Bites and Business- an afternoon with Jess Koncz By Brooke Tunbridge / by Newcastle Discovered

 

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“The most rewarding part of my job is when I can change someone’s perception… don’t convince people, show them.”

Novocastrian Jessica Koncz, founder and director of Crave, is an ideal example of what Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull means when he refers to the “ideas boom”. Here we have a 23-year-old entrepreneur who is all about innovating. Jess’ business Crave is mostly known for its Instagram page @cravenewcastle, which has attracted more than 33,000 followers, a number that is increasing at an extraordinary pace.

If you aren’t familiar with Crave, it is a social media agency based in Newcastle, which boasts at being able to help businesses grow through the power of social media. For followers, it’s an essential guide on where to dine and what to order, and a great way for discovering new places. Jess has appeared on the radio station NXFM to chat about “what’s new, what’s hot, and the dish of the week”, along with a recently filmed episode of TV show Let’s Do Coffee, airing on Channel Ten this month.

Having always been a passionate foodie, Jess worked in the hospitality industry, managing a café at one stage after completing an Advanced Diploma of Hospitality Management. On top of this, Jess made her own protein balls and sold them in vending machines at Anytime Fitness franchises as she is known for being “passionate about health and fitness”.  Jess was quick to realise that the higher up in the hospitality industry she climbed, the more work it created. Attached to that burden also came less recognition. Jess’ passion was slowly diminishing as she felt something she once loved to do, starting to feel like work. “I asked myself, how can I change it? I quit my job,” Jess revealed.

After leaving the hospitality industry, Jess began posting photos of her meals to the Instagram page @cravenewcastle which she started in 2014 while searching for another job. Jess admits she was known by her friends for telling them “don’t eat your food until I’ve photographed it”.

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During this time, Jess worked with her older brother Ben at his digital agency business Reidefine, which she found to be a valuable source for developing her skills as she transitioned from the hospitality industry to running her own business. Jess mentions the influence Ben has had on her, describing him as the only mentor she’s ever had and attributing part of Crave’s success to his advice and solutions to problems she has encountered. The main support she has received has been through her brother Ben and her mum Bronwyn. Suddenly laughing, Jess tells the story of her mum calling her the moment she has spotted a mistake in an Instagram caption, thankful for her observations.

When speaking about Crave, Jess’ passion for her work is evident. Constantly asking herself how things can improve and what’s next, Jess pauses to reflect on a milestone for Crave, reaching 10,000 followers. She noted that this was when businesses began taking her seriously, something she has had to fight for due to her age. People realised that it was more than posting photos on Instagram and that this 23-year-old could make all the difference to their business.

Acknowledging these pre-conceived perspectives businesses held towards her, Jess focused on proving herself and her business. Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that, with Jess admitting there were setbacks due to the fact that the industry isn’t conventional, and Newcastle isn’t as progressive as say Sydney or Melbourne. This makes her success even greater as she has assisted in changing a town’s perception on the ideas boom and has played a part in shaping the renewal of Newcastle’s rich and creative culture.

Jess’ passions revolve around food but ultimately, Jess believes in “being good at something and sharing those skills to help other people”. This is the heart of her business Crave as it teaches businesses that in 2016, a consistent and personality driven presence on social media is vital for success. Jess admits that the novelty of free food died off long ago, and her main concern is showing businesses how powerful alternative advertising can be. As Jess speaks about the businesses she works with, it’s obvious that she’s invested in the growth of every single one of them. The passion flowing through her words and the noticeable excitement for what she does is an inspiration.

Up until June 2015, Jess did everything for Crave. Visited cafes and restaurants by herself, taking photos, speaking with businesses, managing social media accounts and loads more behind the scenes work. It wasn’t until Jess ran into Melissa Wilson, a recent graduate from a Bachelor of Communication at the University of Newcastle that she expanded Crave’s team. Melissa was in the year above Jess at Avondale High School; however, the two have only become close friends now that they’re working together.

 

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Crave's team in @thesnappycamper photobooth at The Impossible Markets

Mel is titled the photographer and social media strategist for Crave and describes Jess as an “outgoing, driven, ideas person”. “I can’t imagine Jess ever working for someone else, which makes her the ideal business owner,” Mel noted.

It seems Jess is an inspiration even for those closest to her, which animates her authentic and bubbly personality. Looking out for those starting a business, Jess offered valuable advice. “You should know your worth from the start…don’t undervalue your services because you’re new,” Jess said. Speaking from experience, Jess adds that “people may try to drain every aspect of your service, and your energy will not be appreciated, you can and sometimes should say no”.

“Make sure it’s something you’re passionate about,” Jess added.

Jess outlined her goal for the future was to be present in the lives of anyone interested in food and to be making a difference on a large scale. Constantly looking forward, Jess adds she wants to “never get comfortable” and will continue to grow; setting new goals as each one is achieved. A project she has been working on and is evidently proud of is the Crave App, with plans to release it at the end of this year. Also on the horizon is a free social media seminar, where Jess hopes to share her knowledge and her passion for educating businesses. Jess has achieved an incredible amount for a 23-year-old, and her dedicated work ethic is one to admire. Her ability to produce unique and practical ideas is one of the main factors of her success as an entrepreneur. Malcolm Turnbull says he knows that Australia is a creative and imaginative nation, describing Jess’ traits perfectly.