They say you should never meet your heroes, but what if your hero is an inspiring leader, mentor and rugby league coaching legend?
Our 2023 ‘Meet the Master’ competition gave one lucky business owner the opportunity to sit down with Melbourne Storm Head Coach, Craig Bellamy, and needless to say, the experience didn’t disappoint.
This year’s winner was Nerissa Jayasingha, founder and owner of much-loved Melbourne café ‘Lankan Tucker’. Located in Brunswick West, Nerissa’s vibrant eatery serves Sri Lankan dishes with a modern twist (the hand-made pan rolls are a must) and is changing people’s perceptions of Sri Lankan cuisine and culture.
Formerly a talent agent, Nerissa’s self-employed story began back in 2013, when she and her partner Hiran started selling Sri Lankan street food at local markets and festivals.
Nerissa and Hiran started out small, renting a commercial kitchen, testing various products, selling at markets and delivering lunches one day a week. Before long they were catering for large events of up to 1000 guests, and in 2016 they took the plunge and opened their own brick-and-mortar cafe.
“The first two years of the café were the hardest,” Nerissa admits.
“Sri Lankan street food was a pretty foreign concept to our local community, so we had to work really hard selling it to people and shifting their preconceived ideas about Sri Lankan food. We ended up putting a “we have coffee” sign out the front just to get people in the door, and social media marketing played a huge part in boosting our business’s profile. Marketing has been central to our success.”
Fast forward seven years and Lankan Tucker is not only one of Brunswick West’s most beloved eateries, but it’s a household name amongst foodies right across Melbourne.
As a staunch Melbourne Storm supporter and long-time fan of Craig Bellamy, Nerissa jumped at the chance to enter our 2023 ‘Meet the Master Storm Edition’ competition.
Nerissa and Hiran’s ‘Meet the Master’ experience kicked off with a tour of Melbourne Storm’s inner sanctum at AAMI Park. Leading the tour was former Storm player Peter ‘Robbo’ Robinson, who took them through the player changerooms, massage area and gym facilities, whilst sharing insights on what drives the club’s culture. Nerissa and Hiran were then able to mingle with the players over lunch, before sitting down with Craig Bellamy and General Manager of Football, Frank Ponissi, to chat about leadership, culture and everything in between.
“One thing that really resonated with us was the club’s emphasis on embracing the many, many different cultures they have at the Storm. They welcome all cultures, share stories about them and are proud of where everyone has come from. Sharing cultures and connecting with your story is something that we at Lankan Tucker are passionate about too, and we also drew parallels between the Storm logo (the Protector) and our logo (the Fisherman),” Nerissa says.
And the highlight?
“Honestly, the whole thing! From walking through the inner sanctum and hearing about moments that have happened there, to meeting the players and of course sitting down with Craig and Frank and chatting about anything we wanted to. We were also surprised by how engaging, respectful and welcoming every single person was. We were told that this would be the case at the beginning of our tour with Robbo, but then to see it in action just confirmed that this club really does practise what they preach.”
Whilst running a small business has its challenges and is certainly not for the faint hearted, Nerissa and Hiran are huge advocates for being self-employed. They enjoy making their own decisions, learning from their mistakes, controlling what they’re creating and showcasing a cuisine that is close to their hearts.
After sitting down with Craig and Frank and learning more about what has contributed to Melbourne Storm’s success, Nerissa and Hiran now have fresh ideas and innovative strategies around goal setting, delegation, nurturing and empowering team members, building trust, managing criticism, maintaining motivation and achieving a healthy work/life balance. They can’t wait to apply these learnings to their business and take Lankan Tucker to the next level.
Check out the highlights video for a behind the scenes look at the 2023 Meet the Master Storm Edition experience!
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