As part of the WP2 the consortium has performed a series of interviews with women enetrepreneurs. Their summary is available in this document.
First interviewee: Mrs Ladika Zoe, Greece – Bookstore owner
On Wednesday, 28th of June, InnovED team had a very fruitful discussion with Mrs. Ladika Zoe – a woman entrepreneur owning a bookstore – through Google Meet. She took some of her free time to answer the structured and prearranged questions that were collectively decided upon by the partnership.
Mrs. Zoe Ladika, a woman entrepreneur, embarked on her journey as a bookstore owner after years of experience in Marketing, Sales and Customer service. Tired of working for others and dealing with exhausting schedules, she decided to open her own enterprise, a bookstore, three years ago.
InnovED team started the discussion with a question about her most significant achievement as an entrepreneur so far. Mrs. Zoe Ladika’s biggest achievement so far is her engagement in diverse projects, including investments. She owns several apartments in the city center of Larisa and her goal is to expand this business throughout the entire Larisa area and its surroundings. Her enterprise is focused on innovation and one of the key aspects is promoting online shopping. She encourages her customers to choose this option and have recently collaborated with apps like Wolt and efood or Box in Greece.
To stay competitive in the face of technological advancements, digitalization, and innovation and to boost sales and reach a wider audience, Mrs. Zoe Ladika highlighted her active presence on social media. She uses these platforms to promote both her bookstore and her investment projects. In 2023, social media has proven to be incredibly effective and the sales have seen significant growth due to the presence on these platforms. Mrs. Zoe Ladika is committed to utilizing technology and modern approaches to enhance her business prospects and better serve her customers. Moreover, she has found that uploading many of her products on Facebook serves as an effective promotional tool. She has realized that the audience wants to be informed about what she sells. As a result, she regularly posts updates showcasing her products. Mrs. Zoe Ladika remains focused and vigilant ensuring that her social media presence is interesting and keeps her audience engaged.
It is true that the online promotion is more attractive in the investments, such as promoting an apartment compared to promoting books. The interviewee believes that she is very active and innovative when it comes to adopting new technologies. The location of a store is crucial for the growth of a business. However, what matters the most to her are the interpersonal relationships she builds with her customers. By being polite, helpful and honest, she can win the hearts of her customers.
Regarding the challenges of starting a business, the interviewee mentioned that the bookstore had already been established by the previous owner and she simply purchased it from him. This made the process of opening it quite effortless. She made some renovations, added materials that suited her aesthetics and removed the ones that didn’t. It was a straightforward process as she didn’t have to start a business from scratch. Despite being a small space, her bookstore is highly functional and efficient, allowing her to organize everything effectively.
Dealing with bureaucracy has been challenging, as the state keeps changing its rules. However, having a trustworthy accountant has been beneficial. She usually tries to stay informed about any new developments on her own and she only reaches out to her accountant when she can’t find the information she needs. She doesn’t want to burden someone with her questions even if the answers could be found with a simple internet search. It’s not that she doesn’t want help but she prefers not to bother others unnecessarily.
Regarding changes she would like to implement, she emphasized that her bookstore is small and its size limits the proper display of all her products. To overcome this challenge, she frequently makes esoteric changes within the space altering the arrangement of items and sometimes rearranging the furniture. Recently, she made some adjustments to the furniture and changed the order of items on display including showcasing selected products in the shop window to create a more appealing view. These changes have transformed the store’s appearance without incurring significant costs as invested her free time and creativity.
Unfortunately, the primary obstacle for more extensive renovations is the cost factor. Completely renovating a building from scratch would be financially impractical and inhibitory to the business’s profitability. Despite this limitation, Mrs. Zoe Ladika strives to make the best use of the available resources and continuously find creative solutions to enhance the bookstore’s atmosphere and customer experience.
Furthermore, when it comes to discrimination, she expressed that thankfully she hasn’t encountered any instances of discrimination throughout her entire career. She can’t recall facing such challenges at any point. As business owners, promoting diversity and inclusion should always be a priority ensuring that everyone feels valued and appreciated for their unique skills and perspectives.
Next, we asked the entrepreneur if she has any fear of failure. Mrs. Zoe Ladika is not afraid of failure, that’s why she always takes risks especially as an entrepreneur where taking chances is a big part of the journey. The interviewee prefers making mistakes and learning from them instead of doing nothing. She states that making mistakes is natural when you keep trying new things. If you’re not taking on challenges, you won’t experience failure. As humans, we are not superheroes or infallible and we’re not perfect. When she was young, she made more mistakes due to lack of experience. Now, with more experience, she makes fewer mistakes because she has learned how to protect herself better. Mrs. Zoe Ladika knows that failure is part of the learning process. Fear of failure doesn’t hold her back, it pushes her to keep moving forward and explore new opportunities. The important thing is to grow and learn from those experiences.
Moreover, this question addressed how she sets her business apart from competitors and offers something special to customers. She noted that even though her bookstore is small, it covers all the essentials. She doesn’t compare herself to big companies because she focuses on personal connections with her customers. Unlike them, she knows her customers by name and they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts or seeking recommendations. She mentioned that they are like friends and it helps her business grow as happy customers recommend her to others. She may not have all the resources of big companies but her relationships make her bookstore special and valued by the community.
Regarding mentorship, Mrs. Zoe Ladika states that are beneficial for everyone but you need to be open to receiving it. None of us know everything and we are not perfect. She prefers to seek information, use it and gain benefits from it. Additionally, the interviewee is willing to share her knowledge with others without considering them as competitors. Knowledge is meant to be shared, not kept for oneself. By being open to learning from others and freely sharing what we know, we can all grow and improve together.
Next question was about whether her priorities changed from when she first started and indeed her priorities have changed significantly. Managing the bookstore alone with a demanding timetable, both in the mornings and evenings, makes it tough to balance everything. She has many responsibilities, including handling investments, taking care of her family and pets and managing housekeeping tasks. She feels pressure to do everything perfectly but with so much to do, it’s hard to give 100% to everything. She is under a lot of pressure because she prefers to handle everything on her own. Her free time is rare and when she gets a moment, she tries to spend it with her family creating memories or going on trips that she enjoys. Despite the challenges, she gives her best to everyone, whether it’s her family or friends, and tries to find a balance in her busy schedule.
The last question concerned her advice to other women who want to start their own business. Mrs. Ladika mentioned that if someone wants to start a business, her advice to new women entrepreneurs is to just go for it! Women have incredible potential in entrepreneurship. They are skilled at handling multiple tasks efficiently, unlike men who often focus on one thing at a time. Also, the entrepreneur mentioned the following: “Don’t underestimate yourself and settle for a life as an employee. Take risks because life is too short to be under someone else’s orders. Empower yourself, grasp opportunities and create your path as an entrepreneur. Take charge of your business and enjoy the freedom it brings. With determination and courage, you can achieve great things and live a fulfilling life on your own terms.”
In conclusion, Mrs. Zoe Ladika inspires women and plays a significant role in supporting the progress and empowerment of women in the business field.
Second interviewee: Anagnosti Aliki-Alexandra, Greece – Professional Certified Translator
On Thursday, June 29th, InnovED team members had an engaging online interview with Mrs. Anagnosti Aliki-Alexandra where she responded to the structured and pre-agreed questions that had been jointly agreed upon by the partnership.. We are truly grateful to Mrs. Anagnosti for taking the time to meet with us.
The name of our second woman entrepreneur is Mrs. Anagnosti Aliki-Alexandra. Mrs. Anagnosti Aliki-Alexandra has a strong background in translation and interpretation. She studied at the Ionian University in Corfu, several years ago, and she is a professional Certified Translator. After that, she completed her Master’s degree in Chinese Studies at the University of Edinburgh/Glasgow University.
Regarding her biggest achievement so far, the interviewee mentioned that as a translator, starting a business was the only path for her. In 2006, she founded the enterprise on her own. However, in 2011, two more co-founders joined her. This business remains one of her most significant achievements but she is proud for many other things accomplished along her way.
The next question was about technological progress, digitalization and innovation. Mrs. Anagnosti mentioned that since 2011, they have been operating online with team members located in different places including colleagues from abroad. Digitalization has played a crucial role in their growth and without it, they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to expand as they did.
The entrepreneur asked for some tips to share on growing the business and making it profitable. It is essential to have a strong grasp of the field and actively participate in relevant unions. Being part of such communities allows someone to connect with experienced people, expand the network and gain recognition within the industry. Staying informed and up-to-date with the latest developments is crucial. Being alert and proactive will help the interested parties go forward.
Furthermore, Mrs. Anagnosti shared “Opening a business can be challenging but having guidance and support from accountants has been helpful from the start. For instance, when I decided to launch my own enterprise, I received much guidance and help from accountants. Now, the entrepreneurial field is constantly changing, making it unpredictable, difficult and demanding”.
Regarding discrimination behaviors due to her gender, the interviewee replied that she didn’t. In her field, discrimination is more related to the profession rather than gender. Unfortunately, people understand their work as a hobby not recognizing the extensive study and expertise required. As for failure, it’s about reducing turnover and losing customers. That’s why they actively try to find new customers and seek new opportunities.
What sets your business apart from competitors and creates a unique value proposition for your customers? Mrs. Anagnosti shared that in 2011, they did a significant change, adopting a cooperative scheme that allowed them to work remotely. Over the past twelve years, this approach has become increasingly common especially after COVID-19. Another factor is their long-term collaborations and interpersonal relationships as her business is run by translators. Unlike some companies established by businessmen without knowledge of the profession or field, her company is built on expertise and passion.
The next question was about mentorship, which plays a vital role and benefits both women and men, not only women but everyone. Mentorship offers a unique opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes without experiencing them firstly. With experienced experts who have been in the field for many years, someone can gain valuable insights and knowledge relevant to its profession. Their guidance and advice are invaluable in its growth and development.
Regarding priorities, the professional certified translator mentioned that her priorities have completely changed. In 2016, she became a mother, and now she has three kids. It’s understandable that her priorities changed as she started raising a family. Having the support of two other co-founders has been significant in managing the company. If she was alone, it would have been extremely challenging, and the business might have closed by now. Her free time is dedicated to her kids and family. Unfortunately, at the moment, she doesn’t have time for hobbies.
The last question was about what advice she would give to other women who want to open a business. Mrs. Anagnosti would recommend embracing the risks and facing challenges with proper guidance from experts, such as accountants. Additionally, it’s essential to join relevant unions and find suitable mentors who can guide them on the right path.
Conclusively, the valuable feedback from the experienced entrepreneur Mrs. Anagnosti Aliki-Alexandra on the prepared questions will help us gain a better understanding of the world of women entrepreneurship.