Elena | From Canada to Greece Building the Biggest Expat Community in the Country
BY ELENI MERAKI
I studied Art History & Classics at the University of Toronto where I was born.
I grew up in a small family business - metal manufacturing factory - where I had to do just about everything from make morning coffee to answer sales calls to fill boxes and load trucks! Always having some involvement in the family business, in parallel I began working retail and this is where I learned the art of sales and customer service.
To be honest, I didn't really want to go to university, but my (wise) mother made me go and so I chose to study something that I loved. Something that I couldn't stop reading about, something I could spend hours on end learning more and more and more, something I was inspired by.
Regarding my career, I'd say that the majority of my professional life has been in luxury sales and customer service.
I never thought I'd be a 'sales person' but I actually really love having (knowing) these skills and being able to service someone (or a company) to their actual need – and simultaneously achieving a sales goal makes it feel even greater!
5 THINGS ABOUT
Mother of 2 | Visionary | Soulful Businesses | Honesty and Gratitude | Serenity Prayer
LEAP OF FAITH
I knew that I had to be true to me and listen to exactly what I wanted; listen to my intuition and trust myself. I never really made a switch in careers as I loved what I was doing. I did however dream of creating my own company and moving to Greece. It took me about two years to make the country move possible and another few years to get adjusted to my new way of life in Greece and to finally make my entrepreneurial dream a reality.
There were many moments where I envisioned living in Greece and really thought about it as if it was already real, but there was a very distinct moment that I'll always remember when I made the decision. I was on a hill in Siena, Italy and I thought “This is what I want to see and live everyday of my life. I want to be surrounded by natural beauty and surrounded by everything that makes me feel alive every day.”
There have been similar “defining” moments that have happened in my business life too where after a process of thinking and envisioning I have a distinct moment of clarity of 'that's it, that's what I have to do!'.
xpat athens & Codico lab
I currently run 2 businesses (and a busy household!) in the country I dreamed of living in, Greece.
XpatAthens is a platform of information that connects and informs the international community in Greece.
Codico Lab is a consulting business that specializes in digital content creation, holistic content strategy, social media management and brand-related graphic design.
I am working on growing and developing these businesses, which are both part of a bigger dream of mine. The bigger dream is a digital community or platform for global citizens (what I’m calling ‘the next generation of expats’) on how they live, work, travel and live a healthy, balanced life.
With a seed that was planted in my brain, that grew into a vision, that got translated into words on paper, that became a plan, that became a reality, that became work in progress, that became a business. It has taken a lot (really a lot) of strength, perseverance and determination and ultimately trusting myself to believe it is possible and that I can do it.
It took me a good few years to make my vision a reality. Coming from an entrepreneurial family I have inherited that state of mind and my entrepreneurial endeavors have changed along the way as I evolved.
The bigger dream of mine has been with me ever since I can remember though, as what I truly want is to create a home, a community, a place where we help and encourage each other to live our ultimate “global” lives.
For XpatAthens there was an initial investment of under 10K but my lifespan with this platform has had many ups and downs and I've invested more money over the years. For Codico Lab, the initial investment was minimal - up to 1K approximately. I got the money from selling services, as well as family support.
Starting something from the ground up is not easy and I’ve had a full-time job in the initial phases of XpatAthens to be able to support my family. Over the course of a couple of years I was able to work less and eventually I was able to quit my job. It was not an easy decision as with any business you do, the uncertainty of the finances is always a hurdle. Yet I knew that if I didn’t invest all my time and energy in these companies and make a jump, I wouldn’t be able to really lift them to the next level. So I eventually made the jump to being a 100% entrepreneur. It’s been a scary yet utterly freeing decision.
THE TOUGH TIMES
Believing that 'I'll make it' despite what many people thought back in Canada. Many people questioned my move from a “safe” country to a country of ‘limited opportunity’ and even “despair”.
Quitting my full-time job the first time to start a business, not doing so great financially and going back to a full-time job, and then again taking a leap and trying again to be in business for myself.
Questioning yourself in tough times whether you’ve made the right decision to do all that you do. I somehow though have this deep trust in myself that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and everything is working out – even on those darker days.
5 INSIDER TIPS
Dig deep, listen well, and figure out what you truly want (at your core). Trust this and then make your dream a reality.
Be patient and give yourself time.
I believe everything is part of the process and we learn from everything we do and experience; there isn't a tip that I'd say 'oh if i only knew that' - surely, if I knew then what I know now, things may have been different but this is part of the process.
There have always been people helping me - so many people and in their own individual ways. I firmly believe that nothing can be done alone, and only the best things come from working with teams of people; in this way, I've had family, friends, colleagues, managers, teachers, and others help me along the way. Some gave knowledge, some cared for my children and others gave me a hug when I needed it.
It takes about 6 months to begin to feel confident in whatever it is you’re doing for the first time (or starting anew) so give yourself the time when you start something new and don’t beat yourself up for not knowing yet how to exactly sell or market yourself. It takes time and a lot of trial and error to get it right.
Written by Eleni Meraki
Eleni is the founder of Guts & Tales. She is a hypnotherapist, mind-trainer, coach and creator of the women’s coaching program Be Your Own Muse. She helps women become clear, confident and courageous to be and live true to themselves.