Mary Sfameni remembers a time when Werribee’s population was only 9000, and spent her childhood helping her parents at their market garden. The entrepreneur, who opened Werribee’s first day spa, talks to Charlene Macaulay about running a business and giving back to the community.
What is your connection to Wyndham?
I was born in Werribee and I went to St Andrew’s Primary School and MacKillop College. I’ve watched Werribee grow from a small town to the city that it is.
What was Werribee like when you were a child?
I remember there was a sign on the Princes Highway that had [Werribee’s population] and it was about 9000 residents, and every year that would go up. Life was good growing up. We were able to leave the windows and doors open in the middle of the night and not be afraid of anything.
My parents were Italian immigrants and they came to Australia back in the ’50s and settled in Tower Road, where they had a market garden. My brothers and myself went to the farm every day and helped with whatever needed to be done … we would be packing lettuces, picking tomatoes, cucumbers and broccoli.
You opened the first day spa in Werribee in 1985. How did that come about?
I’ve always had a passion for the beauty industry, and after trying a few reception jobs, I knew I had to do something for myself. A few months after completing my diploma at the age of 20, I decided to open a salon in Werribee. I actually went to the National Australia Bank and they gave me a loan … it was given to me just on my enthusiasm.
These days you’ve got to jump through hoops for anything like that. That’s when I opened the Werribee Beauty Centre, and it was later known as the Ella Bache Salon. These days I own and operate Forever Young Werribee and recently opened a day spa in Point Cook, with my business partner, called Seasons Spa Retreat.
You’ve also done some TV work.
About 10 years ago, I was on the board of directors for Channel 31 and was vice-president of Italian Television Melbourne. I used to have my own TV show – M Zone – which screened on Channel 31. We also used to film the Weerama Festival and one year I interviewed Julia Gillard – she was judging the dunny race!
You’re also a member of Hoppers Crossing Rotary and recently did a fundraiser for the Werribee Mercy Hospital. Why is it important to you to give back to the community?
I do enjoy doing that and I think giving back to the community is really important. If we could all just put in a little bit, it would make a big difference.
If there was something you could change about Wyndham, what would it be?
In terms of business, I would say the parking problems in Werribee. I feel for the people that … have to walk 15 minutes to get to their car. And if they work like me, until nine or 10 o’clock at night, it’s pretty scary. More importantly, for the actual retailers – the lack of parking in Werribee drives people to go the plaza.