Women in Business Series – Jano Kotzas

June 2, 2020

 

 

  • Tell us about yourself – who you are and what you do?

Jano Kotzas – I am the owner and Director of The Prop House. I started The Prop House (TPH) in 1995 – so we are celebrating our 25th birthday this year but I have been in my own business for over 30 years.

  • What was your first job and education?

When I was in grade 12 at school, I did a week of work experience with Sportsgirl in Queen Street as a window dresser (it was called that in the 80s). Little did I know that I had found my calling… After finishing grade 12 I started my full time job, the Monday after schoolies and worked there for 2.5 years. I realised early that I was not up for working for anyone, so decided to start my own freelance business at age 19. I worked from window displays to shopping centres to events and then in 1995 started The Prop House – which incorporated all of the areas of business plus some extras – importing, Christmas in corporate precincts, selling Christmas decorations to the domestic market.

  • How did past recessions impact you personally and in your work?

My business was hardest hit during the GFC as I wasn’t really established in the recessions prior. Following the flood in January 2011 the events industry was badly hit. Each month our sales dropped, and our profits disappeared. My staff left me one by one of their own accord (I sacked no-one), I had 2 young children and life was extremely hard, I was scared. So I cut costs, reduced the business down as much as I could to survive. 

Slowly after a really hard couple of years business started to gain momentum, I had become a much harder, stronger boss and we won a huge project and 3 year contract which ended up being the savior of my business in 2013. From then I have not looked back until 14th March – when COVID-19 hit!

  • Who/what helped you along the way?

My parents have always been my backbone throughout my career. They have stood by me through good and bad, they have lent me money to keep my business afloat, they have given me guidance and a shoulder to cry on when I needed it. They are always first to say “what do you need from us…”

My husband and 3 children are the ones that are the real heros – they see me in the deepest, darkest times (when no-one else sees me). They help to pick me up, put me to bed and tell me I am great – even when I feel like shit!

  • What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given and by whom? 

My granddad always said to me “Your waste is your profit”. It is simple but so true – don’t waste anything, time, products, people, ideas….  I don’t know if it is the best piece of advice, but I can still hear him saying it to me – 30 years after he left this world.

  • How do you deal with challenging times?

I walk A LOT!!! I make myself get up out of bed early, before sunrise and I pound the pavement. I spend the time thinking of how to solve my problems, I walk with friends and share stories and ideas, I listen to podcasts that can enlighten me or lift my spirits. Walking had saved me through this pandemic! And Gin… 😊

  • What drives you?   

I love to see a job done well and to see people enjoy what we design or install for them. 

Success drives me. 

Having a happy and fulfilled team.

Having happy children drives me to be a better person.

I am very driven…

  • What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my 3 children – hands down. But I am also proud of my relationship and I am proud to have survived in business for over 30 years. I think in this day and age, that is an achievement for a woman who didn’t do a university degree and who has never written a business plan, ever.

  • What’s your greatest regret?

I know it sounds weird, but I don’t really regret anything I’ve done – that would mean I am not the person I am today. Mistakes and failures create who you are as a person.

  • What have been the biggest lessons you have learnt (in life and/or business)?

Be honest always. 

Don’t burn bridges – you never know when paths will cross again.

If you have done something wrong, say so.

Be kind – it costs nothing.

Invest in your people.

Believe in yourself.

  • What advice would you give to young women just starting out who want to succeed in the workplace?

See above… 😊