Encouraged by his businessman father, serial entrepreneur Ramzey Choker owned his first take-away business at 17, and another seven or so hospitality businesses in his 20s.
“I get bored really easily. I was always jumping and trying to come up with new ideas,” says Choker, now 33.
While the businesses were successful, he ripped through the cash, and admits he didn’t realise the value of his wealth. That was until his dad’s business went under.
However Choker, who tried to help his dad avoid bankruptcy, describes it as “the biggest lesson I’ve ever learnt in life”.
"When you’re successful you’re all jumped up and you think you know everything – but reality kicks in.”
These days, the young entrepreneur is riding high, after he and his business partner masterminded a plan to transform an industrial car park into a coffee roaster, café and sustainable garden set on about an acre in Sydney’s inner west. The Grounds of Alexandria employs 300 staff and is a popular gathering spot for foodies and coffee lovers.
But Choker says it may not have happened without the lessons he learned from his father. From that point on, he began “devouring” business books, and took on business mentor, Ben Harvey.
“When you’re successful you’re all jumped up and you think you know everything – but reality kicks in,” says Choker. “I woke up and saw I needed to support my family. I wanted to do something really and truly great.”
Choker says Harvey has been instrumental in the success of The Grounds, and has made him realise that business is also “about looking for the greatness in people”.
“Everything comes down to you, but it’s just about someone pushing you in the right direction."
On a practical level, Choker and Harvey speak at least weekly, allowing Choker to “spill his guts” and find solutions to the problems that inevitably crop up.
“I say ‘Hey Ben I’ve got this issue. What do you think – am I right or wrong?’” says Choker. “He’s cleared the path for me to do what I needed to do.”
Choker believes that every business owner can benefit from a mentor. He suggests brainstorming a list of mentors you’d like to know or find out more about, and choosing someone on a similar wavelength.
“Everything comes down to you, but it’s just about someone pushing you in the right direction and making sure you stay on course,” he says. “I truly believe that if my dad had a mentor there … things wouldn’t have gone downhill in the way they did.”
Larissa Ham is a Melbourne-based freelancer. She write for publications including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The New Daily and Forge magazine, and also shares money saving tips at Hey, Little Spender!