We had to know more about this woman, Efi Ekmetzoglou, who dared to start a new business only four years ago, and in a neighborhood more in the news for its political unrest than for its business-friendly environment!
Maria: Why Exarcheia, wouldn't it have been easier to set up shop in a different part of Athens?!
Efi: Exarcheia is a creative neighborhood, bursting with cafes, bookstores, cinemas. The people here are friendly, interesting, creative, alive. We wouldn’t change it for the world. We collaborate with producers from all-over Greece, however, so we get to travel a lot.
M: Tell us about your move from publishing to herbs and spices.
For 18 years, I used to work as an editor, spending long days and nights at my desk, going through endless pages, looking for text flaws, checking translations and details…editing is a creative job, but it can be lonely at times. So although I liked my job a lot, I still longed for color, nature’s beauty and human interaction, for being able to create something that I could touch and taste.
The world of herbs and spices was revealed to me as a child, by my Grandmother Adamantina, who came from spice-rich Asia Minor. Later in life, I started experimenting with my own blends, as a way to have ready-made goodness on my shelves. Being a mother, I wasn’t only looking for the utmost in taste, but also top-quality nutrition.
M: I love your 15 Greek Herbs & Seeds mix - how did you choose just which ones to use?
The inspiration for a tasty, yet highly nutritional, herbal mix came from an amazing Greek nutritionist we were in contact with years ago. This was the beginning of endless hours of experimentation, testing and tasting, at the end of which this multi-purpose blend was created. It is truly one of our favorites, it can go on anything! One of our favorite uses is on plain bread, with some olive oil, or butter.
M: On your site you say "At Sparoza we don’t see the end product as an end but as a creative beginning. “ What do you mean by that? What if a person isn’t creative?!
We think of our products multi-dimensionally. They can be used for experimentation or for convenience, for a fast snack or a slow-cooked meal, a quick cup-of-tea or a mindful ritual. One thing they all have in common, however, is that due to our valuable ingredients and careful blending, they all awaken the senses. That awakening is something that will boost one’s spirit, and that’s what we call a beginning!
M: What advice would you give people making such a big career change? What is the biggest challenge in your new business?
So many pieces of advice come to mind. The most important of all, however, is that you have to believe in the very reasons you are doing it. Is it something that makes you and others happy? Is it something that inspires you? Keep in touch with the ‘why’, that is my main advice.
M: What future do you see for food and creativity in our rapidly evolving and increasingly digital global world?
We strongly believe in the role food has to play in our future world. Food is the most common daily contact with nature and our own bodies. In an increasingly digital world, food can be one of the ways we can reconnect to ourselves and the world around us. If we want to survive Global warming, we need to change the world’s food habits, and we believe that genuine food products with sustainable methods and natural ingredients are one of the building stones for this change.
M: Zēlos was inspired by “food as an act of love” - did you ever experience food like that?
As a Greek family, we often use food to express our love for one another. Sometimes food substitutes words, sometimes it complements them. In all cases it is successful in communicating the message of love. After we started Sparoza, however, this act has expanded into our daily routines. Making a food product, knowing that it will be used by so many different people, has transformed the care that goes into cooking into a unique type of expanded love, which is an experience we are enormously thankful for.
I think you can all see just why we thought Efi and Sparoza were such an ideal fit for Zēlos...she is truly a Zealous Artisan!
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