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Business Leaders Reveal Recipe for Success at 10th DEREE Business Week

The recipe for success equals tradable goods and services mixed with passion and an appetite for risk, keynote speaker George Koutsolioutsos of the Folli Follie Group told the 10th annual industry forum DEREE Business Week held March 30-April 2 at DEREE – The American College of Greece.

Mr Koutsolioutsos and a host of other distinguished businesspeople shared their insights with students, faculty and guests who came to hear from celebrated business insiders how to turn a local business into a global success story, and otherwise boost the economy through exports – supporting this year’s theme of Export-Led Growth.

The recipe for success, above everything else, is passion, George Koutsolioutsos CEO of Folli Follie Group, Greece’s champion jewelry and retail exporter underlined in his keynote speech “A Passionate Journey to Growth.” Mr Koutsolioutsos described how passion has paid off for his family-owned group, and described its spectacular growth from a small retail shop in downtown Athens founded by his “visionary” parents Dimitri and Ketty Koutsolioutsos, into a leading international fashion, jewelry and accessories retailer with a presence in 28 countries, including 250 locations in mainland China. He prodded students and guests to “dare to be passionate,” and to stock up on plenty of other ingredients as well, including good brands – tradable goods, skill, talent, will, and luck. “Packaging, window displays, all are important, but the most important thing is human capital – our sales people are our ambassadors,” Mr Koutsolioutsos concluded and invited DEREE students to apply for internships and other work at the global FF Group.

His thoughts on the recipe for growth were echoed by a host of other business leaders, including alumni and distinguished academics who maintained that exporting tradable goods and services is the only way for Greek businesses – and by implication for the Greek economy – to not just survive, but thrive in a globalized world, and that risk-taking and passion were key elements of the process. Other speakers singled out Greece’s high costs of production, taxes, overregulation, and climate of uncertainty as factors that pose obstacles to growth, while they agreed that the country’s major challenge is to try and keep its youth from going abroad forever – the so-called brain drain.

His Excellency Jan Versteeg, Ambassador of the Kingdom of The Netherlands to Greece outlined his initiative Orange Grove, a dynamic incubator for Greek and Dutch entrepreneurs in Athens, which he thought up in 2013, and said that Greece has “great potential and scope” to become more-export oriented with its highly-educated population and its strategic location – while adding that exports are key to boosting the economy.

On her part, DEREE alumna Dr Miranda Xafa, (DEREE ‘73), a former member of the IMF Executive Board, and currently CEO of EF Consulting, and senior scholar at CIGI, discussed the lessons of the 2012 Greek debt restructuring and the merits of an investment-friendly economy, while she also prodded students to spend some time working abroad.

Mr Alexander Macridis, CEO of Chryssafidis SA, and a Trustee of The American College of Greece, focused on the need for Greek businesses to venture abroad, advising “first get the recipe right at home, before exporting one’s product, except for internet-based businesses, where the conventional rules don’t apply.”

Business Week 2015 hosted distinguished personalities from several leading businesses and organizations: Athenian Brewery, Athens Marathon the Authentic, Center for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Chillbox, Chryssafidis, Cyclades Microbrewery, DROMEAS, EF Consulting, ELTA, FLOW Energy, Folli Follie, Fresh Line Cosmetics, Gaea, Gerentes, the Hellenic Bank Association, hotelBrain, LADOLEA, NAFSOLP, Moundreas Shipping Company, Nissos Beer, Office Communication Consultants, Oracle, the Panhellenic Exporters' Association, STIRIXIS, Titan, Trikalinos, Tsakos Energy Navigation Limited, and VERALLIS, among others.

"Business Week was a great example of learning outside the classroom,” notes DEREE Provost Dr Thimios Zaharopoulos, who kicked off Business Week with his welcoming speech March 30, and adds “The events were truly informative and inspiring for our students.” Dean (Ad Interim) of the DEREE School of Business Dr Annie Triantafillou (DEREE '86), also enthused: “Finally, students got to hear what their professors have been telling them from business leaders’ mouths as well, and learned a lot from their insights.”