ASTORIA – Based on the concept of Fashion is Art, The Elysians debuted its first-ever creative pop-up event featuring nine Greek designers and four Greek women artists last December at the Greek-owned COCO-MAT store in Soho. Elysians co-founders Vicki Vasilopoulos and Athina Vosinaki had high hopes for the TheElysians.com, their new online gateway to the U.S. market for exclusive, hand-made, artisanal fashion, jewelry, and accessories from rising Greek designers. These designers preserve their Hellenic culture by reviving traditional techniques– like weaving and embroidery- in a contemporary, sophisticated style that appeals to American consumers. Starting with conceptual pop-up showcase events, TheElysians.com would evolve into a curated e-commerce site and international promotional platform for Hellenic creative individuals. It would be a modern Hellenic experience without having to travel to Greece!
The opening night party was co-sponsored by the Consulate General of Greece in New York, the law firm Pardalis & Nohavicka, and the Greek America Foundation. The event, covered by The National Herald, The Pappas Post, and New Greek TV, attracted 200 guests who enjoyed mezedes from Chef Maria Loi and Kellari Taverna. Customers said that “their beautiful artisanal items were a rare find. Greece at its finest, brought to our doorsteps here in the U.S.”
Coco-Mat sales manager in New York Zographos Zografou, center, with The Elysians founders, Athina Vosinaki, left, and Vicki Vasilopoulos, right. (Photo Courtesy of The Elysians)
After the COVID-19 shutdown, however, this Greek-American startup had to cancel its spring pop-up events in Boston and Chicago. Absent any possibility to hold pop-up events, Vasilopoulos and Vosinaki knew they would have to convert their website to an e-commerce site in order to sell their designer inventory, but building an e-commerce site was price prohibitive for the small business.
Vasilopoulos applied, unsuccessfully, for multiple small business grants in an effort to access working capital. The Elysians also did not have the opportunity to generate enough sales revenue or establish a track record to qualify for a traditional bank loan. They were even turned down for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan that was offered through the CARES Act and the Small Business Administration to blunt the impact of an economic downturn set in motion by the global pandemic.
Thus, they decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign titled Greek Design and Inspiration on IFundWomen, a platform created to support women entrepreneurs. They set a modest goal of $10,000 and appealed first to friends and family. The campaign is now open to the public – and they hope to reach their goal before the end of June.
Vasilopoulos was a recent finalist in the annual StartUP! Business Competition organized by the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC). She is now one of 30 women in NewVenture 50+, an immersive entrepreneurship program for women offered by women.nyc and FastTrac, a program housed under the NYC Department of Small Business Services.
The Women’s 50+ FastTrac program is facilitated by Geri Stengel, a contributor for ForbesWomen and president of Ventureneer, which specializes in defining and eliminating problems that hold back underrepresented entrepreneurs, especially minorities and women. Ventureneer also researches the State of Women-Owned Businesses report for American Express.
In a report on Crunchbase News, Christine Tsai, CEO and founding partner of 500 Startups, wrote that “Unfortunately, the economic fallout of COVID-19 will disproportionately affect women. For female-owned businesses, it will most likely be a struggle to access capital at a time when small businesses need more runway. Already, female entrepreneurs get roughly one-third less in small business loans than male entrepreneurs, so it’s no stretch to assume these numbers will not magically improve during an economic crisis.”
The Director of the Office of Economic and Commercial Affairs at the Consulate General of Greece in New York Georgios Michailidis, center, with The Elysians founders Vicki Vasilopoulos, left, and Athina Vosinaki, right. (Photo: Courtesy of The Elysians)
According to Visa’s State of Female Entrepreneurship study, 61% of female small business owners self-fund their own startup, often out of necessity, because it was difficult to obtain the funding they needed for their companies. Only 25% of female entrepreneurs received any type of funding from investors.
About The Elysians
Elysians co-founders Athina Vosinaki and Vicki Vasilopoulos are both filmmakers and fellow creatives who want to foster an increased demand for Hellenic design products, and in doing so, bring forth a fresh new image and vision. They are passionate supporters of “Slow Fashion,” and are committed to seeking exceptional, inspired, handmade designs in pure and sustainable materials. Vosinaki is a TV producer based in Athens, Greece, while Vasilopoulos, a former fashion editor, is based in Astoria, New York. Vasilopoulos says, “When we started meeting with these creators, we absorbed their optimism, positive vibes and joy it enhanced our belief that all that passion and creativity needs a path for expression and connection with like-minded souls — even in the midst of an economic crisis!”
Vosinaki adds, “For us, the ultimate style is knowing that the hands which made these pieces of art are joyful hands, and that’s why we will continually feature the stories behind the labels!”
More information about The Elysians is available online: www.TheElysians.com.
To learn more about the crowdfunding campaign, visit: https://ifundwomen.com/projects/greek-design-and-inspiration