(Part 2) We came to Sydney in 1983. We loved the city, but it was very difficult for us, as we only spoke a very little English, and we didn’t know anyone. We didn’t know what to do, how to find a house, anything. On our second day, we saw a man with an Arabic newspaper, and said, ‘Sorry, we don’t know anyone, we want to rent an apartment, where can we go?’ He said, ‘Look, this area is very expensive. You need to go to an area called Marrickville.’ Then, when we got to Marrickville, I saw a man who looked Egyptian working in a photo shop, and when I spoke to him, it turned out he was an Egyptian born in Palestine! He had been in Australia for a long time, and he and his wife explained everything to us, and even called a real estate agent who spoke Arabic, and she found us an apartment. This couple became our good friends and gave us a lot of support.
I couldn’t find work as an engineer at that time, so I had to think of other ideas. In France, my wife had done a course in French pastry, and I said to her, ‘How about if we open a French pastry shop? I will make all the equipment, and you can make the pastries.’ After a couple of weeks, she was convinced. We leased a shop in Ashfield, and I read all her books about French pastry, to learn about the equipment specifications.
Then, one week after leasing the shop, she fell pregnant, which we hadn’t been able to do in the past. There was nothing wrong with her or with me, but we couldn’t conceive. And suddenly she was pregnant, and her pregnancy was one of the worst. She had 9 months of hell. She said, ‘How will we manage?’ I said, ‘Don’t worry, we will manage.’ One month later, I had painted, I had bought the coffee machine, and we were ready to open. My wife now was sick. I started testing everything, and whatever I made I gave to our neighbours. As a result, on the first day we opened, there was a huge queue, and by 12 o’clock we had sold out! Nobody was doing anything similar, except in Bondi. And soon, even people from Bondi were coming to have our pastry. But how to manage? I was working from 10 o’clock at night until 5 o’clock the next day. Then I would sleep for a few hours and go back to work. Six months later, when we were about to have our child, my wife was completely sick, and I was completely tired. And one day, somebody stepped in and said, ‘Do you want to sell the business.’ And without thinking, I said, ‘Yes.’ Because I felt the pain, despite the success.
So, my challenge was what to do next to provide for my family. My Dad said, ‘Every industry has a hole – you start thinking how you going to fill that hole and you start a business’. I thought about how in my home there was all this noise and nothing but a piece of glass protecting me, and I started to think about window roller shutters, which were still a new industry in Australia. Then, I contacted a German company who agreed to supply me with the products. But I knew Sydney would be too expensive to live in, so we put the family in a van with all our furniture, and drove to Adelaide.
I started my roller shutter venture, CW products, in 1984. For 4 years, I had to work 5 jobs in order to support my business and my family. It wasn’t easy. But now we are the leader of this industry in Australia. We have a 10 000 square metre factory and employ 35 people.
I’m 70 now, but I don’t want to retire. I’m very grateful to the Australian people, and this is why I want to keep growing the business – not for more money, but really to create more jobs. Every time I employ another person, I feel happy, because another family is benefiting.
We are very proud to be contributing to Australian society in this way.
Thank you so much to everyone who has signed up as a patron – I am now at 70% of my goal! Can we get there today? If you would like to join the wonderful supporters of the New Humans of Australia project, please visit: https://www.patreon.com/nicolagray?ty=h
Missed part 1? You can read it here: http://bit.ly/1UgAvtl