Career

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New York state of mind

New York state of mind


Justin Giuffrida’s entrepreneurial ventures have taken him from cutting grass in high school to coffee and cafes in New York. While this Bachelor of Commerce graduate now calls America home, Justin’s Australian roots have become the foundation of his business.

Justin’s entrepreneurial endeavours first began with a lawn mowing service in high school. 

“I can still remember the thrill of creating the business, organising jobs and rallying my school friends to help out,” he said. “From this early age, I knew I wanted  to work for myself.”

Overseas opportunities

While Justin now resides in New York, this wasn’t his first international move. 

“When I was at ACU and saw all the places I could choose from to study overseas, I felt like a kid in a candy shop,” he said. “I went with Vrije University in Amsterdam. By leaving the little ecosystem of my world in Melbourne behind, the experience opened my eyes and really gave me a new perspective on culture. 

“It taught me that most of the things we want in life are a step outside of our comfort zone. So, it’s no surprise that my experience studying abroad proved to be the gateway to my life and business in New York.”     

Australian citizen

Justin is now the owner of a successful cafe business known as Citizens, with two locations at present and a third on the way. Each one is proudly serving Australian fare to American diners, who have embraced Citizens’ antipodean style.

Justin at work

Justin Giuffrida takes on New York.

“The name of my cafes are ‘Citizens of…’ followed by their locations in New York,” he said. “So, right now, I own Citizens of Chelsea and Citizens of Grammercy (with Citizens of SoHo in the works). I wanted the name to play on the notion of my cafes serving the citizens of the communities they’re located in.” 

Coffee culture

A passion for the hospitality industry began during Justin’s days at ACU Melbourne

“While I was studying, I used to frequent all of the phenomenal cafes around campus. Still to this day, one of my all-time favorites is Proud Mary in Collingwood, which was close enough to grab a coffee in between lectures,” he said. “When I moved to New York, I realised how special the cafe culture in Australia really is. And that’s where it began for me – I am trying to bring one of the best cafe cultures to one of the best cities in the world.”

Learning lessons

Justin readily admits that starting a business in New York was a steep learning curve.

“It was like trying to drink water from a fire hose!” he said. “New York is so demanding and we were a young team on a small budget with big dreams. I still have vivid memories of rallying my friends into helping paint our first cafe – it turns out inexperienced painters can cause quite a mess, which was a lesson within itself. 

“Today I look back and I'm proud of the tenacity and resilience of those early days. And I’m happy to report Citizens now runs much more smoothly.” 

Through his years of business ownership, Justin believes his commerce studies have stood him in good stead. 

“My academic background from ACU was how I was able to learn quickly, make adjustments and overcome those initial hurdles,” he said. “My degree gave me a strong base of technical and practical skills that I continue to use and build upon in my career.”   

The path to passion

Passion and purpose are what Justin says continues to drive Citizens. 

“At one point in time, I was working in a job that did not interest me, and I remember feeling mentally drained and unmotivated,” he said. “Today, I work double the hours and have incredible amounts of enthusiasm and energy, and it’s simply because I'm excited about what I do.

“As a young adult, your path ahead can seem pretty uncertain. I vividly remember feeling like I was drifting through university and at times I was completely lost. I was almost certain I would be crunching numbers as an accountant my whole life. It's important to remember our careers and aspirations are ever changing.

Justin, entrepreneur

“My path hasn’t been linear, and I know now that’s ok. I allowed myself space to taste and try different things to better understand my vision. When you know where you’re going, everything becomes a lot easier. 

“I often think about why it’s so compelling to start a business. I think it’s natural as humans to wonder what we’re capable of. For me, launching Citizens scratched that itch.”

Entrepreneurial advice

Justin’s advice for other would-be entrepreneurs?

“Love the process. And building momentum is absolutely key, which requires some patience. 

“What typically happens is a lot of people set goals, and it ends up looking like a gigantic staircase and they never start. My advice is to focus on making that first step. Then the second, then the third. Eventually you begin running, and the momentum becomes real as the goal moves closer and closer. Once you can harness this energy, the possibilities seem endless.”

Interested in building a business of your own? Explore the business courses at ACU

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Impact brings you compelling stories, inspiring research, and big ideas from ACU. It's about the impact we’re having on our communities, and our Mission in action. It’s a practical resource for career, life and study.

At ACU it’s education, but not as you know it. We stand up for people in need, and causes that matter.

If you have a story idea or just want to say hello, do contact us.

Copyright@ Australian Catholic University 1998-2019 | ABN 15 050 192 660 CRICOS Reg: 00004G