Dream Big and Be Unstoppable
By the age of 24 you've led two successful crews, you run your own studio and operate what is arguably the best burger joint in Ballarat, which would hold its own amongst Melbourne restaurants, you also own your own house and recently got married. Having achieved all this before hitting a quarter century what’s contributed the most?
I think having a big vision and plan for the future has been the biggest part of achieving what I have so far. It started off a little rocky, leaving school after year 10, but I’ve always been a dreamer.
When I teach dancing I teach my students to change everything I teach them, even the most basic moves. I will teach them a simple step and say “I want you to come up with four different ways to improve that step”. I tell them that they should do this for everything in life, when you learn something at first it's going to be hard but if you approach it in four different ways you will find the easiest way and the way which best suits you.
So with every situation I find myself in I think of four things I can do to change the outcome, whether it be making it easier, more complex or even something completely different - by doing this I have learnt not to settle for the first option or the traditional path to life.
This is how I went from teaching for another dance school to running my own, from working in retail to opening a restaurant and from living with my wife in a bedroom at my parents’ house to building my own home. Everything that I’ve achieved has started from that one little teaching exercise I work on with my students. I hope that they all apply it to their lives and achieve all of the greatness I know they’re capable of.
What keeps the passion alive to continue progressing?
The fact that I go to work at one job and teach alongside my beautiful wife Tess, then after I drive to the restaurant and work alongside my dad and my brothers. So many people told me not to go into business with family but I wouldn’t change a thing!
Not everything has been simple and smooth but when you’re really passionate about something, and have set goals, you don’t let anything stand in your way.
When did you start to see it all come together for you? Was there a certain moment?
The moment I started seeing Tess my life did a full 180 and I got myself into gear. I wanted to make the best life for us. I wanted us to do what we loved everyday, and do it together. It was from that moment that everything fell into place.
I would honestly still be living with my parents and working in retail if it wasn’t for her. Having her support for all of my crazy idea’s has been the key to actually going through with the things I say that I’ll do. If you have someone backing you 100% everything becomes SO much easier!
How did you make the transition from dancing as a hobby to dancing as your full time job, in addition to running your restaurant?
It was when I felt like my body was falling apart. Injuries were the worst, but instead of getting injured and thinking I have to stop, I thought to myself “I can’t keep this up for ever, so I'm going to give 100% now!”. I started training every night with my crew - and alone in most cases. I would work 9 – 5 in retail then leave to teach for a dance school and train at night, everyday.
After years of teaching for another school Tess and I felt it was time we set out on our own. After months of planning we finally sorted everything out and started Soul Studio, with Tess teaching choreography and me teaching Bboying. Our first week had a handful of students in a hall we were hiring by the hour, and now we teach over 200 students in 5 different cities and own our own studio.
The Griffin Burger transition was a big one because it was more complicated than running a studio. The key was planning. We planned for so long until we had everything from logos to menu’s and prices already printed, then all we had to do was find the right shop and get to work! For the first 6 months I was working 40+ hours at the restaurant while teaching 30+ at Soul. Thankfully we have been able to employ more staff at Griffin Burger so my weeks aren’t as full anymore. Still full, but not overflowing!
Griffin Burger is the business you started with your brothers and dad which has been known to attract people from Bendigo, two hours away, to come down to enjoy a meal. With such a response to the restaurant what would you say makes you do so well?
It’s definitely the product and the brand that we’ve built. We use the highest quality ingredients in all of our burgers plus our brand is so unique, we are doing things that have literally never been done before.
We have a salt station where you can choose from 20 seasonings for your chips and we’ve transformed the idea of boring old chips and gravy to unique combinations that have never been seen before; like Cheeseburger Fries and Bruschetta Fries.
Lastly, I think great customer service has been key. When we were planning the shop we promised two things, the best quality food and customer service. Since opening, we’ve had over 200 five star reviews on our page and have a rating of 4.9 stars out of 5. We’re still so overwhelmed with the response and so grateful for every opportunity that we’ve been given!
How did you get Griffin Burger up and running?
It started when my oldest brother, Dillon, and I wanted to make a bit of a life change. Dillon was working as a Head Chef in a restaurant that he was pretty much running, and I would always say to Tess, before we started Soul Studio “Doing all of this sucks, when we could be doing the exact same thing for ourselves”. I said the same thing to Dillon.
So we spoke on and off about it and the opportunity arose to enter a reality TV show called Restaurant Revolution. We submitted our entry and worked our asses off to get onto this show, only to get knocked back.
We thought, “We’ve come this far, let's keep going. Who needs this stupid show anyway!”. We asked other members of our family if they wanted in on the business venture. My dad Peter and my other brother Ryan were in.
Funnily enough, we opened our restaurant a week before the show even went to air - the show got axed after two episodes, and here we are still flipping burgers and kicking goals nearly a year later!
Where were you born and raised? Where did you go to high school?
I was born in Ballarat and I’m going to stay here until I die, most likely. I love it! I attended Sebastopol College which is a public school that doesn’t have the best reputation - but I’m sure that will change once people see the amazing things my peers from Sebastopol are achieving.
How were you introduced to dancing? What made it so interesting to keep coming back to it?
I did a lesson in grade 6 with my mates at school. I loved it even though I was honestly the worst, and most uncoordinated, student in class. The fact that it was challenging kept me coming back at first. There was always something to work on and it was never ending, plus the fact that there are so many paths you can take through bboying makes it so much more enjoyable. You are free!
How did Beaver Shakers and MON Crew begin? Were there any difficulties you had to overcome?
Beaver shakers was formed mainly through friends, we didn’t care if you were good or not. We all just enjoyed each others’ company and had an amazing time growing together.
I find that of all of the crews I’ve been part of, my fondest memories are from Beaver Shakers Crew.
MON crew was formed from the members of BSC who were still interested in competing as well as other dancers from country towns. We weren’t interested in getting big names from the city, we wanted to represent the country on the big stage. The hardest part was, and is, getting everyone together to train - everyone is so busy, and lives so far away. We make sure that when we do get together we make the most of it and have the best time.
What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?
The biggest sacrifice is time. Putting time into such big projects and not knowing the outcome is scary, you have to control the outcome. Spending time away from loved ones sucks but it makes you cherish moments with them way more.
When we first started Soul Studio, the owner of the building we hired was so helpful and encouraging. She was genuinely happy for us, which felt strange because so many people her age thought that what we were doing was crazy. After talking to her for nearly an hour, this one time, she explained to me how important time is. She said being busy is an amazing thing but make sure you spend time with Tess. She explained her husband worked out of town and they were rarely together, but it was ok because it was all to build their future together -sadly, he past away very young.
That hit me pretty hard because I was heading in the same sort of direction. Since then, I’ve built a life for myself where I get to see all of my amazing friends and family everyday while working. It is the best!
What do you think it takes to be successful?
You need to Plan! So many people think you can just jump into something then start planning, this is why majority of businesses fail in their first 5 years. You need to have everything written down, even if it's stupid write it down! You also need to really want the things you are looking to succeed in. Don’t do something because you need to or because you have to, do it because you want to!
If you want something and you plan like crazy, with the proper support team, you are unstoppable!
Without my support team I would be screwed. When I was starting up Griffin Burger, the main aim was building a better life for everyone. I wanted to bring everyone I possibly could along for this crazy ride, but the truth is I would have nothing without everyone’s help.
One of my best mates Luke is my accountant, and anyone who runs a business knows how important a good accountant is. I email him everyday about an issue or problem I'm going through and he saves me every time. Another important piece to this puzzle is my great friend and crewmate Hugh. He’s designed everything for Soul Studio and Griffin Burger since day one. Everything to do with my business branding is Hugh. A former crew mate, Reflex, has commissioned all the Griffin Burger artwork and my best mate Widge brings his football team in every Wednesday for dinner – the whole team! And obviously my family, my business partners and my wife, all of which work at Griffin Burger. I believe I have the best support team, and the most amazing part about it is they’re all important to me. If you have a support team that you love, and that love you, I can almost guarantee you will be successful in anything you do!
Growing up did you think you’d be doing what you're doing now? If not, what was your original plan? And what happened to change that?
No way. I told my dad I would take over his plastering business if he gave me his beat up old 4WD but after working with him for 3 months in plastering, I realised that was a bad idea.
I have had so many jobs because I never really knew what to do. The only thing I knew that would play a part in my life was dancing. I moved to the circus to be a full time performer and hated it, the only good part was living with my close friend Brayden and working with him everyday.
The main thing that changed my outlook was meeting my wife Tess. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew it had to be with her. With both of us having the passion and job teaching dance, the decision to start our dance school a no brainer!
What's in store for the next few years? Any big plans?
In future, I plan to expand I want everything I am doing to be bigger. Open more restaurants, have studios in more locations, and own more properties. There are a lot of projects underway at the moment that I’m not allowed to talk about.
All of which will come to light in the next year, so keep an eye out.
What are your goals now? What are you working on?
Apart from all of the projects we’re planning my only real goal is to stay happy, keep seeing my friends every week, my family everyday and hopefully start a family of my own in the next couple of years.
If someone asked for advice pursuing a career in dance and starting up something of their own, what advice would you give them?
Treat your students like your friends, not like you're above them.
I take the time to get to know all of my students personally. Once you build a good relationship with your students, no matter what age, your job as a teacher will be a hundred times easier. They reflect the respect you give them right back at you, they listen when you talk and they learn more. They see you as a friend and a role model not only as a teacher.
I use this approach is because when I was in high school, there was a teacher I got along with, Josh Ebbels; everyone got along with Josh. when he walked into the classroom and you didn’t feel pressured to sit up straight, get your books out and freak out. He made you feel comfortable in his class and he made you want to show up learn!
We all had such respect for him that we listened to what he said, we didn’t want him to think we weren’t trying or paying attention. To us, he was a role model and a friend, not just a teacher who thought they were above us.
Josh’s teaching style and attitude toward us is the reason I run my classes, and teach, the way I do and I truly believe that’s the reason our studio is as successful as it is.
That’s my biggest tip for starting your own dance classes and, like I said earlier, if you are starting a business make sure it’s something you want to do and don’t rush. Take your time and plan very carefully – all of your hard work will pay off!