• The Foti family are behind Sydney's NYE Fireworks. (SBS)Source: SBS
The Foti family tradition of fireworks began in Sicily in 1793, and every year on New Year's Eve, they set Sydney harbour alight with spectacular displays. But in order to keep their business going, the Fotis have had to constantly adapt and seek new challenges.
Hannah Sinclair

SBS Small Business Secrets
20 Aug 2017 - 5:35 PM  UPDATED 12 Feb 2018 - 12:55 PM

Behind the bright lights and dazzling fireworks displays that so often light up Sydney Harbour, is one family. The Fotis are in the business of entertainment and serious pyrotechnics.

They have been making and exploding fireworks for more than 200 years as a 7th generation business that began in 1793.

Celestino Foti migrated to Australia in the early 50's and started working for a fireworks company but eventually put on his own displays.

Fortunato Foti says he is carrying on his grandfather's legacy as the creative mind behind the Sydney New Year's Eve fireworks - as well as hundreds of other shows each year.

"There [are] eight family members involved in the business today," Mr Foti told SBS.

"It's good to be able to rely on family to do things and that's where we bounce ideas off each other."

Mr Foti says he has weathered the various technological advances that the business has had to adapt to.

"When I first started doing fireworks displays everything was ignited by hand.

"You'd go up and light the wick, and light the next one. Obviously, everything is now electronic and you can do a lot of sequences you couldn't do lighting by hand."

The Fotis manufacture their fireworks in China and test them at a facility in Sydney's South West.

They've also expanded, putting on shows in Hong Kong and Istanbul.

Pyrotechnics for shows like The Voice and large music festivals also contribute to the Foti's workload, but outdoor displays are still the biggest revenue raiser.

The family's New Year's Eve Fireworks generate an estimated $130 million worth of tourism revenue for New South Wales.

Giovanni Foti can't imagine doing anything else and hopes the business will continue for many more generations.

"I've been born into fireworks," he said.

"It's a big part of our family to carry that tradition on and I hope one day [my kids], they'll follow in my footsteps."

With a swathe of international awards until their belts, the Fotis are looking forward to entertaining the masses for years to come.

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