For two consecutive years, Kosta Drakopoulos appeared on the AFR (BRW) Young Rich List – a collection of the 100 wealthiest Australians under 40. His first placing came in 2016, when he had amassed a fortune estimated at A$60 million.
The following year, it reached A$75 million. But despite his wealth, Kosta remains level-headed. “It was a great achievement,” he says. “I think my parents were proud. To me, it was just another day in the office.”
Kosta is the son of first-generation Greek immigrants and learned the construction trade from a young age. His father was a concreter and Kosta would often work by his side.
While he knew that construction would be his ultimate career destination, young Kosta went through more than 20 different jobs first – including packing boxes for Fila and Nike.
“I had just got married, we had no children and what I wanted to do was find a job that obviously paid well but had a bit of flexibility to it so I could begin my own thing. I made the choice that if I was ever going to do it myself, I’d better do it now while I was young.”
Kosta got a job at development and construction company WRS but, after two months, the company went into administration. “My wife and I had to make some decisions,” he recalls.
“We had pre-booked a holiday for Christmas and because it had been paid for, we decided to do it. But we had to sell one of our cars. I was jobless. I had no money coming in. We found out the company didn’t even pay for my super because they’d just lost everything.”
It was around two months before the Christmas break when this happened, a time when it can be difficult to find employment. But Kosta was determined to find work by knocking on doors and cold-calling businesses for project management or estimator roles.
“That’s how Drakk started,” he says. “It wasn’t anything flashy. It was definitely from the ground up. I did it out of a little study that we had in our two-bedroom unit. I turned that into my office. I was basically doing whatever I could to put an invoice in and hopefully get it paid.”
Today, Drakk has launched Kosta into national acclaim with its success. The company has completed several projects in Victoria, including The Ariel, Oro Apartments and the award-winning 73A Rupert Street office complex.
Art is a recurring theme in Kosta’s projects. In 2017, he commissioned Melbourne artist Danielle Weber to create a mural on the wall of one of his buildings in Geelong.
Danielle was given complete creative control and decided on an image of power couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z. “It was very successful,” Kosta says. “People actually called that building the ‘Beyoncé and Jay-Z building’.”
Kosta has also used his car parks as a canvas. One of them is dedicated to American rappers including Snoop Dogg, N.W.A. and Tupac.
“We’ve had people like Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg want to come and visit when they came to know about them. Plus, the tenants in the building love it as well. You get people out on the street at crazy hours of the morning taking photos. It brings in an audience. I’ve been tagged a million times in photos of Beyoncé and Jay-Z, so you can imagine how something small like that can change the perception of people.”
“My door is always open.”
You can tell how passionate Kosta is about his business, not only through his words but by his actions. “I’m there at five o’clock in the morning. My door is always open and staff can come and talk to me or my senior management anytime,” he points out.
Kosta doesn’t schedule any meetings on Fridays; he works in the office. It’s also the day he personally cooks for his team. “I always do. We’ve got a great set-up. We have a barbecue with all expenses paid by us – and that includes beer – every single Friday without missing one.”
Drakk also does quarterly dinners with the staff, has an end-of-financial-year winery tour, and a yearly fishing trip. “We are a good place to work. We’re making money, but the money goes back to the team as well. These are things we’re never going to compromise on. They’re going to be there forever.”
“You need to focus and never get ahead of yourself.”
Having gone from no job to running a thriving business, Kosta has these words of wisdom for any budding business owner: “Any type of business needs to forget about the money aspect of it. They need to focus on what creates the money in the business and how to continue making money. I think the hardest thing for everyone is finding your niche or your market and understanding it.
“You need to focus and never get ahead of yourself. Understand that you may have made money today, but if you want to be in business for the next 20 years, you need to make money for the next 20 years.”