Yianna & Katianna Velos

Yianna & Katianna Velos

Co-founders of Golden Groves

BlogBusiness Owner

There is something so dam romantic about the business sisters Katianna and Yianna Velos have built. It’s a potent mixture of food, travel and storytelling, but also heavily laced with “just go out and build your thing” vibes. You see, Golden Groves isn’t just about its hero product (olive oil), it’s about living well. It’s also about two fiercely intelligent women, having enough tenacity to take their idea and launch it into the world.

I’m a total sucker for these stories. 

Strap yourself in as Katianna and Yianna take us back to their Greek-Australian roots, their education trajectory, the reasoning behind some of their biggest career milestones, and of course what life is like for two women in their 20s building their careers and growing a new lifestyle brand.

I dare you not to fall in love with this story, let’s begin. 

Can you start by telling us where you grew up and how your experience shaped the person you are, and the career you are in today?

Yianna: Katianna and I were both raised in Melbourne in a Greek-Australian household. Our parents were both born in Greece, and we grew up observing them working very hard to establish themselves in their relative professions. Being Greek, there is an emphasis on education and pursuing academic endeavours. Our parents always encouraged us to participate in extracurriculars, from sports to music, to multiple languages – we were very fortunate to have grown up in an entrepreneurial household where business was always discussed and ideas were also encouraged.

After high school did you go on to further education? Where and what did you study?

Yianna: I studied a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne, where I majored in Finance and Management. As part of my degree, I had various overseas stints, such as partaking in an international case competition in Delhi, India and a semester abroad at Bocconi University in Milan, where I studied Fashion & Luxury Management.

Katianna: I studied a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in International Politics, where I studied a variety of historical subjects from classics to modern-day history, and a few European languages. I then went on to study law also at the University of Melbourne. I studied overseas for both my undergraduate and post-graduate degrees. I studied European politics in Munich and Brussels. I also completed a subject in Washington DC and New York City as part of my law degree.

Do you think it’s important for people to have a degree in your line of work?

Yianna: I don’t think it is essential to have a degree to own and operate your own business, however, I do believe that the network you are able to tap into at university is invaluable. At university, you are able to build skills and delve deeper into areas that interest you. Every day, you are surrounded by people that have similar interests to you, which presents you with the opportunity to learn from like-minded people about topics that interest you. If you decide to pursue a career in the area you have studied, this is also a perfect networking opportunity as your classmates will become your future colleagues or professional network.

Did you complete any internships or volunteer placements? Tell us about your experience.

Yianna: I worked full-time in a financial role whilst studying at university. I also completed an internship at one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms in the final year of my degree. I interned in the management consulting division of the firm in their Operations team. Upon completing this internship, I was offered a job at the firm, which was my first professional job out of university. This was my first time being exposed to large scale deals and seeing how multinational retailers operate their businesses.

During this internship, I learned that if I wanted to be seen, it was my responsibility to make myself known. Previously, I would have felt “awkward” asking anyone, let alone executives, for help. However, if I have learnt one thing in life, it is that there is no shame in asking for a leg up and sharing your dreams. Throughout my internship, I researched individuals within the firm’s global network and would cold email people of interest to me. Nine times out of ten, people would be more than willing to meet with me for a coffee and try connecting me with people that could open doors for me. This was a truly grounding and humanising experience for me because it made me see everyone, from juniors to executives, on the same level as me. No one is unapproachable unless you put them on that pedestal. I applied this concept daily in my dealings with Golden Groves. I often cold email or Instagram DM people who I respect and want to send olive oil to, from home cooks to fashion designers. Some of these people I have randomly messaged have become some of my closest friends and have opened so many doors for Katianna and I.

Kat: I also worked consistently throughout my degrees at a number of organisations, from global law firms, government legal offices, to boutique law firms. I also completed an internship at one of the ‘Big Four’ professional services firms. The most exciting internship I completed was at the United Nations HQ in New York, where I was fortunate enough to work in the Investigations team of the UNDP and assist in investigating allegations of sexual harassment within the UNDP post #MeToo movement. This was a life-changing experience in terms of the exposure to the type of work undertaken and the phenomenal network of people I met both professionally and personally. The opportunity to live in a new city by yourself, find your voice and feet and slide into your own sense of self when you don’t know a single soul is incredibly refreshing and character building.

One of the biggest things I learnt while living overseas albeit for a short time, was that your regular haunts, the way you dress and your disposition essentially become your business card and opportunities to build your network could present themselves while you’re picking up your morning coffee – especially in a city like NYC that is brimming with entrepreneurial energy. The international component of working for an organisation like the UN was beyond exciting. You’re surrounded by people speaking a million languages in the office, from all walks of life, from every country. The international nature of my internship encouraged me to be more worldly, more cultured and open and I do not think I could have attained this experience in Australia.

How did you get into the job/career/business that you are in now?

Katianna: My journey to where I am now has been anything but linear and it still continues to change month by month. Having always worked corporate/legal jobs throughout my university degrees, I never would have imagined I’d be in the food business or producing content for social media around food. Currently, I work a legal job, manage my business Golden Groves alongside Yianna and produce social media content for my Instagram page, among other food-related jobs such as events.

Golden Groves came about very organically. In 2020, Melbourne was in the middle of one of its strict lockdowns and I began documenting my cooking on Instagram. I cooked all my meals with the olive oil I always had at home – from our family’s groves in Greece. When I highlighted the importance of having great extra virgin olive oil on hand, the interest I received in my family’s olive oil showed me there was a clear business case to start importing and selling the oil in Australia. Since we launched in December 2020, the business has evolved beyond olive oil, although it is our mainstay. Meeting a host of incredibly talented and like-minded people has been extremely formative in shaping my career. I knew I always wanted to be my own boss, and surrounding myself with people who also own and operate their own businesses has been monumental in expediting this process. The diversification of our product offering to now include our premium river beluga caviar is an example of how Yianna and I operate intuitively to keep the brand representative of ourselves, our passions and lifestyle. We met our caviar wholesaler in a personal capacity and then turned the opportunity into a business. I believe that much of my own career has been shaped by identifying opportunities in situations you wouldn’t typically perceive through a commercial lens, and then laying the foundations to turn an opportunity into a viable business prospect.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

Yianna: I wake up at 6.30am and briefly check my emails and messages for anything urgent. I will then start my day with a hot pilates or yoga class, followed by some daily journaling.  It is so important for me to set my intention for the day, acknowledge how I feel and manifest what I want from the day. I typically work from home, so I will then get dressed and caffeinated for my day.

Each day for me is different depending on what event or collaboration we have in the works. Typically, my day is filled with meetings, usually about upcoming events and collaborations. The most fun meetings involve food and menu tasting. The rest of my day is spent packing orders, liaising with our distributors, responding to emails, answering interview questions, managing our social media, and sometimes, attending photoshoots.

Most nights, Katianna and I will have a PR event of some sort, which is a great way to mix business with pleasure.

What piece of career advice do you wish that someone told you in your early 20s?

Yianna: To back myself. So often, I hear people saying they have ideas, or they want to launch a business, but they question whether they will be success. My response is always the same, “if you can’t back yourself, how can you expect other people to back your venture?“ When you find your calling, you will believe in it with all your being. People are receptive to your passion and energy when you talk about your business. If you believe in it, others cannot help but believe in it too.

Katianna: Whatever you think you want to achieve, double it and double it again. The power of an unshakeable belief in yourself is what sets people apart from others, as I believe that we are taught to doubt rather than to believe. Call it manifestation, intentionality – I believe that the universe is receptive to our energy and intentions.

What is the worst piece of career advice you received in your 20s?

Yianna: That you must ‘do your time’. In my first office job, I remember the manager made a comment about millennials/Gen Zs and how ‘we all want to be CEOs in our 20s’ but need to do our time to be successful. Whilst I do agree that hands-on experience is valuable and something you gain with time, I believe that a deep belief in yourself and your ability is what will really enable to you to accelerate and feel fulfilled in your career. This concept of doing your time promotes this idea that success is a waiting game and everyone, regardless of their individual capabilities and work, will achieve the same level of success if they stick out a job for long enough. Success and opportunities to me should be based on merit, not based on time or age.

Katianna: Rather than honing in on one piece of bad career advice, I’d like to call out the plethora of unsolicited sometimes well-intentioned / sometimes ill-intentioned feedback framed as “advice” by strangers, friends and family alike. Too often, when people ask you about your business/career, they take it as an opportunity to put their two cents worth into what you do. Sometimes whilst this advice is framed as constructive and ‘helpful’, oftentimes people attempt to use your platform as an idea to execute dreams or ideas they never had the opportunity or gumption to achieve themselves. I think knowing what advice to take on and what advice to respectfully ignore is something that we all continue to develop over time, otherwise, we would all be at the whim of other people who think they know what’s best for you, when they may not even understand the brand or business you’re trying to build.

If you could start your career all over again what would you do differently?

Yianna: I wouldn’t have pressured myself to fit into a typical mould of success. When I was in university, it felt like everyone was fighting for the same jobs at the same big corporations. If I started my career all over again, I would challenge my idea of success to really determine if I was pursuing job opportunities because they interested me or because I wanted the social recognition of working for a respectable and prestigious firm. It is so important to be true to yourself and really consider what is going to fill up your cup.

List the most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your career?

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