Téa Ivanovic

Téa Ivanovic

Co-Founder & COO of Immigrant Food

Building something new is what keeps me going every day. The last few years have been some of the most difficult in the history of the hospitality industry. As a brand new, independent restaurant located in an empty downtown, we had to dig very deep to survive. Between 2020-2021, we opened three locations, deepened our ties with the community, and created dozens of jobs. Seeing our progress, hitting our short-term milestones, and creating something beautiful together with my team, is how I am inspired.

It takes a unique combination of skills to work and thrive in a food startup environment. Whether you're on the operations side or in the corporate office, we look for employees who exhibit passion, ambition, drive, curiosity and consistency. You'll notice that all of these are character attributes, transferable skills even – they're not technical skills. Of course, for certain jobs you need someone with technical expertise, but I'm a huge believer that a desire to learn can overcome a lack of experience. I believe you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.
I don't believe in the 'traditional' work/life balance. As a business owner and entrepreneur, work/life balance remains a goal that is elusive. My schedule includes early mornings, late nights and working on weekends. At the same time, my schedule also has so many fun things that blur the lines between "work" and "life".
I have had to deal with burnout. Can you imagine working 16-hour days for three years and not dealing with burnout? Finding inspiration every day, connecting with your team and friends who are not in the industry, creating a healthy routine, and taking breaks when you can, are the ways I've (somewhat!) kept my sanity during these unprecedented times.
One of the most important lessons I learned from my father is that you can be anything you want if you work hard enough. I have played tennis since I was seven, and my goal was to become a professional tennis player. I traveled around the world to play tournaments, and I came to the US on a scholarship to play Division 1 tennis as a student-athlete. I grew up with a mindset that you have to be invested in your own progress. And I've applied that to my life post-tennis. I just know that no matter what, I can always fall back on my work ethic.
A big self-care regimen for me is working out and eating healthy. I play squash, take barre classes, and do bootcamp workouts. A healthy diet is very important, especially when you're in the industry. Unfortunately, I have to admit I'm not always successful at balancing all of that in my schedule. But in the weeks I do, I feel a huge difference in my overall happiness.
I'm a commentator on the podcast, Altamar, with my Immigrant Food Co-Founder Peter Schechter, a popular independent foreign affairs podcast. My background is in foreign affairs, so this is an important part of my life. We interview some of the greatest minds in politics and international relations, including secretaries of state, prime ministers, and journalists. I do like podcasts and always start my day with news podcasts, and also listen to hospitality programs.

Disclaimer: Individuals featured in the Inspirational Career Timelines section have been nominated by peers, colleagues and/or other members of the hospitality industry. It is to the best of our knowledge that each individual has demonstrated leadership and acted as a positive role model for others.

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