Mosaiko.gr recently had the pleasure of interviewing Business Developer, Haridimos Spinthakis & Marketing Experience Coordinator, John Georgiadis of the 2015 Hellenic Initiative Venture Fair's Entrepreneurship Award winning business Yoleni's. Yoleni's vision is to introduce the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet to the global community. To accomplish their goal of becoming a leading global company in the online food market, Yoleni's recently began operations in the United States. Mr. Spinthakis & Mr. Georgiadis were kind enough to talk about Yoleni's, its business plan, values and its products, offering a "hint" to the secrets of a longer life. We at Mosaiko.gr thank Yoleni's for their time.
First, we would like to congratulate you on your 2015 Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award. Where did you hear about The Hellenic Initiative (THI) and what made you choose to enter the Venture Fair for entrepreneurship initiatives?
Thank you! This distinction is really important and means a lot to our team and our initiative, in general. Both the Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award and the Hellenic Initiative (THI) are well respected and established in the Greek economy and society.
The first time we heard about the Hellenic Initiative was through the Greek start-up community. Yoleni's was an international market-oriented company from day one; we couldn't but follow close efforts that promote Greek entrepreneurship and expansion.
Being among the 2015 Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award winners provides some significant resources to us, and a variety of contribution and support. Another benefit of this award is the opportunity that we have received to become part of a community of companies as well as individuals. The Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award is a supportive cluster, a "family" that consults on doing business according to the international standards, setting the groundwork for future development.
Your e-commerce business, Yoleni's, is involved in artisanal Greek gastronomy and produce. Do you provide any other goods, services or programs?
Yoleni's is not just an e-shop. It is an experience that invites people from all over the world to explore the real deal of the Mediterranean products: Greek specialty foods! Our online platform http://www.yolenis.us/ provides locally crafted, high quality products from all over Greece, paired with a wealth of supportive information and quality content. It is a portal that presents the products, their features and the relevant background information through a variety of food and drink combinations. We highlight the history, places of origin, the producers' stories, the elements that make the Greek ecosystem and culture unique, as well as delicious recipes (more than 250 video step-by-step recipes in order for our customers to learn how to use our products). We serve every product with extended details, high quality photographs and useful elements (like ways to use the products and cooking tips).
Every visitor has the ability to shop by recipe, choose among the ten most representative regional cuisines, shop by products' place of origin, or even buy ready-made compilations in gift baskets.
Your head office is in Athens providing orders to consumers to all of the European Union. You've recently decided to expand to the U.S. –what made you choose the U.S. market over other countries to provide your products and business gift services?
Our sector, e-grocery, is still a niche market in the Greek and most of the European Union markets. The U.S. grocery market, on the contrary, is more mature and digitized and the largest worldwide, leaving a wide space for growth of operations and business opportunities.
The U.S. market provides a great opportunity for our business and for Greek products. The momentum is in favor of quality Mediterranean food, due to Americans' desire to adopt healthier eating habits, and in favor of the Greek products in particular, due to the success of products such as Greek-style yogurt.
Many entrepreneurs are certainly weary to expand their operations and face many difficulties during the process – what were some of the difficulties you faced in establishing services in the U.S.? On the other hand, what advantages do you see for being in the U.S.?
Expanding our operations to the US market required extensive preparations in various fields. Through months of work we developed the know-how and adapted to the particularities. Based on our team's expertise, we applied all the needed marketing actions (customizing our product offering, surveying the market and the customer habits, etc.) and the product and logistics related actions.
When it comes to food, in-particular high quality food products, you have to be strict in order to reassure that quality is provided all the way to the customer, as well as that your business complies with regulations applied overseas – such as the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Nevertheless, the challenge of competing in the U.S. market is an inspiration for our team. Our dedication towards succeeding and the potential we see overcomes any problems that have to be tackled!
Your website also features a blog and quotes Hippocrates saying, "let food be the medicine and medicine be the food," are there any social causes you are involved in to change the diets of people in the communities you serve?
Based on the components of the Greek Mediterranean spirit, Yoleni's tries to introduce an "alternative" perspective to eating and we aim to educate our customers about the beneficial effects that come from Greek products. The well-selected collections of food products we offer are staples of the Mediterranean diet; the healthiest diet in the world, as evidenced by studies conducted over the course of decades.
What's more, all of the people on our team share knowledge and expertise related to either healthy nutrition or the traditional Greek food products. Yoleni's provides intern positions to graduates in the fields of Food Marketing and Nutrition from the Harokopio University of Athens, while last autumn we were honored to participate in the conference "Mediterranean Diet and Workplace Health" held at the Harvard University's Public School of Health (HSPH).
Now that you are an award-winning business among the Hellenic community –do you have plans to use this recognition to support not just your business, but the Hellenic community and/or its businesses?
It goes without saying that such an award assists the Yoleni's brand and activities to become better known. In our case, though, this publicity goes beyond our company. Our network of partners gains credibility and quality exposure - and will be gaining more momentum as our operations grow.
We are strong believers of the "together we grow" motto, and we constantly try to shape parterships and synergies with businesses that share the same mentality and values as Yoleni's.
Finally, you offer a collection of more than 180 products – what's your bestseller among Greeks and what should the American audience consider ordering?
Quality raw honey is among the best choices of our Greek customers. Based on feedback given to our customer care team, people value the unique taste and texture and the fact that they can have products free of additives and without chemical processing.
The American market is simply too massive to say that just one product can satisfy everyone! If we had to highlight, though, we would say that every American family should have in their cupboards: Greek Olive Oil, olives such as the world-renown "Kalamata" variety, and some aromatic herbs. Such products are available at Yoleni's and can become the starting point for the first "hint" of the real Greek taste!
For more on The Hellenic Initiative and their Venture Fair, see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/despinatrivoli/first-venture-fair-in-ath_b_7987944.html