KRISH’S JOURNEY FROM WORKING IN AGRICULTURE IN HIS NATIVE SRI LANKA TO SETTING UP A THRIVING CATERING BUSINESS IS MADE POSSIBLE BY HARD WORK, RESILIENCE AND WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM FRIENDS IN HIS NEW HOME OF AUSTRALIA.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I’m from eastern Sri Lanka, of the town Thirukkovil. And I came to Australia on June 14, 2013. Back home, I worked at the Department of Agriculture.
How did you get the initial idea to start your business?
When I was released from detention, I wasn’t given any work rights. My caseworker from Amnesty International Australia at the time, introduced me to the cafe Parliament on King in Newtown. It’s a social enterprise that provides hospitality training to refugees and people seeking asylum, even to those without work rights (we were given food & travel vouchers instead).
They taught me how to use a coffee machine. Then the first dish I made for Ravi, the co-owner, was a vegetable soup. Then he invited 5 to 6 people to come and taste the soup. Eventually, this soup was sold at the cafe.
Then Ravi asked me what else I could cook. I made roti, chicken biryani, and vegetable curry. Then I started doing small catering jobs for Parliament on King. All the while, I continued to learn how to make coffee, and perfected my Sri Lankan dishes.
Afterwards, I enrolled in the Refugee Language Program to learn English. I made some really great connections there – I once cooked for one of my teachers, to show her what I do for a living. When I finally got my work rights after that, I opened my business. Some of the students from the program helped me set up the food stall at my first market, and then Ravi from Parliament on King also organised for me to get my Food Safety Handling certificates.
Who is involved in running your business? Who is your business partner (if any), or who works together with you?
Just me. To get my own ABN and all that, SSI’s Ignite Program helped me.
What’s the best part about running your own business?
I like the flexibility! And I like making my own decisions.
What are the highlights so far with running your business?
I like serving my customers, and I like asking for feedback. Sometimes they ask me for my recipes and conversations spark from there.
Any exciting future plans you can share about your business?
I’m currently looking for a business partner, but I can’t do it all.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about you?
I’d like to continue improving my business skills, and do wholesale roti & Sri Lankan snacks.