James Christodoulou, the 266th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is an indomitable businessman and devoted family man.

“Everything I have done and will do is for my kids,” James told me as he described his colourful business journey to me.

James launched his first business at just 18 years old, in partnership with his new wife, with money they’d been gifted at their big, fat Greek wedding. They became the exclusive Australian distributors for a line of high-end Swedish greeting cards. They made a lot of sales, but also racked up a lot of costs, so closed the business after three years.

From there, James and his wife opened a kids party shop, which they soon sold to a supplier.

Still in their mid-twenties, they moved to Cyprus, their parents’ homeland, where James tried his next business – becoming the exclusive local distributor for Dan Ackroyd’s vodka brand. After a year, they decided to return to Australia, so James passed the distributorship to a relative.

Back in Sydney, James chose to take a break from the high-pressure entrepreneurial life by getting a job in a cafe. That went well … until a friend talked James into buying a (different) cafe together. The business was profitable, but a relentless grind, so James sold out to his partner within three years.

Even though James had no automotive experience, he then got a job at a smash repair business, where he developed a surprising love for dent repair.

Like a moth to the flame, James eventually opened up his own shop.

That then inspired James to start his latest – and most exciting – business, after spotting a surprising gap in the market. JC Hail & Dent Repair is a franchise that has sites at shopping centres. It’s great for customers, because they can go shopping while their car is being fixed; and it’s great for the shopping centres, because it helps them attract more customers.

James is impressive in so many ways. He’s a really nice, genuine person. He’s got an amazing capacity to overcome adversity. And his love for his family shines through – he talks about them frequently. 

When the lunch was over, he set off for Wollongong to pick up a puppy for his children.