ETOSLab visited the offices of Yoleni’s, a recent founded company, the largest Greek e-delicatessen which started its operation during the economic crisis. We had an interesting conversation with the Head of the Marketing Team -Mr. John Georgiadis- about the past, the present and the future of the company. From its start to this day Yoleni’s has not stopped surprising us with its rapid growth and the many distinctions it has earned.

Yoleni's logo

Yoleni’s is a startup with a vision for the future, with consistency and a dedication to its mission. It can certainly be viewed as a case study on the state of entrepreneurship during a time of economic crisis. The company has received many awards, the most notable of which being the Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award. Soon, the relocation to new offices in the center of Athens is expected to take place along with the appearance of physical stores.

Yoleni’s is a company that was established in the midst of the economic crisis that still plagues the Greek economy. What was it that pushed you to this project?

The truth is that we started our efforts during the years of recession. It was then that our founding team tried to find a way to implement what the two founders had in mind for this company. And of course it was during these years of recession that we run our business. The unstable economic landscape as well as the constant elections and the prevailing feeling of uncertainty that characterizes the political life in Greece, certainly does not enable the development of business initiatives. Still, we are a startup born in the time of crisis. It is easy to ask who is to blame, but the most difficult question, which is also the one that Yoleni’s tries to answer, is how, given the current economic and political situation, we can give back to those who supported us and continue to support us. I am obviously referring to our producers. For example, we absorbed the second VAT increase that was implemented for a second time in the same year. As it is obvious by looking at the past, big ideas are born during times of crisis. I hope that when we meet again after several years, our company will still be worthy to be called a case study, but this time as an established business. Personally I think that you should never stop trying. It is only through hard and purposeful work that we got here. We never relaxed, on the contrary we strived to become better and better.

2,000 products, doing business in Europe and America: What do you think most contributes to the company’s success and rapid growth?

What significantly contributed to the development of the company’s development was winning a Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award in 2015. This distinction was the most important that our company has received to this day. It helped us get acquainted with people who know the market, people who already knew our company and our progress, as well as with people who got to know us after this distinction. It also gave us the chance to expand our activities abroad, since had we attempted it ourselves, the venture would have been nearly impossible. This award worked as solid foundation for the subsequent development of the company.

In 2015 you won 3rd place at the Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award, as we have already mentioned. The contribution that this award offered to your company was more in physical terms or moral?

The Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award did not just provide us with interest-free financing. The most important thing that we earned was the relationship that we created with this institution through mentoring. Our mentor is always there for us to guide us and advise us throughout this journey that we began together. Aside from mentoring, the companies that work with this institution have been very generous to us, as well as the people of the Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award who were always there to listen to our concerns. We as a company encourage people to take advantage of this opportunity.

How do you think the group that was formed contributed to the creation of Yolenis.com?

The idea belongs to the two co-founders. Afterwards the right conditions appeared, we found the people who were to form the founding team pf the company and we started working hard. Right now our team consists of 18 members with many different partners. We have a close-knit group and we try to treat everyone with respect. There are good and bad times. We share everything. Until now, nothing bad has occurred. We have a common goal towards which we aim. The team often has to deal with problems. The hard work of everyone in the Yoleni’s family, was the key factor to the success and growth of our company. From the first day until today, we have a consistency in what we do. We constantly learn new things. Our motivation is strong and we try to preserve the company’s brand name without treating the Greek products differently depending on the season or the trends. For us that is the key in creating relationships based on trust with our clients, the producers we work with and our partners.

How have you worked so far with the Greek producers? What is it that concerns you the most and what do you think is the greatest advantage in working with them?

The greatest advantage of course is that they produce excellent products. As for a downside I cannot think of one. I could however mention the initial skepticism of many producers to cooperate with Yoleni’s, when we initially made a first contact with them, about four and half of years ago, in order to launch a test version of what came to become Yoleni’s. We had to convince them to choose an e-shop, in spite the fact that they knew of many that had failed. This initial skepticism turned into a strong relationship based on trust. In fact, there are now several requests from producers that wish to sell their products through our company.

Where do most of your customers come from: Greece or other countries? How do you explain this?

So far, most of our customers come from Greece, mostly due to a campaign of ours offering corporate gifts. Of course our goal is to become more open, that is to attract more customers from abroad. The market trend right now is more and more people purchasing food online. However we cannot omit the fact our future consumer must have some knowledge of Greek cuisine, since it is often that Italy or Spain are regarded as the sole providers of Mediterranean cuisine, while the Greek products are lesser known.

What was the biggest problem that you faced so far?

Three were the main problems we had to deal with. The first one was building a relationship with the producers. And we succeeded. The second problem was learning how to operate in an unstable environment. The third one, a problem that is shared by all companies dealing with e-commerce and product shipment, is international shipping, since transportation costs are high. Moreover, it is a cost that we cannot know beforehand. Every order may have a different size depending on the many possible combinations among our 2,000 products. We try to overcome this through Greka, the Greek Association of Electronic Commerce, in order to lessen this problem. Basically, it is more profitable for us to be able to provide large scale shipping, taking into account every company’s commerce policy.

In a previous interview you called Yoleni’s your “child that is growing up”. Which achievement of Yoleni’s you feel most proud of and why?

The most important thing that Υοleni’s has given me, is that it helped me evolve and become a better person. It is important to come to work and always feel motivated. I am proud to work in a company that offers me all of this and I can see that my co-workers feel the same.

Yolympics: What exactly is this campaign?

Yolympics are creative competitions organized by our company on social media. These are interactive competitions, the brand and the producers may participate. We ask the audience to search our page in order to locate the characteristics of certain products using questionnaires or simply by writing a comment. In the end the correct answer wins the product.

In your future plans is the creation of physical stores. Seeing that you offer so much online (cooking videos, the history behind the products, etc.) what more can someone expect at a physical store?

The physical stores will open very soon. In these stores the customers will be able to see the products up close and participate in tastings. The physical stores will provide the customer with a full experience of the products. They essentially combine the experience of old traditional delicatessens with the structure of modern ventures.

Many young people seek jobs in the private and public sector. However, you decided to develop yourselves your own business idea. What would you say to someone who is thinking to take the same risk but is afraid to try?

No idea is wrong or dumb. An idea always has its value, the point is to be forward-thinking and to find the team that will implement it. The truth is that we don’t know what the future holds for Greece, but we have to survive. If we take a look at the ecosystem of startups we will see hundred examples of successful ideas. When there is an idea and a goal, all can be achieved. There are people who think that they can be leaders. There are others who believe that it is better to be number two at the company, etc. The important thing is to know your limits. What is also important is the team itself, whether you are the person who conceived the idea or the person who gives it form.

What do you think the Greek economy should do to facilitate entrepreneurial initiative?

I will rephrase the question. What is it that we can do to help those that have the will and the motivation but not the capital? In Greece we see many ventures and ideas. I consider the quality of newly founded Greek companies as very high and able to get even higher. There is innovation. What is needed is to give them the incentive to make their work known. Growth will only come through Greek entrepreneurship. The procedure has to become smoother, less bureaucracy and lower tax rates. Economy is largely based on psychology. If we feel confident, the economy will grow confidently too.