Maria Kalomenidou wants you to discover what she loves about Greek cuisine. Her woman-owned company -- Zelos Authentic Greek Artisan -- will open your eyes to the delicious range of Greek sauces and foods that are made in small batches and available to you. Have you tried fig and walnut spread? How about the traditional dessert called spoon sweet? Zelos sells items separately and as a part of gift and subscription boxes. Talk about a great gift!
We loved catching up with Maria recently and hearing how she was inspired to start her company and how the pandemic was a game changer.
What motivated you to start your company?
I created Zelos Authentic Greek Artisan in 2017 to share my passion, my zēlos (“zeal”) for healthy and tasty Greek food. I also wanted to give back to the country of my birth by helping small businesses there find their American audience. Together with these authentic artisans, we hope to change the image of Greek food, going beyond the usual clichés. We really want people to experience the natural, clean flavors of genuine contemporary Greek cuisine.
How long have you been in business and has your business changed since you started it?
I started my online business five years ago, as a direct-to-consumer platform, but I was also taking our Artisans’ products to local farmers’ markets and holiday fairs. I loved telling people how they could enjoy these sometimes unusual flavors and seeing how much fun they had discovering a different side of Greek food. Then when the pandemic hit, the in-person part ended and everything shifted completely online -- we were lucky that we were already set up for that with our own website and presence on Amazon and other online platforms. But to be honest, that pandemic boom in online shopping also caught us off guard. Sales exploded and we weren’t able to catch our breath. We were in constant fire-fighting mode, and it’s only been in the past few months that we’ve been able to take a step back and return to more longer-term thinking. The global supply chain crisis is definitely hitting us, too, but we’re working hard to manage it and continue to grow.
What is something you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
Being a woman entrepreneur is an exhilarating ride, but one thing I didn’t know in 2017 was how to enjoy that ride! The challenges that surround every start-up, the risk of failure, the everyday agonies, all of that can make us forget just how exciting and rewarding the experience really is. It’s worth it to sometimes just stop and remember and appreciate all the amazing things we’ve accomplished during this journey. Personally, I still get excited every time a new order comes in and seeing my vision truly come to life. I’m now taking more time to enjoy the ride and have fun with it.
Why did you decide to join TheWMarketplace?
Being part of TheWMarketplace gives me a sense of purpose and belonging, it brings me into a community of like-minded women. To be honest, I’d missed that during my earlier professional life as a designer, but during this Zelos experience I’ve met the most incredible women entrepreneurs, both here and in Greece. I think the women of TheWMarketplace are the same: humble and hard-working, yet they believe in themselves. They are women with complex personalities who are not afraid to juggle the many hats of entrepreneurship and they do that with humor and grace. TheWMarketplace brings together exactly those kind of women and it’s an honor to be a part of that.
If a journalist were to write a headline about you, what would it be?
Changing the image of Greek cuisine, one Artisan at a time!
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Launched in 2020, TheWMarketplace is a nationwide e-commerce marketplace for women-owned businesses to sell their products and professional and personal services. Offering favorable terms to its sellers, it also is a supportive community of women entrepreneurs that have access to learning opportunities through the trademarked HER-Commerce™ programs. With over 500 women-owned businesses selling 4000+ products and services ranging from home goods to coaching, in over 35 states, TheWMarketplace empowers shoppers with a new way to find the communities they want to support, including Black-woman owned, Latina-owned, AAPI-owned, Veteran woman-owned, and more. The Her Story Q&A is one benefit TheWMarketplace provides to sellers.