Creative youngsters shun bosses and go it alone

Bureaucracy, corruption and a 34 percent unemployment rate for their age group are no obstacles to some young people. Kathimerini talked to six people under 30 who run their own businesses. Film producers Dimitris Maniatis and Alexis Pitoulis. They made their first film in Greece («Silent Progression 01») about two years ago. Maniatis, 21, and Pitoulis, 19, began shooting themselves snowboarding just for fun but had so much material, they decided to make it into a film. «Very few people do this sport and we all know each other. Sporting goods companies approached us and asked to help out with the filming in return for advertising their goods,» they said. Maniatis said it wasn’t at all easy to get started. «You need quite a bit of capital to set up a company. We got a loan from our parents and promised to pay it back from the earnings of the films.» Outside sponsorship for their first film barely covered the costs of the premiere and DVD copies. «You need equipment – cameras, computers, lights, all of which are expensive and you have to pay for them out of your own pocket. That doesn’t happen abroad, where they sponsor movies before they are released. Here you have to get started on your own,» Maniatis asserted. Both have studied marketing, photography and cinematography. «It’s hard to combine studies and work,» admitted Maniatis, «but I’ve never thought of giving up. You need will power, patience and persistence. I don’t want to work at anything else.» Panos Kavvadias, mobile phone shop owner. Kavvadias had not planned to open his own business until he saw an advertisement that said the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization was privatizing its retail outlets. After studies in business management in Greece and abroad, he found himself at the age of 23 running a mobile phone store. He leased everything he needed. Six years later, he has gained considerable experience. «Commerce is very hard. People’s budgets are restricted. Greek consumers only buy something they don’t need about once a year. But mobile phones are part of our lives now and are a must if you work from morning till night. Every day we see about 200 people come into the shop. «I love technology, it’s magical, products change from one day to the next,» he said. «You never get bored. It’s also exciting to be in contact with young people. You’re always learning something. There is no way I’ll fail. If I get sick of it, I might sell out, but for the moment I’m looking at expansion and renovation.» Dimitris Vassilakos, home car wash. The initial idea was for a drive-in car wash but he couldn’t find the right place, so decided to put all the equipment in a truck. Dimitris Vassilakos, 27, started working when he was very young and has learned to be resourceful. «I can’t get what I want from life by working for someone else,» he explained. «I borrowed 10 percent from the bank and as for the rest – I don’t know. I certainly started out with very little. «You have to persuade Greeks not to get their cars washed at the last minute. This work needs a lot of organization because you have to go to your customers. When it rains, business falls off.» He is planning to expand into upmarket areas where there are lots of cars. «The business involves many difficulties but I have so much patience that nothing fazes me. If you don’t have goals, you don’t get anywhere.» Hairdresser Constantinos Tsoumakis. Teenage years spent watching an aunt work in her own hairdressing salon led Constantine Tsoumakis to enroll in a course at the age of 15, followed by seminars and jobs at major salons. «From the outset, I wanted to open up my own place as the only way to have the freedom I wanted. I thought of applying for a state subsidy for young business owners. Finally, however I got a loan guaranteed by my parents.» The biggest problem is being on his feet all day. «But when you are working with women you forget that. You need patience and persistence and an ability to adapt. Those are the secrets to not getting tired or not being mediocre… You win some you lose some. You can’t have everything.» Clothing retailer, Anastasia Louizou. She sold her first garment at the age of 9 in her mother’s store. After studies in business management, advertising and public relations, Anastasia Louizou, now a 25-year-old mother herself, was not afraid to open her own store. «At first I did everything with my mother’s help. Two years later, I handle everything,» she said. Louizou likes selling things to customers that suit them, but finds the most creative side of her job behind the scenes – traveling abroad and attending fashion shows. «You have to take risks, you never stop worrying that you might have made a mistake; you don’t have much free time and then you have to pay the bills. Money is the biggest but not the only problem. You have to maintain a competitive edge. Success comes with doing something different.» From an article in the January 6 edition of Kathimerini supplement K.