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Small Business Party founder and leader Angela Vithoulkas on losing her business – and why she changed her mind on running for a third council term at the City of Sydney

16 November 2021 Teresa 0 Comments

Gary Munn writes:

How hard can it be?

These five words have come to define the life of City of Sydney Councillor Angela Vithoulkas.

“It’s a common flaw of mine, that one,” she says as we discuss her involvement in the class action to fairly compensate small business owners impacted by Sydney’s light rail construction, which drew infamy for interminable timeline and budgetary blowouts.

It’s these same five words, Vithoulkas says, which inspired her to start her first business (she has owned 17 hospitality businesses) and then enter local politics.

“I’d be serving sex workers first thing in the morning and business people at lunch time – I got to know all walks of life in this city,” she says.

The Erin Brockovich of Sydney

A twice elected City of Sydney councillor (2012 and 2016), Vithoulkas made an unsuccessful run in 2019 for the federal seat of Wentworth as an independent and also for state parliament after in 2017 establishing the Small Business Matters party.

But it’s the city council where she’s been able to make herself heard, as a passionate advocate for local business owners with a unique voice.

It’s using that voice that galvanised her with multiple other business owners to challenge the “unfairness” in the compensation offered to business owners impacted by the light rail.

“The state government provided some financial assistance after me fighting for 18 months, using $40,000 of my own money for it – but it only covers those who had a shop directly on the light rail construction line. So, not those with businesses upstairs. They were equally impacted. And that’s unfair,” she says. “I couldn’t abandon everyone else. So I set about single mindedly trying to change it, thinking: how hard can it be?”

She compares it to Erin Brockovich’s fight, and says she feels equally underestimated: “As far as anyone in government or mainstream media is concerned, I’m not the go to person for small business,” she says. “The National Retailers Association is: any middle aged man who’s got a CEO position and university qualification … and who’s never worked a day in a small business.”

It isn’t the first time she’s used her own funds to – literally – put her money where her mouth is; she sold her house to help fund her campaign for a second term, and to make up for losses caused by the light rail construction.

“No one thought I could do it,” she says of taking on the fight. “But then no one ever thinks I can. No one ever thought I could get elected the first time in 2012. Or the second in 2016. And nobody thinks I can do it again, either.”

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