Soho House Istanbul’s Canan Soylu explains how she picks members, creates events and keeps the party going smoothly each night
I already know that my month at work will be successful – a fortune teller told me. She was one of five mystics who came to Soho House Istanbul for an under-27s members’ event. The tradition is that you have Turkish coffee and afterwards you read the coffee grounds. We filled the room with candles and it got quite crowded, everybody loved it.
In many ways being an under-27 membership manager is almost like a vacation job; being out with your friends every day. It’s a bit different from what most people do – you are often working at night time and you don’t get a regular Saturday and Sunday off.
That side of things can be tough if friends and family work regular hours. But having been at the House almost from the start – I joined as club reception manager in 2015 – many of our members have become my friends, and that’s really motivating.
I’d previously run a nightclub for my brother, and from the first time I met Vanessa [Xuereb, member relations director] we’d talked about the possibility of me joining the member relations team, so I started helping them on the floor a couple of nights a week, and contributing ideas and contacts for events. After six months the under-27s role came up and I’d already shown my potential and willingness.
On an average working day I’ll get up pretty late, since the earliest shift I do is 12pm-10pm and on the weekends it’s more like 4pm-3am. I have a really nice breakfast at home, a big one because I usually don’t do dinners. Turkish breakfast is a huge spread with eggs on one side, tomatoes on the other side, cucumbers, different types of cheese. Breakfast is my golden hour, so I take my time and afterwards I usually go out and have some tea or coffee with friends.
My first few hours at work are spent in the office, checking emails and working on event planning – as the member relations team we can tell the events team who’s doing what, and what our members might like. As well as the fortune-telling, we’ve had a board games night and a Michael Jackson tribute night lately.
I also review requests for membership, setting up meetings to get to know the applicants and decide whether they’re a good fit. What are we looking for? The first thing is that they have to be living in Istanbul, and of course they have to be creative – although here the word creative is not quite the same as in the US or Europe. People might be involved in a family business that means they’re not creative in their work but if they have creative hobbies, maybe they’re DJing or doing graffiti, or collecting art and they’re in that party crowd, we take that into account.
Around 7 or 7.30pm I go to the club building and check around for people using laptops (they’re not allowed after that time). I check the reservations list at Mandolin to see who’s coming and who I might have a little talk with. When the sun begins to set, everybody gathers on the rooftop to watch; there are snacks to eat and the DJ starts. So I’ll head up too and join a couple of members for a chat, and go around saying hi to everybody that I know. I like having tea or coffee with people, talking about how their life or their business is going, finding out about the trends that are happening in town.
Of course, sometimes people are not their best selves, especially when they get a bit tipsy, and we have to manage certain situations. For example Soho House is quite rare in Istanbul in not allowing people to take photos, and it’s taken some time for members to accept and understand what the policy is and why we do it. But we approach them by becoming friends with them – I’ll say “Hey, hi, I’m Canan, by the way, I know the building is gorgeous, I’m dying to take pictures myself but we actually ask people not to, for your privacy.” We don’t see any temper when we put it that way, and then when they see others doing it, they’ll intervene themselves.
The no suits policy can also be a problem. This one guy came into the House in a suit and tie, together with a member. I went straight up and said in a really nice manner, “What an incredible tie, it looks so good on you”. Then I asked if he could take it off. Unfortunately, he didn’t realise I was working and thought I was hitting on him. He was like: “Oh, you want to take my tie off?!”
Sometimes if someone doesn’t get the message we’ll play good cop/bad cop and someone else will go over and explain the rule in a different manner. I’ve learnt to calm myself down in stressful situations. I wasn’t the most patient person before, but this job has really got me on another level.
Now I find that even if I’m in moody state and not really feeling the energy, I can contain it. In fact, the job helps you to clear your mind – you’re always out on the floor, speaking to new people. If you don’t concentrate on yourself that much, at some point you just forget what was bothering you.