up Programme aligns with Diageo SA’s prioritisation of inclusion and diversity in its business model.

“Many low-income people start out doing bar tendering as a form of employment until they can find something better, but through the Bar Academy and now The Hand-Up Programme, this could become a career path for them as they can have a successful career. Those who do well at regional, national and World Class competitions build their CVs and see more doors opened to them, so we are focused on growing and developing new players in the industry.”

“Diageo SA knows that the best performing businesses prioritise inclusion and diversity and we believe it is crucial to create a culture with inclusion and diversity at its heart,” said Diageo SA’s Marketing Director, Zizwe Vundla.

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