Maria Kalomenidou

Founder & CEO of Zelos Authentic Greek Artisan

What inspired you to start your business?

I created Zelos Authentic Greek Artisan in 2017 to share with others my zēlos (“zeal”) for healthy and tasty Greek food and to give back to the land of my birth by helping authentic Greek artisans find their American audience. I wanted to help elevate the image of Greek food, going beyond the clichés, so people could experience the clean, natural flavors of genuine contemporary Greek cuisine. With Zelos I share my desire to showcase the flavors and zeal that are modern Greece.

What challenges have you faced as a woman entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?

I started my entrepreneurial journey in my 50s. One of the biggest challenges I faced was that I entered a traditionally male-dominated environment, where people doubted my abilities, especially as I had no previous business experience neither in food nor in business. Yet I have always stuck to what I believe is the right thing to do and allowed the results to speak for themselves. Thankfully, I’ve found support from friends and family who obviously appreciate my skills.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

Being a woman entrepreneur is an exhilarating ride and my advice would be to not forget to enjoy it. The challenges that surround every start-up, the risk of failure, the everyday agonies, all can make us forget how exciting and rewarding the experience is. It’s worth it to sometimes just stop and enjoy the things we have accomplished during this journey. Personally, I still get excited every time a new order comes in and just seeing my vision come to life.

What women inspire you?

The women that inspire me are humble and hard-working, yet believe in themselves. They are women with complex personalities who are not afraid to juggle the many hats of entrepreneurship and do that with humor and grace. Not surprisingly, perhaps, my own mother and grandmother were my earliest sources of inspiration.

What three traits define you?

Creativity: I have always been a creative person and worked as a designer in a previous career. I love to come up with new ideas — sometimes too many!

Resilience: Some would say I’m stubborn and I certainly don’t give up easily, but I see this as the needed resilience to survive the bumps in the entrepreneurial ride, and those bumps are what makes it so interesting.

Openness to criticism - I truly love and respect constructive criticism and I am my own biggest critic. It has always helped me grow as a professional and as a person.

As a business owner, what keeps you up at night?

The fear of failure. I believe in what I am doing, yet I also feel an extra responsibility to our Artisans because Zelos, other than promoting delicious Greek food, also offers the opportunity to these small businesses in Greece to grow and prosper, and I want them to succeed. I am also constantly thinking of new ways to grow my business and create a healthy business model for myself, my Artisans and my team.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

I would be visiting more museums and also doing more creative work with my hands, which I think is the best way to come up with new ideas. I really miss spending time creatively, but it’s the reality when there are so many left-brain things you need to do to run a business. Still, I love actively creating, whether it’s cooking in my kitchen or photographing or ideating.

What are you reading or listening to now?

I am reading David Sedaris’ Calypso and laughing my head off. He always shares personal stories about himself and his family, and I love his self-deprecating writing, he is hilarious. It’s a great way to unwind after a long, stressful day…and someone sent him one of our gift boxes!

Fill in the blank:

When I face a challenge, I… try to welcome it as an opportunity that will help me grow.

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself not to stress as much and enjoy the ride more.

The one thing I couldn’t live without is… being surrounded by other people — I hate working alone!

By this time next year, I will be… celebrating having doubled Zelos’s revenue!

The best thing that happened to me last week was … spending time with my son.

To get my creative juices flowing, I… walk in nature and admire the beautiful world we live in.

Zelos authentic greek artisan

A woman-owned and operated business, Zelos Authentic Greek Artisan is committed to bringing the true tastes and flavors of modern Greece to the US. They want customers to enjoy the genuine flavors they grew up with, without preservatives or artificial ingredients. They are convinced that small-batch artisanal food is a healthier, tastier alternative to industrially-processed food, so they only choose organic or all-natural products produced in Greece.

Learn more.