How Penny Hagekyriakou redefined the meaning of Entrepreneur | Sarina Russo

Connecting people through food during Lockdown

By Sarina Russo Editorial Team
Penny Hagekyriakou wearing a big smile on her face
Connecting people through food during Lockdown
How Penny Hagekyriakou redefined the meaning of Entrepreneur

Launching a new business in the middle of a pandemic is not for the faint hearted, luckily Penny Hagekyriakou isn’t easily fazed.

Pulling inspiration from New York events and a desire to create connections between people and food, Penny was set to run her first classes in early 2020 before the world quickly shut down. After realising that lockdown would not be ending anytime soon, she pivoted to providing an online experience with help from her Sarina Russo Entrepreneurs mentor Peter.

Penny described the advice from NEIS mentor Peter Whitfield as ‘game changing’. Penny stated that Peter encouraged her to embrace her strengths and to always see the positive opportunities in a challenge. Penny accredited Peter to adopting a rational and realistic level-headed approach, while  acting as a ‘guiding light’ throughout the program.

"Starting a business in the midst of a global pandemic definitely had its challenges, and there were many people and obstacles along the way suggesting I take the sensible route and give up. But so too were there supporters encouraging me to keep going, and who believed not only in my vision, but also in me. One of those people was my Sarina Russo Business Mentor Peter. He was one of my biggest cheerleaders providing constant support, positivity and enlightenment along the way. What could have been a detriment soon proved to be my company’s biggest silver lining, and I have Peter to thank for encouraging me to believe in myself and just keep going!"

Drool Experiences offers in person and virtual cooking experiences ranging from cooking + baking classes, cocktail making + wine and cheese tasting, supper clubs + dinner parties, networking events, private events, corporate events and product launches + brand activations. Their experiences are hosted by impressive local talent including MasterChef AU Contestants, Michelin Star Chefs, mixologists, passionate home cooks and media personalities. 

Despite the difficult conditions Drool Experiences found itself in, the business has flourished and gone from strength to strength. Drool Experiences has focused  on bringing people together despite such a disconnect in the world and bridging them through shared experiences and the common love and appreciation of food.

Her first few years of business have resulted in a nomination for the BizCover Change Award as part of the NEIS Business Awards 2021. 

Having gone unto to win the 2021 NEIS Business Awards, Penny stated she was absolutely honoured, because of what it symbolised. Penny saw it as such as privilege, that a small business who showed resilience throughout the pandemic was being acknowledged for its efforts within the community.

Want help to manage and grow your small business?

Sarina Russo offers accredited small business training that can help turn your business idea into reality. In conjunction with the Self-Employment Assistance program, Sarina Russo Entrepreneurs enables Australians to set up and run their own small business. The Self-Employment Assistance is 100% Australian Government funded.

Sarina Russo Entrepreneurs supports candidates as they complete BSB42618 Certificate IV in New Small Business. During this, candidates create a comprehensive business plan and a two-year financial cash forecast. SRE Trainers provide meaningful mentoring for the first twelve months.

Eligible candidates receive the training and support to create a viable business plan, in addition to obtaining a BSB42618 Certificate IV in New Small Business.

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Sarina Russo Group acknowledges the First Nations Peoples of this Country, the traditional custodians connected to the land, water and community on which we live, work and help others to live their best lives. We also pay respect to the Elders past, present and emerging, who strive to build a better and more sustainable future for future generations to come.