When Angelique Boileau fled her native Hungary, she didn’t know leaving her beloved home under frightful circumstances would lead to a life of purpose, passion and self-made prosperity. Through it all, Angelique has always believed in her worth. And her bravery in taking risks has paid off leading Angelique to become a sought after and well-respected member of the South Australian business and philanthropic communities. As she celebrates the 30th anniversary of Boileau Business Technology, we spoke to Angelique about her unique and inspiring story as an immigrant business leader.
Q. How and why did you come to Australia?
After World War II, my father decided it would be best for us to leave Soviet-occupied Hungary. But it wasn’t easy to leave. There were stories of guides double-crossing people and my father wasn’t willing to put us children at risk without seeing for himself. So it was decided he and my uncle would go to Austria and, if it was safe, they would send for us. My father got away, but when he sent a guide to collect us, the guide was caught, and we were stranded.
My mother found another guide, but he double-crossed her, and she was sent to jail. I went to live with relatives, and when my mother was released 2 years later, the government had taken our property and my father’s butcher shops. After that, we spent 7 years living with my aunty, in a village 300 km away from our Budapest home. I’ll never forget all of us sleeping in one double bed. My aunty, my mother, my sister and I. But my mother was a believer. She prayed every morning and night. She knew we would see our father again.
My father was such a faithful man. He supported us the whole time. He wasn’t allowed to send money. Instead, he sent parcels of used clothing, Cadbury’s chocolates and nylon stockings, which he would hide in the hems of the clothes so the government wouldn’t confiscate them. My job was to sell the items my father sent. If people weren’t home, I would knock in the next door, and the next until I made that sale. Later in life, when I won prizes for being a top salesperson, I knew it was because I’d learned how to sell when I was 7 years old!
During the 1956 student uprising, we were finally able to escape. We arrived in Adelaide in 1960, 11 years after my father had settled here. And there he was, waiting for us at the Adelaide Railway Station.
Q. Tell us about your early career and how you met your husband and business partner, Michael Boileau.
My first job was as an airline hostess which led to a transfer to Melbourne when I was 18. I married and had two children, but my first marriage ended when my children were young. That’s when I started my career in sales. I met Michael at work, where he was a photocopier engineer. He fixed the copiers, and I sold them. We married within 12 months of meeting and will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary at the end of this month.
Q. How did Boileau Business Technology begin?
After 13 years as the top salesperson at my former company, I resigned and was overwhelmed with calls from competing companies. One of those companies was Xerox, who I’d always wanted to work with. They said they knew about my sales success and how Michael was an engineer and service manager. There weren’t many husband and wife teams in our industry. They offered us the opportunity to buy their Adelaide dealership, where we could use our skills to build the business.
Although my family had reservations about starting over again, I was confident and failure was simply not an option, so we agreed, yes. That was in July 1989. By October, Boileau Business Technology was born. Our teenage daughters and elderly mum and dad came with us to resettle in Adelaide where our life in Australia had begun. It was a huge risk to start our business in the middle of the ‘recession we had to have’. We sold our home and investment properties in Melbourne to fund it. But I did not hesitate for one minute as I knew it was the right thing to do for us as a family. As my accountant told me, ‘A house won’t earn you income, but a business will. If you take care of the business, the business will buy back the house.’ And within 5 years, we had a house again.
Q. You’re celebrating 30 years of Boileau Business Technology this year. Tell us what some of your proudest achievements have been.
I’m proud of how many long-term clients we have. We still have people who’ve been with us from the beginning. They started with one photocopier 30 years ago, and now, having grown their businesses, they’ve retained us as their technology partners. We’re proud to serve so many South Australian businesses, from small family businesses to not-for-profits to manufacturing firms and more. I’m also proud to say we’ve never had an overdraft on the business and have managed to keep the company in a sound financial position at all times. We manage the good times to ensure we can do well in the low times. This sound financial management has enabled us to remain philanthropic and support many not-for-profit and community-based organisations in our fair state.
Q. Boileau is known for supporting the South Australian community and charitable causes. Tell us about that.
Our first sponsorship was with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. I was invited to a dinner at the Adelaide Zoo rotunda, and there was a musician seated at each table. At our table, we had Geoffrey Collins, who is now the ASO’s longstanding Principal Flute. Through talking with him and seeing how passionate he was, I became involved with sponsoring the ASO. That was around 22 years ago, and we still support the ASO as a World Artist Partner.
Since then we’ve supported many charities and community organisations, including the Service To Youth Council, Hutt Street Centre, Little Heroes Foundation, SAHMRi and Zoos SA. I’ll be participating in my 10th CEO Sleepout for St Vincent De Paul next year.
Our philanthropic support has grown and grown, and I want to be able to give more and more. I’m 72 years old. I’m working because I love what I do, and financially it enables me to continue to support my charities. We have what we need for our personal needs. I’d rather support the community than only accumulate our personal wealth!
Q. What’s next for the management of Boileau Business Technology?
Michael has retired now, and hence I’m looking at spending more time together so I’m considering how I may achieve that right now. But I won’t completely stop until I’m curled up in my coffin! My daughter, Danielle, is going to take over part of the business operations so I can take on a chair of the board role. The dynasty will continue through her. We share a mutual vision for the business. She may get to the same goal but through her own personality and her own achievements. And it’s important to recognise that.
Q. What’s your connection to your homeland today?
We didn’t leave Hungary for lack of love for our country. And I’m thankful that our business has enabled me to make regular visits so I can maintain relationships with my cousins and homeland. My children and grandchildren are also very proud of their Hungarian heritage and want to know all about it. It’s wonderful to share the culture of two countries and feel we belong to both places. It’s important to be passionate about your new country, but also maintain your connection to your homeland.
Q. What advice would you give to immigrants coming to Australia?
Never give up dreaming or ignore the opportunities that the good Lord sends your way because you can make it happen if you recognise the opportunity and have the vision, desire and passion to make it happen. YOU are the only one that can put limitations on yourself and your achievements!
Q. Describe what your ideal world looks like.
It’s right here in Adelaide. Both Michael and I are in love with this beautiful city. Especially now that we have moved to our home in the sky on the 21st floor in the city.
Boileau Business Technology works with South Australian businesses to find the best solutions for IT and Communication Managed Technology and Managed Print Services.
To hear Angelique tell her brave story of escaping Hungary, listen to her conversation with Graham Cornes.