Joanne Kountourogiannis is a risk taker. At the tender age of 26, she gave up her career as a graphic designer to follow in the family business and open her own Greek yiros business. Has the risk paid off? After speaking with her, with her family support network right behind her, and her steadfast business partner, I can say with the utmost of certainty, her path will be a successful one.
While Joanne was working as a graphic designer, she noticed something wasn’t right. “I found myself complaining I was bored. I spent all day in front of a computer not interacting with anyone. My mum approached me and said ‘you’ve been talking about starting up your own business, what about you open your own business?’
The Lamb Spit BBQ at the Central Markets in Adelaide has been in Joanne’s family for over 10 years, and Joanne’s business partner, George Kritikos, was one of the original founders. When Joanne’s mother, Mary noticed the determination in her daughter – that is paramount in becoming a small business owner – she set her up with the challenge of opening a sister business of the Lamb Spit BBQ in the seaside suburb of Semaphore. Joanne grabbed hold of the challenge with both hands and from the minute her mother put the idea in her head, she had the business up and running within a month.
“When we took over the business,” explains Joanne, “we put our own spin on things. Our shop has more of a home-style feel to it, there’s more of the Greek culture behind the food, the taste and the flavours. George does a lovely job of marinating the meats so the taste you get is not like a take-away shop. You go there for the food – it’s good food in a very traditional Greek style.” The eatery allows you to dine-in or take-away. “The garlic sauce, the hummus and the falafel we sell, we make ourselves from scratch so they’re not full of preservatives. They’re not from big tubs, all mass-produced but are made inhouse and are filled with fresh tastes and flavours. You can definitely taste the difference.”
Joanne confesses that although she would help out in her parents’ business when they were short-staffed, that was nothing compared to owning your own business. “I knew what I was getting into but knowing it and being in it is a little different as well. “You don’t go to work the hours you are at work: the minute you get home you are constantly thinking about work and thinking what you need to do for the next day. For example, if you forget to order something – you don’t order the bread, you don’t order meat, fruit and vegetables – everything works together so if one aspect is missing none of it can come together properly.”
Having her parents in the same industry does allow Joanne to have a base to bounce ideas off and learn more about her business. And working with her partner George allows her to get a different perspective on running a small business and gives a new dynamic to the business. “The other day we were talking about advertising on the Internet and George was quite dubious about it whereas I was the complete opposite and thought ‘yeah, it’s a great idea, let’s do this!’ In terms of the clientele and customer base, I think it works really well because you get some of your older people who don’t want a younger person telling them what to eat whereas George has the experience of dealing with older clientele and knows the recipes inside out as they are all his. And the younger dynamic provides a good balance.”
Joanne admits there is still a long road ahead and her journey will be full of challenges – what will happen in the colder months, with staff, and there is the nonexistent social life for her. “The first month was really stressful because I was always worrying about everything but now that we’ve been there for three and half months I’ve settled in. The biggest advantage is that you are doing it for yourself, working for yourself. Your drive is different.
“You are more than happy to be putting in more than 60 hours a week – you have more passion behind it. I really enjoy being young in small business. I get people coming in all the time asking me to talk to the boss as they all think I work there. You want it to be so successful as you put everything in it.”