Born and raised in the Sydney suburb of Bondi Junction to Kytherian Greek immigrants, my memories of living at home were of both my parents working at Grace Brothers Bondi Junction, and my mother working second and third jobs to give her three children whatever they needed to succeed in life. Until we were old enough my mother would walk us to and from School, work her jobs, cook for us and still have time to break barriers and do things that other migrants never considered – she made me believe that if I worked hard enough I could achieve anything.
At the time migrants (WOGS) in Australia were considered the working class and second rate citizens, and consequently breaking social and class barriers was very difficult. My mother gave me vision as she constantly broke new ground amongst her peers. She was the first Greek woman amongst her peers to learn to drive and own a car. We were the first to get a colour television and we were the first amongst our wider family to travel to Greece. My mother taught me the importance of following your passion and not being embarrassed by breaking ground that others in society see as awkward (as long as it was productive).
I matriculated to university on a local public school education, working part time at a close relative’s Bondi Beach Restaurant. I started washing dishes, then waiting tables and eventually cooking. I would always get to University early, have breakfast there and read the faculty notice board. One morning I saw a notice for a cadetship at a large construction company. I tore down the notice, went to the interview, and as a consequence of my efforts was the only one interviewed and I got the job. I stayed with that firm for 17 years and was lucky enough to be part of its 10-fold growth through that period of my life.
In 1998 Mario Evangelo and I sold our homes to bankroll a new venture that would mean leaving my secure senior position and risking everything. The two of us started a construction business that 18 years later has blossomed into a team of 160 people with work in hand of $700 million across two countries. Mario has recently retired and I have bought him out, so my journey continues to evolve as time passes by.