Joseph Alessi has built some solid relationships within the industry as the National Merchandise Manager at New Sunrise, but he’s just as well-known for his karaoke skills and dance moves. This is his story…
I was born and raised in Sydney’s inner west, the youngest of three siblings. I am now married with three children of my own, an 11-year-old son, nine-year-old daughter, and a seven-year-old son.
My father migrated to Australia when he was 18 years old, leaving a small Sicilian coastal town to call Australia home, so from a young age, we often spoke Italian at home. Fair to say that my upbringing involved lots of Italian family get togethers, the traditional and sacred Sunday lunches and the appreciation for a close, tight knit family.
Growing up I remember that family was always around, it felt like we were constantly gathering to celebrate one event or another. Then there was the extended family, where the cousins aren’t actually cousins, but you call them cousins because it was just what you did.
Dad owned his own barbershop for well over 40 years. Growing up, I would spend some of my school holidays at his barbershop. Despite being quite young, I quickly learnt and appreciated good customer service and the importance of building relationships. I was amazed at how Dad would see so many clients in a day, yet had a knack for remembering their names, families, and the last yarn they had. Every haircut, despite who was sitting in the chair, was like picking up exactly where they had left off in the last conversation. And yes, he was cutting hair, but he had genuine care and interest for the clients he saw.
From a young age, Dad had me sitting nearby on a stool, listening, and watching his every move. And yes, my ‘helping’ may have been quite mundane such as sweeping the floor or collecting the money or dusting off some hair from the back of the client’s neck, but it got me in front of customers, talking and listening to men much older than me – it was a schooling like no other.
My appreciation for small business came at a young age along with my appreciation for building quality relationships. I realised early, that if you enjoy what you do, then work becomes much more interesting.
After completing a Bachelor of Business at university where I majored in Marketing and International Business, I took a role at (then) Cadbury as a Territory Manager (Sales Rep), calling on petrol and convenience stores across Sydney’s inner western suburbs. I found myself working with small business owners and developing strategies to help them grow their business. It wasn’t an easy role, but I really enjoyed it.
Cadbury was a wonderful business to work for, with a strong work ethic. We represented powerhouse brands such as Cherry Ripe, Dairy Milk, Freddo and Picnic. But we did not rest on the power of the brands – the willingness to win, drive, and celebrating success was just part of the work ethic. Hitting targets, smashing goals, and having purple passion was the culture of the business.
I was with Cadbury for 15 years, holding many different job titles, and different company names over that time (Cadbury, Cadbury Schweppes, back to Cadbury, Kraft Foods and then Mondelēz) but always kept the same phone number.
In all the different roles at Cadbury, I always had a passion for independent business. I thoroughly enjoyed working with businesses that were owned by entrepreneurs, were self-made, or were independently owned. Not only did they seek greater collaboration and flexibility, but they were also extremely passionate and valued true and honest partnership.
Cadbury gave me the opportunity for a once in a lifetime experience, but more importantly offered fantastic learning and lifelong friendships. Some highlights were taking key customers to the FA Cup Final in Wales in 2005, or the Champions League Final in Paris in 2006, or Watching U2 at Madison Square Garden in 2007, or the Olympics in London in 2012, and sailing the coast of Santorini in 2010.
In 2015, I attended a New Sunrise conference in Los Angeles as a supplier (representing Mondelēz/Cadbury), and I had the opportunity to meet many New Sunrise retail members.
What struck me at this conference, was hearing from the retail owners on how the success of their businesses have seen their families grow – just as I had seen with my dad’s business growing up. The thought of working for a group of independent business owners, just like my dad’s barbershop, saw me leave Mondelēz after 15 years and join New Sunrise. I am now the National Merchandise Manager at New Sunrise, where I have worked for five years.
I am proud of the fantastic results we have achieved for our retail members, being the fastest growing retailer in the industry over the last 36 months. I am particularly proud of being recognised by supplier partners as the best national independent convenience retailer via the CMA Pulse survey. New Sunrise gives me an opportunity to represent the interests of over 1,000 independent retail businesses in the country – and this is my motivation every day to succeed. My drive is their success, and supporting them.
I am proud of the Iceworks Conference and study tours we have produced, including Dallas in 2017, San Francisco in 2018 and Singapore in 2019. I am proud that against the odds, we held a highly successful conference in Port Douglas in 2021. I am so proud of the quality of retail program we continue to produce, and the strategic house that underpins our decisions as a business and shapes the direction we are on.
But I am most proud of the relationships our team have with our valued retail members and our trusted supplier partners.
What suppliers have to say about Joe…
“The great thing about Joe is that he has done both the retailer and supplier side, so it really allows him to be balanced in what he wants to do and looks at it from both sides which really supports the longer-term partnership, it really is a pleasure to work with Joe (and have a few drinks).” – Felicity Needham, General Manager Convenience & Petrol, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners Australia
“Anyone who knows Joe would agree that his positive and energetic personality engages you immediately. One memory that stands out from Joe’s supplier days was during a category review session, where suppliers would present insights to a small group of retailers. A few suppliers including myself had to nominate the order of presenting and knowing that Joe has a knack of leaving an audience on a high, we all volunteered to go before him and avoid the pressure of maintaining the euphoria. I remember as I walked out of the room somewhat happy with my performance, Joe burst the door open with his arms in the air grabbing the room immediately in his grand entrance. I clearly recall leaving a little deflated as I closed the door behind him like his butler and thinking that it didn’t matter whether you presented before or after Joe, his positivity draws you in and is contagious. Maybe something we should all catch!” – Troy Richard, National Channel Manager – P&C, Stuart Alexander
“Joe is one of the most approachable and relatable customers/partners that I have ever dealt with in my career. He has a knack of bringing everyone together with his enthusiasm and energy. I wish I had just half of the passion that Joe demonstrates about his business, his people and being better every day. No doubt this drives our fantastic performance with New Sunrise.” – Jason Shackleton, National Business Manager – Petrol & Convenience, Asahi Beverages
“I first met Joe when he started at New Sunrise Group and I still remember our first meeting, fair to say that we didn’t have the strongest relationship with the New Sunrise Group at that point, but I just recall Joe saying, “this is the NEW New Sunrise”. Everything changed for the better after that.” – Joseph De Petro, National Business Manager – Petrol & Convenience, SnackBrands
“Joe has always been open and honest and great person to work with both as a peer and as a customer, easy to find common ground and has the consumer or shopper at the heart of what he does.” – Steve Caruso, Sales Director – Off-Premise, Red Bull
“Many great memories come to mind (both within and outside of usual business hours!) but the one thing they all have in common is Joe’s ability to include everyone, ensuring they feel part of the group and are having a great time. He sure can lead a good sing-along, but I will let him share more on that…” – David Maunsell, Customer Director: P&C and Independent Grocery – Beverages & Milk, Lactalis