Meet our mentees! Joe & Tamara Skok (Italia Pizza & Pasta)

Italia Pizza & pasta, in short, was opened after we moved from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast and Joe couldn’t find the deliciously amazing Italian pizza’s he was accustomed to eating at his family members Italian pizzerias throughout NSW.

“Only one answer to this Tamara”.

So Joe, a Concretor by day and Tamara, a Naturopath Nutritionist by day set about setting up a small Italian eatery which would introduce the amazing recipes bought over to Australia by his Italian relatives, and hence both committing to night jobs as well.

As any self employed person will know, a commitment like starting a small restaurant is not a solo adventure. This was an entire family commitment, a family business. So along with all the highs we experienced of the community loving the food we produced, the high of moving into larger premises, there is a lot of family sacrifice. Italia Pizza & Pasta is a family business built on the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifices of our entire family. Including the Sydney Italian relatives who came up and taught us all the recipes but most importantly to our little family/team of 4 who have missed precious time at home together, have had the frustration of working along side each other and not always seeing the best version of ourselves. We did it though. And we excelled and each four of us are very proud and appreciative of the success story of Italia Pizza & Pasta.

Italia has won award after award including Best Italian Sunshine Coast, Best Pizza Sunshine Coast, Best Take Away QLD! Italia was a finalist in 2018 Sunshine Coast Business Awards.
Turnover wise our business has grown a modest little family employed business in 2012 to now employing over 10 full time and casual staff. Our turnover increased by 4 fold when we moved from Golden Beach to our current location in Currimundi and now continues to grow by approximately 15-20% each year.

This story absolutely cannot be told with out including the account of the loss of a very special employee. Abby was one of our very first employees at Italia Pizza and Pasta. Starting at the young age of 17 and working from kitchen hand up to a pizza making and than management position. We were rocked when in 2016 when Abby was only 20 years old, we received the worst kind of phone call, informing us of the Abby’s passing overnight from Diabetes Type 1 related cause. This not only rocked my family of four, but also the team of 10 employees at Italia whom were a very close knit family in their own right. I don’t recall how we made it through that tragedy but somehow we did…..

Italia Pizza & Pasta has very grand plans of continuing to grow in size and turnover as well as employ more staff including via the apprenticeships avenue to assist Sunshine Coast community to become qualified in trades.

I, Tamara, became a mentee because of one of my golden rules that I believe I have always known “know what you don’t know”. I remember from my teen years that I always stopped and listened when I had the privilege of someone wiser and/or older than me offering advice or re-telling an experience they had. I make a conscious effort to network in an attempt to have the opportunity to learn from others. So when I came across the “Mentoring Sunshine Coast” program I was very quick to put up my hand as a mentee and felt very blessed by this opportunity.

The Mentoring Sunshine Coast program has not disappointed. Not only did I get my Mentor, I got two Mentors! Chris and Greg are so full of wisdom and advice. My husband Joe who initially didn’t understand why I was partaking in this program is now a keen and enthusiastic mentee as well. Joe and I together with Greg and Chris are gradually working through many ways of increasing turnover both long term and short term as well as offering us advice and guidance on many important and difficult business decisions.

Currently we are working through “top secret” but very exciting medium term plans and without the advice from Chris and Greg I would have been unsure which path options would have been the smartest business choice. I am so incredibly excited to see where our business is at come end 2019/early 2020 as a result of the plans implemented as a result of our involvement with our Mentors.