I kicked off October and National Women's Small Business Month with an earlier guest blog post from my collaborator, Pauline, on her talk with Elli Nikolaou, of our Elli & Manos range. This month, Pauline also caught up with Sparoza founder & CEO Effie Ekmektzoglou, another one of the intrepid women Artisans we're proud to support here at Zelos.
I'd been intrigued by Effie Ekmektzoglou since first meeting her with Maria at a Greek Trade Fair, back in 2018. She was serving freshly brewed tea at her Sparoza stand, which was a welcome treat after hours of walking through a cold & damp convention center! The tea had an incredible flavor & aroma and the tins on display were strikingly beautiful. Yet it was also Effie's story as a woman entrepreneur that kept us standing there for quite some time and convinced us that we could help each other grow (you can read more about Effie's story in an earlier blog post here). It was pretty obvious that we'd found a kindred spirit and later that year the first Sparoza teas & spices arrived at our Cincinnati warehouse, just in time for the holidays!
Fast forward a few years and Effie and I caught up again, this time via Zoom, as I wanted to check in and see how the summer had gone for her. Clearly from the picture below, it was a good one! Summer vacation relaxation aside, this second pandemic summer brought its own set of challenges, but also exciting new opportunities.
The latest addition to the Sparoza family, the Greek Cuisine Classics, did really well for her (we can confirm that here in the States, too!), and Effie told me that she's been working on three more new arrivals, which I was glad to hear because I just love these stackable, fun packages. "We realized that we had an opportunity to give a more complete and contemporary picture of Greek family cooking, going beyond the current Greek Granny in the collection to also add Mom & Dad. We've also added a Cheesemonger to our collection of Farmer, Shepherd & Fisherman-inspired mixes."
I was also really happy to hear that the "we" in Effie's words also referred to Nikos & Xenia, the "daring design duo", as I like to call them, who have played such an important role in Sparoza's success. "We work very closely together and brainstormed on which new figures could best represent these latest additions to the world of Greek Cuisine Classics. I wanted a contemporary version of the Greek mom & dad, not the stereotypes, and briefed Nikos & Xenia accordingly....and I wasn't disappointed! I think our new packs really bring to life well the commitment we share with Zelos of food as an act of love.
This second pandemic year still had its challenges. Effie had to cut back on her retail business during the lockdown earlier this year, but as Greece reopened, so has her store in central Athens, ready to serve up her fragrant products to all those who visit. Thankfully, Sparoza's wholesale business continues to grow, as more and more specialty shops appreciate her handcrafted blends as much as we do here at Zelos. Effie continues to create and dream, planning to get back to international trade fairs as they begin again, and working to expand her online presence. Yet she's the first to say that Sparoza can often seem a "foolish act of love". "I really love this work despite its challenges and it's so rewarding to see people appreciate our authentically Greek products all over the world, from South Korea to Australia to all your zealous customers in the US".
For my part, I certainly appreciate this foolish act of love, for Effie's creativity & drive are an inspiration to all of us. We'll keep you posted as soon as her new babies arrive in the US!
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At Zelos Authentic Greek Artisan we want our customers to experience the true tastes and flavors of modern Greece and enjoy the same genuine flavors that we grew up with. We only choose organic or natural products, without a hint of preservatives, that are produced locally in Greece by small businesses. When you buy one of our Artisans' products, you support a very small business with big dreams, one that embodies contemporary Greek culinary excellence.
If you’re interested in purchasing larger quantities of our products, please visit our Wholesale Page.