Jordanian migrant Maher Magableh has worn many hats during his lifetime. The former Olympic taekwondo competitor has built one of Australia's most successful convenience store chains since arriving two decades ago.
You’ve probably shopped at one of these convenience stores while walking through the city centres of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, or Adelaide.
EzyMart is a giant of Australian convenience store chains, with more than 400 locations across four states.
But, while you might think the franchise is an offshoot of one of the country's major supermarket chains, it is in fact the creation of a Jordanian migrant who arrived in Australia with a dream to succeed.
Maher Magableh migrated to Australia more than 20 years ago and entered the world of retail in 2001 when he acquired a small milk bar in Bondi Beach.
He spent the next five years building his business by filling its shelves with hard-to-find products from overseas, including Hershey's and Reese's chocolate.
“We worked on it, we expanded the store and we turned it into a big convenience store for the area,” he told SBS Arabic24.
“In 2006 we took on another store in Kings Cross.”
During that year, he opened four more locations mainly in the Sydney CBD and along the North Shore.
He said all the stores had different names until he was inspired by a customer to switch to one brand, and chose EzyMart following a vote by family and friends.
He followed a simple business model that proved effective.
“Everyone who worked with us, and we found them working hard and investing in the store’s success, we offered them to be a partner right away. Our expansion was based on turning our employees into partners.”
When the global financial crisis hit in 2007 and 2008, and while other businesses were going under, Magableh saw an opportunity.
“The financial crisis pushed a lot of companies to stop expansions and to even close some stores.
“We decided to expand further, and we opened a lot of new stores during the crisis.
We also worked on increasing our buying power, and we imported goods from Europe, US, Middle East and Asia.
But during his rapid ascent in the business world, Magableh never lost passion for his first love - the sport of taekwondo. It was this love that led him to Australia.
Aspirations for Sydney 2000
Magableh comes from a small village north of the Jordanian capital Amman, and his passion for taekwondo was his ticket to see the world.
The sport he loved since he was a child allowed him to represent his country on the world stage.
“I was 12 when I went overseas for the first time to represent Jordan in a tournament in Belgium.
“I was the first Jordanian at this age to participate in this tournament, I then started travelling around participating in different tournaments.”
It was during one of his appearances with the national team that he first heard about the city of Sydney.
“I was with the Jordanian team in Barcelona at the 1992 Olympics, and it was later announced that Sydney would host the Olympics in 2000.
“At the time, the coach told me that in 2000, I would be at my peak as a taekwondo competitor, and I should get ready for it.
“Then Sydney became this city that I want to go to for my sport.
“You see how plans get changed over time, I instead came to Sydney as a student and it became the city where my family and my entire life is.”
Olympic referee, businessman and community advocate
He continued his love for the sport when he arrived in Australia and achieved good results as a coach with the national team.
He was also certified as an international taekwondo referee.
“I am the only one in Australia to judge in three different Olympics and one of the few worldwide.
“I was named the best international referee in 2014 and in 2018 before I retired in 2019.”
His journey in the sport has seen him branch out into humanitarian efforts.
“I am a member of the World Taekwondo Council, and we established a humanitarian arm that focuses on refugees around the world.”
He is currently a trustee at the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation.
“We have 11 centres in refugee camps around the world, we teach them taekwondo and English and we provide care for their health and wellbeing.”
Despite his strong affiliation with the sport, he never took his eye off the business world.
“The year 2016 was the busiest for me regarding taekwondo, it was the year of the Rio Olympics which was very important to me. It was also the year where we made our biggest expansion and opened the most stores.
“When I have a commitment to the sport, I make sure to finish my work in the best way possible, so I can travel without feeling guilty about business.
“Sports makes me more productive at work.”
Magableh is also an active member of a number of Arab community associations.
He sits on the Arab Heritage Association board and is also active with the Jordanian Australian Association and the Lebanese Australian Chamber of Commerce.
Australia is the easiest country one can achieve success in because it is a very transparent country.
“All you need is to work smart and be honest, which is the key to success.
“I believe the key to success is also honesty and forgiveness, especially forgiveness which played a major role in my life. When I forgive someone or something that happened to me and start over, it makes my life easier.”
Despite being thankful for what his “beautiful home” Australia has given him; he has never forgotten where he came from.
“Jordan is where I was born and raised, it is the country I represented around the world and carried its flag on the international stage, and it is forever in my heart.”