Steve Gianoutsos' Dad was a farm boy… a farm boy from Greece that is. Coming over to the land of the long white cloud in 1958, Lambros Gianoutsos went on to create the Mojo Coffee dynasty that has helped establish Wellington as the land of the large flat white. The booming business is now spearheaded by his son Steve, who chooses to support the incredible Neonatal Trust, and he generously shares with us the story of his own journey through the NICU.
The Gianoutsos family are now considered the cream of the crop when it comes to coffee circles. Founded in 2003 on Wakefield St, Mojo is now 30 stores strong. China has recently become a little more caffeinated thanks to Steve, with a cafe opening in Xi’an, serving brews “Kiwi style”.
Steve Gianoutsos is pretty proud of his Greek heritage – making regular trips back to his Mediterranean motherland, but he’s about as Kiwi as you can get. Growing up in Miramar, Wellington, he felt free to hoon around, knocking about the eastern hills till it was tea time.
Steve learnt about hard graft early on in life, working at his Dad’s Vivian St eatery – The Tasty Sandwich. “One of my earliest memories was standing on a box of Coke as a 3-year-old serving customers. I also remember practicing rugby passes with my brother using frozen chickens as we put them away in the chiller.”
Hard graft is still high on the agenda. The business is growing faster than ever before and Steve acknowledges that company culture is one of the hardest aspects to maintain. Community values are also high on the coffee King’s list, believing that every business needs to connect with their community. “Whether it’s charitable or not, it’s our responsibility as human beings to give back and help others that aren’t so fortunate.”
The Gianoutsos’ give, but an unexpected personal tragedy landed the family on the doorstep of a remarkable Kiwi organisation.
“Julie and I had a first hand experience at the Neonatal ward in Wellington when we lost our little boy Rio after three days. Most outcomes are positive, but ours wasn’t.
We witnessed how hard-working and caring the staff were. They really worked hard to fight for our son and guide us along the way. To those who are there now – there is hope. I learnt that a baby’s natural instinct is to survive. We will never forget him. We celebrate his birthday with his brother and sisters… his presence, although it was short, was a gift.
It is very important to talk about your grief and the loss. Couples need to work through it together. The Neonatal Trust provided amazing support to us and the other families in there. The results are amazing. It’s a charity that makes positive things happen everyday.”
Mojo coffee now show their appreciation by giving The Neonatal Trust loads of support, such as their annual phone recycling campaign and in the past have sold cookbooks in store, supported raffles and auctions, and had the Mojo Caravan at outdoor events. Most recently, they're selling Mother's Day 'Have A Heart' cookies through to May 27th, raising money to support Neonatal mums.
“We support The Neonatal Trust because it’s such a good cause. It is likely that everyone knows someone that has experience with the Neonatal ward. It is the perfect time to give someone the help they need. You can really make a difference.”
There are 23 neonatal units in New Zealand, and every year over 5,000 babies are cared for. If you would like to learn more, or to back The Neonatal Trust like the Gianoutsos whanau, hit that big button below.