Maria Mavroudi’s journey started from the Aegean island of Astypalea, continued in Athens, London, New York, and Piraeus, and returned her to her homeland, Astypalea.
In New York, at the famous American P&I Club, as Business Development Manager, she was looking to raise the Club's brand name in the market and develop underwriting opportunities, and she was the youngest Marine manager at Marsh LLC, Greece. An active member of WISTA (Women in Shipping & Trading Association), she also serves as an Ambassador for City University and Cass Business School in Greece. Her brother is four years younger than she is.
The National Herald:Tell us about your background.
Maria Mavroudi: If you come from an island, the sea is in your blood and a career in shipping was a natural step. I always had a particular interest in the marine insurance business and have been involved in shipping for about 15 years now.
New challenges inspire me. I love my country, and when there was the risk of the shipping community leaving Greece, I decided to work on a plan B that would give me the option to stay if things went the wrong way. That's how Kallichoron Art Boutique Hotel was born, a niche boutique hotel on Astypalea island that, my place of origin.
TNH: What else inspired you to start this business?
MM: My family has been involved in the hotel business for years, so this was my starting point when I set up Kallichoron Art Boutique Hotel –despite the formidable economic situationat the time. I am fascinated by entrepreneurship. It was not an easy task, but when I first visited the property and saw the breathtaking view, there and then I decided to go for it.
TNH: How was it in the beginning?
MM: When you first start a business, you have a vision that you want to turn into a reality. It is quite different being in charge of and responsible for everything; the success, the failure, every single expense, no matter if things go right or wrong.
TNH: What differentiates you from others in your field?
MM: When we decided to set up a hotel business on Astypalea Island, we decided to invest in a lesser-known destination with authentic beauty that we believe is worth visiting. We had to overcome several obstacles that could affect our profitability, the main one being the short season, just 25 days. This factor alone could make the whole project unsustainable.
To be successful, we had to work on the destination. Our vision was to create a robust, eco-conscious, and socially responsible brand that offers personalized and innovative services to travelers.
This model proved to be successful as we managed to expand the season to over 90 days and receive the Best Greek Hotel Breakfast Award for our personalized breakfast service Grandma's Breakfast curated by a dietician-nutritionist.
We are the only Green Key eco-labeled and bike-friendly certified hotel on Astypalea Island.
TNH: Did you ever think of giving up? Did the endeavor require personal sacrifices?
MM: I feel at times that there are a lot of things I've given up to establish Kallichoron. What appears as easy has a lot of work behind it, so being an entrepreneur isn't a joyride. It is hard and painful, from time to time. That makes the sweet times even sweeter.
TNH: What advice would you give your younger self?
MM: Forget about the past. It is gone; you can't change it. Evaluate past mistakes and learn the lessons, trusting your intuition. Be curious and patient. Do your best in each moment, with each decision, right now, and forget the rest!
TNH: Are you optimistic concerning Greece's future? MM: The Greek economy shows, indeed, promising signs of growth, which is positive. The current Government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis is moving fast towards key reforms and is willing to make bold decisions to create an appealing investment environment in Greece. Also, it is the first time we are addressing the issue of the digital transformation of our economy, which is vital.
But this alone is not enough. Investments require the backing of the banking sector and stable financial and tax environment with minimum bureaucracy. It is difficult to make serious investment decisions if certainty and a favorable business environment don't exist.
The brain drain is harming Greece's economic prospects in the short term. We cannot ignore the fact that about 350,000 qualified Greeks, mostly in their 20s and 30s, have immigrated since 2010.
Of course, we cannot oversee the fact that the crisis also offers opportunities. Greece's tourism sector managed to survive the crisis, and Greek shipping is the only example of success during those years.
TNH: What is the most potent motivator, money, or glory?
MM: My main drive is the love for what I do. Money is a way to satisfy basic needs; hence, it's not a goal in and of itself. Fame, on the other hand, amounts to receiving acclaim for what one has accomplished. The important thing to me is happiness in my life.
TNH: Success in life is complicated. Along the way to your accomplishments, what were some of the costs of success, and the benefits of the inevitable failures?
MM: We prefer to avoid and even fear failure, but there is value even in defeat. The truth is that everyone makes mistakes at times. The benefit of failure is learning from it.
You achieve expertise through trial and error, which goes to prove that making mistakes is part of a legitimate learning curve. Business success takes strategy. It also takes heart and leadership. Failure should be our teacher, as it makes us strive to work harder and smarter.
TNH: Aside from your own business in tourism, you are also active in shipping – tell us about that.
MM: I am in shipping since my bachelor studies until today, working as a marine insurance broker with Triple-A Marine Risks Ltd., a dynamic team of advisers to the maritime industry on marine risk and insurance issues. We provide solutions to shipping companies through competitive brokerage, risk management services, claims advocacy, and consultancy.
TNH: What is your life's motto?
MM: Those who don't believe in magic will never find it! ‘Impossible’ is an option!
TNH: What is your business motto?
MM: “It's supposed to be hard.” If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Fortune favors the bold.
TNH: Is it still a male-oriented society?
MM: Despite the global dialogue and the efforts on gender parity, we still live and work in a male-dominated world. According to McKinsey's Women Matter report, women represent more than 50 percent of the population worldwide, but contribute only to 37 percent of the global GDP, and represent only 39 percent of the worldwide labor force.
Talking about my peers, millennial women are the most educated group of women in history and a valuable resource for the future of the world.
Perception is everything, and that's the biggest obstacle we need as women to overcome, to achieve gender, and pay equality. Moving the needle on this issue will not be an easy task, but we must be the difference we want to see, and to lead by example. We must walk the talk!