From wooden glasses to honey, some Greeks innovating to survive
ATHENS (Reuters) - If necessity is the mother of invention, eight years of a crippling recession and dwindling work prospects has compelled at least some Greeks to reboot, switch professions and innovate to survive.
AT LEAST WE TRIED
In Evoia, in the heart of the Greek countryside, Yannis Karypidis and Stevi Theodorou administer beehives left by Theodorou’s grandfather. Last year they sold 60,000 jars of organic honey. Production has already exceeded 70,000 jars for the first half of 2016.
Former advertising executive and accountant Karypidis, 35, said the couple had decided to move to the United Kingdom, but a last trip to Evoia changed their minds.
“We said to ourselves ‘if it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t, but at least we tried it and got it out of our minds and we could then move on to something else’,” said Karypidis.
Stayia Farm now produces 16 different types of honey mixtures, probably most noted for one infused with gold flakes.
“It’s a product for refined tastes ... it’s not something you can find in a supermarket,” Karypidis says. The product retails at between 35 and 50 euros overseas.
Ioannis Kaplanis, director general of the government-affiliated Hellenic Industrial Property Organisation, known as OBI, says Greece has the talent but also needs an institutional framework for encouraging patents and financing start-ups.
“There is a critical mass of inventors in the country which must be tapped, transformed into a commodity which will foster growth,” he said, adding: “There needs to be financing from businesses or from funds. This link does not exist.”
Karypidis and other small business people who have made it agree their success has been all self-generated and speak of government involvement as more of a hindrance than a help.
In typical Greek style, Karypidis did not receive any financing and instead tapped the know-how of his and his wife’s extended family.
“The difficulty in Greece right now is to maintain (a business),” said Karypidis. “The expenses, the taxes that exist make it really difficult to keep a small- or medium-sized business going.”