Striking gold in Greece with honey – and 24-karat edible gold!

by Kelly Fanarioti

The story of Yiannis Karypidis and his wife Stavroula Theodorou could be a script for a Hollywood movie. Seven years ago, because of the economic crisis, they were ready to leave Greece and emigrate to England–until an afternoon walk in northern Evia changed their plans and the course of their lives.

Now they live in Chalkida and produce organic honey made with 24-karat edible gold: which they export all over Europe, as well as Asia, Australia, USA and Canada.

Stayia Farm founders Yiannis Karypidis and his wife Stavroula Theodorou

As Karypidis explains to NEO, when the financial crisis ”hit his door” he had to find a job abroad while his wife attended a postgraduate program in her field. All that time, alongside preparations for going abroad, the couple avidly watched an ERT 3 show titled “True Scenarios,” which featured innovative businesses being launched in the agri-food sector.

“We made a day trip to northern Evia and found it to be a beekeeping area,” explains Karypidis. “It was then the time when start-up businesses had emerged in the agricultural sector and we thought about trying it out. We had to scramble at first–but it came out for the best.” That’s how their Stayia Farm came about.

Honey, mixed with 24K edible-gold, is what helped them grow quickly—they began exporting in only six months. “We tried the edible gold at an exhibition of olive oil and wine and we liked it. We thought about mixing it with honey and using it as a marketing innovation for a Greek product, because there was no similar product in the world. And the Vasilissa (Queen) Honey came to be. We launched it, and all this gave us huge publicity completely free of charge. It was the only honey with 24K edible-gold worldwide. And all this attracted, besides the local media, international media like Reuters. Everything was totally random. Our first ideas were totally amateurish, but we eventually succeed,” he says.

The Vasillissa honey mixed with 24K edible-gold, already exported in about 10 countries

He admits honey with gold has no more nutritional than simple organic honey. “But it has commercial appeal and it’s a novel product for business gifts and is in high demand in Arab countries, where money and show go together. But it’s not what sustains a large share of our sales.”

Most of their sales are for organic honey with royal jelly developed by Karypidis and his wife: an idea based on a study by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki that compared New Zealand honey with 29-percent Greek honey and showed that Greek honey had more nutrition. ”So we mixed it with royal jelly and it became a superfood!” he says.

EXPORTS

Exports of Vasilissa honey began in the first six months of operations. And within two years the company had enough sales and brand recognition to approach partners abroad. Now the partners come to them from all over the world.

Of course, says Karypidis, there’s still a great deal of mistrust of Greek producers by foreign businessmen. “This is due to older Greek producers, who often adulterated their products when selling them abroad. Fortunately, that’s changing and loyalty is slowly building and the standards of the new generation of Greek producers is much more consistent.”

After last year’s research that Nutella actually featured an ingredient that is a known carcinogenic, Karypidis and his wife decided to make a product for children that would be both healthy and tasty. So the couple began experimenting with honey and cocoa, without the suspect palm oil, gluten and dyes, and they ended up creating a perfect food for children, which they dedicated to their two sons.

“It takes a 60-hour process to produce this product and get it as pure as possible: it did not exist in the Greek market before. And because it’s geared to children and made with honey, it educates children on the taste of honey. A part of the profits, in fact, goes to the Melissa Female Orphanage in Thessaloniki.”

These products have been available now for nine months and are dedicated to their two children: Thomas and Kostas, depicted in front of the packages named ‘The Bee Bros.’ It’s honey with cocoa, honey with cocoa and banana flavor, and honey with cocoa and strawberry flavor.

“The Bee Bros” line, a healthy alternative to Nutella. It’s three flavors of honey with cocoa

“We are now being approached by markets that otherwise would take us two and three years to approach. We presented these products for  the first time in an exhibition in Germany and the reviews were very good. We now have orders from central Europe, USA and Australia,” he says.

The example of the Karypidis’ show that even in Greece in these hard economic times an ambitious startup can still succeed. I asked him what advice he would give to young people who are thinking of starting, from scratch, and alone, as they did, a business in Greece in 2018.

“I would advise them to be consistent in what they do and to keep timetables. There should be consistency and respect for the customer and the suppliers,” he points out. Regarding the age-old hurdle in Greece of starting a business despite the Byzantine bureaucracy, “the difficulties were real enough. Also, taxation in Greece does not favor young entrepreneurs in any way, but our persistence and stubbornness was such that we overcame all obstacles. Now we don’t think we’ll leave Greece even if they offered us one billion!”

 

 

Hilton Athens: More than a Grand Hotel; a Modern Landmark

by Kelly Fanarioti

”A hotel of immense wealth is going to be erected in Athens”, the great newspapers of the time wrote in the late ’50s. And they did not exaggerate. The construction of the chain’s first hotel in the Greek capital, which costed the astronomical amount of $15 million, was an important social, political, economic and architectural achievement.

Architect Spyros Staikos is presenting the hotel’s building plans to then Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis with future President of the Republic Konstantinos Tsatsos and Minister Emmanuel Kephalogiannis

In April 1963, the landmark hotel of Athens opened its doors to the public in the presence of Conrad Hilton, who had said: “I agree with those who think Hilton Athens Hotel is the most beautiful Hilton in the world”. This emblematic building on Vasilissis Sofias Street has 506 rooms, of which 34 suites, and the largest total number of rooms in the city overlooking the Acropolis. The rooms are spacious and all have a private balcony with stunning views. Hilton Athens has 23 conference and event rooms including a luxurious ballroom of 1300 people.

The building which was designed by the architects Emmanuel Voureka, Prokopios Vasiliadis and Spyros Staikos, presents the following originality: it belongs to the category of the big cosmopolitan hotels, however, its external form combines the modern with the classic. Pentelic marble is used, as well as the monumental reliefs of the painter Yannis Moralis, with their archaic themes, giving a “Greek” touch.

Conrad Hilton, with government Minister Panagiotis Papalegouras and ship magnate Stratis Andreadis at the inauguration of Hilton Athens

The official inauguration of the Hilton Athens took place on April 20, 1963, with three-day festive events gathering distinguished guests from all over the world and offering an unprecedented event for the city’s socialites.

According to Communications Director Tina Toribaba in an interview with NEO magazine, Hilton was the favorite meeting point of the high end – and not only – Athenians since day one, presenting new and unique experiences.

“The hotel offered for the first time a ‘barbecue party’, which today has become the favorite summer fun for all. It had also inaugurated Christmas and Easter meals in public space. Until then the great holidays were celebrated only in a close family context. At the same time, it introduced the Athenians to the burger and the club sandwich. Another pioneering feature was the establishment of the ‘Athens Art Gallery’, also known as the Hilton-Gallery, which operated within the hotel bringing together art lovers from various venues and places.

In 2004 the Hilton Athens was fully renovated to become the official seat of the International Olympic Committee during the Athens Olympic Games, and in 2011 the headquarters of the Organizing Committee of the Special Olympics World Games also held in Athens.

During the half-century of its operation, great personalities have passed through the sumptuous lobby of the hotel. Aristotle Onassis, the popular singer and actor Frank Sinatra, the Oscar-winning actor Anthony Quinn, the director and screenwriter Ingmar Bergman are just a few.

Director Ingmar Bergman with this wife at Hilton’s roof top enjoying the Acropolis view

“Heads of State, famous artists and internationally prestigious scientists preferred the hotel for their stay in Athens. Hilton has always been considered a reference point for the international jet set. In recent years, this impressive hotel has evolved into a favorite Athenean venue, whether to taste original American hamburgers and club sandwiches at the Byzantino Restaurant and or original cocktails in Galaxy Bar with its spectacular Acropolis view”, explains Ms. Toribaba. “It uniquely combines the services and facilities of a business hotel and a resort. Thus, in addition to conferences and business meals, guests have the choice of having fun between four restaurants, including the famous Milos, and two bars. At the same time, from May to October, guests have free access to Hilton’s outdoor swimming pool, the largest outdoor pool in the city center. ”

Author Julie Nixon Eisenhower

 

In addition, they can experience a few moments of luxury at the Hiltonia Spa, a fully equipped fitness center with an indoor heated pool, a sauna, a steam room and hot tub, a fully equipped Pilates Room and massage services. There is also a hair salon and a beauty center.

“As for in-hotel shopping, Hilton Athens has a news stand, a delicatessen, a jeweler’s shop, a brand name store, and a patisserie. In addition, the hotel has a barber and a laundry room,” says Ms. Tina Toribaba.

The most impressive living space in Hilton is the 220 square meters Presidential Suite which offers a spectacular view of the Acropolis and Lycabettus. In addition, it has a living room with home cinema, dining area, desk, kitchen with separate entrance, bedroom, bathroom with Jacuzzi and Acropolis view, WC and dressing room. “The suite also offers access to the Hiltonia Spa for use of the gym and indoor heated pool and the Executive Lounge with its own reception and a lounge offering drinks and small meals throughout the day.”

In recent years, Athens has been attracting visitors from all over the world exceeding its hotels’ capacity during the summer months. The same goes for Hilton. ”Bookings have been increasing steadily over the past years, mainly with people from Great Britain and the United States,” Ms. Toribaba explains. “Hilton Athens is not just a hotel but an integral part of the city’s social, business and cultural life. While enjoying a privileged location in the heart of the city, at the same time it is a haven of peace and relaxation. It also stands out for its aesthetics, elegance, discreet luxury and the natural light that is diffused on its premises”.

Finally, Athens Hilton symbolizes the warm Greek hospitality while providing services of international standards and it is a pillar in the effort to further enhance Athens as a preferred international tourist destination.