Anmarie Spaziano – or Annie as most people will know her – was born and raised in Rhode Island in New England USA, growing up down the road from where the first ever diners started.

Having moved to Nottingham in 1994, Annie launched her namesake Burger Shack in 2009, having seen a gap in the market for authentic, homemade traditional American burgers, made in the authentic American way with a modern and ethically inclusive twist – something which extends far beyond burgers for Annie.

Ensure equality by representing equality

“I’ve consciously always challenged the norm in business and in life and made a conscious effort to ensure my business model – and myself as an individual – is as inclusive as possible. It’s simple really – it’s about making sure people are included and equally represented, whether that is by the food you put on your menu or the type of people you employ. We need to normalise the idea of allowing people to be exactly who they are, without that defining – or limiting – their opportunities.”

“In this sense, a lot of organisations, and a lot of us individuals still have a very long way to go when it comes to embracing differences and not using them as barriers to equality, which is another reason why International Women’s Day is so important in challenging biases and encouraging change for the better. Inclusion is always better than separation.”

The female restauranteur in a male dominated world

From juggling it all as a sole trader, playing the role of bookkeeper, chef, waitress and everything in between, to dealing with what she refers to as ‘sharks’ – those who wanted to prey on her vulnerability as a young, female start-up owner – and even losing her first business, Annie has faced many challenges along the way.

“I was a little punk rock kid with orange hair, and then all of a sudden I’m being approached by men in suits wanting to come into business with me, with an arm around my shoulder, thinking that they could take part of this business that I had worked so tirelessly hard for, undermining my ability to take it any further.”

But despite these setbacks, Annie’s entrepreneurial spirit and authentic passion for helping others succeed has only magnified. We asked her ‘if you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be?’

“The best advice I can offer anyone, whether it be from a personal or professional perspective, is to care less about what people think – especially when you’re younger. It’s cliché, but it’s crucial. With age and experience comes confidence, and the realisation you needn’t care about what somebody is saying behind your back. If the world of business has done anything, for me, it has definitely given me a thicker skin. Emotion is healthy – I still feel disappointed if we get a complaint or if things don’t work out the way I envisage – and mistakes will always be made along the way, but it’s about how you control your reaction to those situations. Stick in your own lane, keep your chin up and keep on going.”

Making a dream a reality

Often, barriers – or perceived barriers –prevent us from making a dream a reality, particularly when it comes to age old gender stereotypes. So, in light of this, we asked Annie what her top 3 effective strategies for success are.

Lift your feet and do it

“I grew up under the influence of very strong businesswomen who were pioneers their field back in the 70’s, which was day-care. They were intent on supporting working women and ensuring they had opportunity to return to work. But what they taught me was to just pick a path and run with it. It might not be the right path, but just lift your feet and get moving. If you don’t start, you’re never going to know.”

Be prepared to work

“No matter what you do, you have got to be prepared to really, really work on it. Nothing comes easy even if you have all the money in the world, it really doesn’t, so you must be prepared to dig deep and really, really put your all in, whatever it is.”

Consider your relationship with those that are close with you

“This is particularly relevant to women with partners and families. The relationship that you have with your partner, your family or your children is a vital consideration for any women with ambitions of launching their own business. How will they react in your absence? Will they accept the sacrifices you will need to make along the way?”

Annie on why we need International Women’s Day now more than ever

Following on from this, we asked Annie what International Women’s Day means to her, and what it represents.

“We need International Women’s Day more than ever, there is no saying that we are now equal. We’re fortunate in the sense that we live in developed countries where a lot more work has been done to enable equal opportunities for women, but let’s not ignore the countries where this just simply isn’t the case. We’re treading a very thin line, and it’s very naïve to believe women are on a parallel with men – and until this is the case in every corner of the world, we – all as a collective – have much work to do.”

And how do we do this?

“Awareness, awareness, awareness. Education, education, education.”

Celebrating those who have torn up the rule books

One of the easiest ways to educate people and raise awareness of the movements being led by women all over the world as part of International Women’s Day is to celebrate those before us, and those who have changed the world in our eyes, as Annie discusses: “For centuries we’ve had these phenomenal, and sometimes lesser-known women, who have fought to change the world for women – and change the way women are perceived – by tearing up the rule books and carving their own way in the male dominated world. But let’s not forget those closer to home – those who have changed our own individual worlds.”

“I was amazingly privileged to grow up with two power-house women – My mother, Norma Sutcliffe and her best friend Mary Anne. Both were married, had children, and stayed at home taking care of their families. But they were both part of the wave of feminist movements in the 70’s. They made the time to educate themselves, both attending part time college at night, working hard to establish their own day-care businesses, and my mother ended up with a Master’s degree, coming in at the top of her class.”

“And MaryAnne is a phenomenal businesswoman, she took it further. She is now a Congresswoman in Rhode Island. She has a Doctorates degree in Child Development. She had her own TV show for a while, and owns a string of day-care facilities amongst other businesses all up and down the East Coast of America. It was my Mother who made her realise her potential. To me, they both encouraged a complete shift in mindset, changing the narrative from “women should stay home and care for the family” to “it’s ok to have a job, its ok to put your child children in care and you shouldn’t feel guilty for doing either.”

Annie has restaurants in both Derby and Nottingham. Although currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, diners are still able to enjoy the authentic Rhode Island Burger Shack experience using their takeaway service. For more information, click here.