Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? Why did you start your business?
My name is Costas Tsongas and I am 55 years old. I live with my wife Christina and our two children in beautiful Anavyssos, a quiet coastal town outside Athens in Greece. I have been working in the field of informatics as a computer engineer for over 30 years. We decided to start our own business looking for an additional income, but also to fulfill and explore our own artistic and creative needs.
What type of products do you sell? How does your manufacturing process look like?
We started by making wooden wall clocks, but soon expanded to photo albums and personalized recipe notebooks with wooden covers. We design the product in Corel Draw design software. Next is the loading of the drawing’s plan into the laser cutting machine, then follows the assembly process, the quality control, and finally the packaging.
What are some challenging aspects of your business? How did you overcome them?
The biggest difficulty was searching for quality raw materials, eg quality plywood, clock mechanisms, etc. Over time, and with good market research, we managed to find the right suppliers.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
The greatest pleasure derives from customer appreciation for our products. There is nothing more satisfying than the feeling that other people love and appreciate something you made with love and passion. The greatest difficulty, unfortunately, is to be a small entrepreneur in Greece. The conditions for entrepreneurship in our country need great improvement (eg taxation, bureaucracy, etc).
What are some beginner mistakes you made? What advice or words of inspiration would you like to share?
One mistake we made in the beginning, was underpricing our products! DO NOT underestimate your work once you have done proper costing and market research and are certain of the quality and high standards.
What inspires you while designing and/or creating new products.
Inspiration can come at any time. Whatever I see I try to imagine it as a design possibility for the next product. For example, two of our wall clocks (Trees – Leafs) are inspired by the trees in our garden.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
As a computer engineer, but also a hobbyist mechanical engineer, I had the skills to design (using Corel Draw designing software) and also to install, assemble, and operate the laser cutter.
What are some of the most effective ways in terms of marketing products to your customers?
Advertising on ETSY that brings 35% of sales, and then following the social media.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
Understanding that you are addressing a huge and diverse audience.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
To be honest first comes the financial success, but everything else mentioned above is necessary to feel complete.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
I have a lot of freedom in time management. Usually every afternoon I prepare the orders that will be mailed the next morning by my wife. During the weekend I will also deal with the maintenance and adjustment of the laser machine and I will deal with the pending issues regarding the supply of raw materials. Of course, every day, all day, I monitor orders and respond to customer messages using my smartphone that I always carry with me.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
We are preparing our new website (for the time being we are only active in ETSY) and we are planning our advertising campaign that will bring our products to a larger audience. Mass purchase of raw materials will bring a significant reduction in our main costs and thus increase profits.