She’s also hoping to take a number of female business owners along with her, proving there are plenty of women who’re able and willing to enter politics – especially in a party that can offer a unique voice on how they live and work.
Vithoulkas is establishing the Small Business Matters Party, aiming to ensure small businesses have representation at a stage government level. She told Women’s Agenda she’s already had plenty of interest from small businesses owners, especially across the Sydney CBD area. She’s now urging more women to get involved, no matter what kind of business they’re running, with the aim of winning seats in the Upper House of the NSW Parliament during the 2019 election.
“The mainstream parties just don’t get the realities of running a small business,” she said. They don’t understand that a bad decision, or a simple mistake, can cost you your business. They don’t understand that your small business is everything – your home, your family, your livelihood all depend on it.”
Vithoulkas quotes figures finding that the overwhelming majority of businesses in NSW (98%) are small businesses, and that they now employ more than 50% of all workers.
But while many politicians like to trot out the line that “small business is the engine room of the economy,” Vithoulkas is not buying that they actually believe it.
Vithoulklas has owned and operated small businesses for more than 30 years, including Vivo Café, a major café on George St Sydney, which has been affected by the construction of the light rail project. She ran a successful campaign recently, for small business owners affected by the construction to receive rent relief as compensation.
“Small business wasn’t considered in this infrastructure project. They are not considered in major planning proposals. They’re often not allowed or invited to comment.”
While she’s grateful to see some compensation, she adds that it’s been too late for many.
Last year, Vithoulkas was re-elected during the local government elections for her independent Sydney Matters party. If now elected at the state level, Vithoulkas says she’d be able to see out her term on the City of Sydney council.
Vithoulkas said that for many business owners, their key needs involve mitigating against collapse – they need to prevent the types of disasters that might not only cost them their business, but also impact upon their homes and their families.
When it comes to female business owners particularly, Vithoulkas is concerned about the gap in government paid parental leave entitlements, as well as the superannuation gap between men and women.
“This party will show just how many small business owners are fed up with mainstream parties and the fact that small businesses are not a priority,” Vithoulkas said. “Small businesses are not even in the top ten priorities of mainstream parties. It’s a crowded world. I want to push us into at least the top five.
Women currently make up just nine of NSW’s 42 members of the Legislative Council, and 26 of the 93 member Legislative Assembly. While NSW currently has a female premier in Gladys Berejiklian, the Liberal party currently has just 10 women across both houses.
Vithoulkas’ party needs 750 members to be registered, but she hopes and believes she can attract that number within the next month.