While living in 2017, in a country that faces crisis, we often hear words like entrepreneurship, innovation and startups. Words which show us that even though we are in a very difficult situation financially, there are people out there who seek development and really get their hands dirty to make it happen. But, is entrepreneurship taught? Or is it something we become growing up by the environment we are brought up in?
Answers to such questions and many more will be given by a great woman with her speech. Her name is Maria Calafatis and she is one of the speakers of this year’s CONSCIOUSNET. Let’s get to know her better!
First things first, we would like you to tell us a few things about your life and career.
I am a mother of two young boys, Panos 12 and Georgie 10, they are without a doubt the best startup we ever made (laughs)! I am the Co-Founder of “The Cube Athens” – a startup cluster and innovation space in the heart of the city, hosting the best of Athens’ innovators in the technology and making space. I am also a local Organizer at Startup Weekend and Global facilitator, having facilitated over 30 events in the last 4 years. As you can see, I have my hands full and it’s a busy, crazy, chaotic, creative lifestyle but I am not complaining. I love and enjoy every bit of it.
You have co-founded Greece’s first co-working community, coLab Athens, with your partner Stavros Messinis. How did you make this decision and what challenges did you face?
Like most of us, we were affected and hit by the crisis. We were then both working at our own separate jobs and it was more like a “slap on the face-wake up” call. We then decided that we would invest everything we had and didn’t have, time, money and energy on setting up and starting the first co-working space in Athens, after pitching the idea at Athens second Startup Weekend. Our idea came out 11th, but we were the only team that actually turned this into a real business. The biggest challenge was dealing with the bureaucracy and getting it set up and off the ground, but we made it, we don’t give up easily.
This success was later on followed by The Cube. What made you take this next step?
Well, you either go big or go home! So, we decided to go big after running coLab for three years and understanding the needs and challenges that the local community was faced with. Of course, moving into a space as the current Cube, made of 9 floors and 1.700 square meters allowed us to become more creative as well as introduce more activity into the space and community, as it’s so big. It never gets dull or boring. We are always meeting new people, trying out new ideas and collaborating with interesting projects both locally and internationally.
In what ways do you help people with ideas that want to make them happen? What are the procedures?
We offer the environment, events, mentoring sessions, the mentality and international experience that will and can help anyone who is serious and dedicated enough to make it happen. They need to want it bad enough, though. An entrepreneur has to have that fire in their eyes that will just do everything and anything to succeed no matter what and how difficult it is.
It’s suppose to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it Great.
Entrepreneurs are doers, not quitters!
In your opinion, is it possible to talk about entrepreneurship while being in crisis? How relevant is it?
I don’t believe that Greece has that big of a problem. On the other hand, one of the biggest problems is that of the closed mentality, the fear of sharing and talking about ideas. I see that with my boys schooling. Informal education helps kids to be more creative and expressive. And hands on activities help them make mistakes but that is okay.
We need to learn how to fail in order to succeed.
Today’s generation is very educated and creative, but at the same time we see a lot of the local talent move abroad to study or seek employment. We need to provide a structure and environment to allow our kids to want to stay and not become the diaspora of Greece.
How do you feel about being one of the speakers of TEDxUniversityofMacedonia 2017?
It is my first TEDx talk and it’s a great privilege to be one of the speakers. I love talking in front of a crowd of young entrepreneurs and sharing my experience, knowledge, mistakes and success stories. I love helping the new generation, influence them and help them avoid making the same mistakes we did starting out and speed up the whole process.
So, your speech is going to be about entrepreneurship. What should we expect to hear from you?
I will be focusing on Education and Entrepreneurship at my talk. Are we born entrepreneurs or do we become one? I believe that it’s a combination of our growing up environment, family, schooling, how we are or have been engaged with similar activities that help us think outside the box.
I will talk about the importance of both and how they connect, as well as encourage young entrepreneurs to Try, to Fail and, of course, to Learn. It’s all in the process of succeeding!
More details will be presented at Piraeus Bank Conference Center on 11th of November!