Show­ing new busi­nesses the way

Ex­pe­ri­enced en­trepreneurs of­fer know-how and ad­vice through think tank The Can­vas

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY IOANNA FOTIADI

“Why would some­one come all the way to Greece to buy be­spoke cloth­ing? You need to cre­ate a brand name so that con­sumers choose Athens in­stead of Lon­don.” This was the ad­vice im­parted by a for­eign in­vestor to the cre­ators of, Yian­nis Ste­fani­dis and Nikos Pavlopou­los, who pre­sented a busi­ness plan for a firm pro­duc­ing tailed men’s shirts at a meet­ing or­ga­nized by The Can­vas think tank, founded in 2014 and com­pris­ing re­spected busi­ness­men and women. “There is a lot of tal­ent to be found in Greece, but a lack of stay­ing power and de­ter­mi­na­tion to reach the tar­get,” ob­served one of the three found­ing mem­bers of The Can­vas (thecan­, Mar­cel Cre­mer, a 37-year-old lawyer and an ex­pert on start-ups in Greece.

“We see a lot of para­doxes, such as peo­ple who have cap­i­tal and don’t know how to in­vest it or po­ten­tial busi­ness­men who don’t dare to make their dream a re­al­ity,” said Cre­mer, stress­ing that other than the prob­lem­atic re­la­tion­ship be­tween prac­ti­cally all Greeks and the state, there is another, moral in­sti­ga­tor hold­ing en­trepreneurs back.

“The Greek fam­ily keeps its chil­dren un­der its wing for as long as pos­si­ble, cul­ti­vat­ing a lack­adaisi­cal, soft men­tal­ity,” he said. “In the United States, teenagers will take their first busi­ness steps at the age of 16.”

The think tank is named af­ter the Busi­ness Model Can­vas, a tem­plate used to present ideas.

“Our aim is to build net­works be­tween our mem­ber and know-how ex­changes, while we would also like to act as a chan­nel be­tween young peo­ple and in­sti­tu­tional agen­cies, em­bassies and the Euro­pean Union,” ex­plained Cre­mer. “Like­wise, we bring to­gether in­ex­pe­ri­enced en­trepreneurs and ex­pe­ri­enced ones who can act as men­tors, di­rect them and con­trib­ute to mak­ing them work in a more sys­tem­atic man­ner.”

The other Can­vas co-founders are Danae Bezan­takou and Christos Trik­oukis, while the team con­sists of eight more mem­bers, all distin­guished en­trepreneurs in key sec­tors of the econ­omy, in­clud­ing ship­ping, energy, food and tourism.

Another 300 busi­ness­men and women take part in the group’s events, depend­ing on their area of ex­per­tise or the theme.

“Our di­a­logues with the Dutch, Bri­tish, Turk­ish and Iraqi em­bassies, which we have in­vited in the past 18 months, have been par­tic­u­larly fruit­ful,” said Cre­mer.

Hav­ing in­ter­na­tional lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is es­pe­cially help­ful to young en­trepreneurs in help­ing them de­sign their ac­tiv­i­ties in a global econ­omy.

“The ob­ser­va­tions of the mem­bers have been very help­ful,” ad­mit­ted Ste­fani­dis from, which started five months ago and has an out­let in down­town Athens as well as a Web pres­ence.

“They pointed out that we need to di­ver­sify our prod­uct to reach for­eign mar­kets or fo­cus more on the Balkans and Italy,” said the 30-year-old busi­ness­man.

How­ever, the main goal of The Can­vas is to cul­ti­vate a healthy busi­ness cul­ture, par­tic­u­larly among young peo­ple who are still at univer­sity or have just grad­u­ated. In or­der to achieve this, it cre­ated another af­fil­i­ated group, the Open Mind Group (­mind­, whose hard core con­sists of 11 ship­ping stu­dents at the univer­si­ties of Pi­raeus and the Aegean, as well as Deree Col­lege, headed by Bezan­takou.

“I be­long to the first batch of stu­dents that didn’t have the op­por­tu­nity to get work ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause of a lack of funds, some­thing that re­ally clipped our wings, given that the sec­tor is rel­a­tively hard to get into,” said Evan­thia Tsekou, who is close to re­ceiv­ing her de­gree in ship­ping, of her ex­pe­ri­ence at univer­sity.

“Now I am learn­ing a lot of prac­ti­cal things that are not taught in the lec­ture theater,” Tsekou added.

The next Open Mind Group event will be held as part of In­no­va­thens (­no­va­, an event which will see the cap­i­tal’s Tech­nop­o­lis com­plex turn into an in­no­va­tion and entrepreneurship hub, and the sub­ject will be how to draft a re­sume and im­prove pro­fes­sional pro­files on so­cial media sites such as Linkedin.

“Talk­ing to young peo­ple aged 19 or 20, I re­al­ize that the new gen­er­a­tion is much dif­fer­ent from pre­vi­ous ones,” said Cre­mer. “They are driven by a de­sire for self-im­prove­ment and have a lot of will power.”

The Open Mind Group on a visit to the Or­ange Grove ini­tia­tive for start-ups run by the Dutch Em­bassy in Athens.

The recog­ni­tion of mas­tic’s cu­ra­tive prop­er­ties is ex­pected to broaden its use.

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