Having just turned 16, Greek Australian teenager Alessandra (Ali) Kitinas was dubbed Australia’s youngest Chief Executive Officer last week, having successfully launched two businesses in Australia, while still attending high school.
“The idea of me setting up my first business was born when my mother had a really bad corporate experience and I witnessed the pressure and struggles she went through at that difficult time,” says the young Sydney-based entrepreneur in an interview with Neos Kosmos.
“At a very young age for most, I decided that I wanted to be my own boss so that I don’t have to depend on anyone and be financially secure by standing on my own two feet; although I am also a very passionate performer, I understand that it would be really hard to gain financial security in that field.
“That’s why I decided to get into business, so that I could have the financial security to pursue my other passions,” says the year 10 student who launched her first social media marketing agency named Outside The Square (OTS) at the age of 11.
“I am young and therefore the social media industry has always been of interest to me mainly because I understand the way it works,” Ali explains.
The young entrepreneur’s second business, two-year-old company Freedom Scrub Foundation, produces ethically sourced body scrubs made from recycled coffee grounds and a portion of proceeds go toward helping impoverished and war-stricken children from Rwanda to Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) through Ireland’s HOPE Foundation.
“I visited India’s most dangerous city two years ago and I experienced at first hand children trafficking crimes and poverty. I feel that with this money we can help those children and the only hospital in the area treating them,” Ali says.
Having started her first business, Ali, whose family originates from the islands of Lemnos and Kastelorizo, credits her entrepreneurial interests to the powerful influence exerted by many strong women in her life whilst she admits that her impeccable time management skills have a lot to do with her success so far.
“School remains my main priority. Therefore, I make sure I schedule my day to start early so that it can be as productive as possible. In order to get enough time to do my homework during school hours, I set the clock for 6.00 am to do some work for the two businesses and during lunch and recess I catch up on the rest,” she explains.
Another interesting aspect in the Kitinas family story is that, whilst Ali’s mum Lynne is still the boss of the household during the day, the dynamics change after hours. Lynne is currently employed by her daughter and her work performance is often being reviewed after school.
“It is something we both laugh about at times as it is quite funny how our dynamic switches from one moment to the other. It works though. I try not to be too difficult as a daughter as much as she tries not to be difficult as an employee,” Ali explains.
“To me, my mum’s contribution is important and I feel that overall, a young person should never let age or gender hinder their development and take the dreams away. Absolutely nobody has ever regretted the things they did, rather than the things they dreamt of doing but never did,” the 16-year-old stresses clarifying that it is her mum who first inspired her to pursue her dreams.
Lynne, who fled her family home at the age of 14, was living on the streets whilst going to school. In spite of being in dire straits Ali’s mum worked two jobs in order to survive and pull herself together; she found a position as a retail assistant and also worked in a laundromat where she could wash and dry her school clothes.
Now mother and daughter are enjoying life doing what they love; use their creativity and ingenuity for the good of others.
The duo got to meet tycoon and Virgin founder Richard Branson after Ali was chosen to participate in a mentoring program for young entrepreneurs at his private estate on the Virgin Islands. Upon returning to Australia, Ali got straight back to work raising money to fight homelessness and poverty.
The young Greek Australian is the youngest CEO ever to participate in the St Vincent de Paul’s CEO Sleepout fundraiser to date.
“The organisers have picked the coldest winter night so that we can all feel how difficult and challenging it is to live on the streets,” says Ali who is also keen to expand her humanitarian activity overseas and work with the United Nations helping people in need.
“We all need to give a helping hand where we can,” concludes the young businesswoman who is hoping to inspire young women to follow her example and change the dynamics of the world for the better.