EBRD, EU and Greece help local small business Kontorousis grow
Combining traditional techniques with modern technology is always difficult, but success yields great results. Three brothers, Lefteris, Antonis and Chris Kontorousis, are trying to stay loyal to Greece’s traditions while tapping into new markets and exploring new methods of advertising and making modern designs.
Their printing company, Kontorousis, is one of Greece’s finest. Their father, George Kontorousis, opened a small printing shop in the centre of Athens in 1960, and from 1994, Lefteris, Antonis and Chris gradually took over their father’s business. Today – 60 years later – the company continues to grow while maintaining its family-owned character. The printing house has also moved to new premises.
In 2006, they also opened Hartovasileion, which in Greek means “Paper Kingdom”. Their objective is to promote Greek design through the creation of everyday objects by combining high-standard aesthetics with top-quality local production. Their up-to-date technological systems and talented team of eight people offer high quality printing services, applying new ideas and original techniques.
The company provides integrated pre- and post-press services with “Computer to Play” (CTP) technology, digital imposition and proofing, offset lithography and letterpress printing, specialised die-cutting applications, bookbinding, finishing processes and combined-material publication production.
"There is a lot of competition in the printing sector in Greece. But in our own sector, which is somewhat more niche, there are only a few of us,” says Lefteris.
Their clientele includes leading Greek companies, such as well-known hotels, shipping companies, cosmetics firms and others, for whom they make catalogues, menus, business cards and other advertising material. But they don’t just make catalogues or menus: they make art.
“We make small productions, but special ones. This is our competitive advantage," says Lefteris.
However, that alone was not enough, and this is why the three brothers decided to ask for the EBRD’s support.
The Bank’s advisory programme in Greece is funded by the European Union (EU) through the European Investment Advisory Hub of the EIB, and the government of Greece. Supporting Greek small businesses is a key priority for both the EU and the Greek government, especially given that the financial crisis hit small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) hard:
“The economic crisis in Greece has affected us a lot. There were two factors: one was the crisis itself, with the high taxation and the psychological effects, and the second and more essential factor was that of advertising. Companies stopped advertising or chose other methods, such as web advertising instead of printing. Consumption also declined."
Apart from the new e-shop, which only started in November 2019 but has already contributed to improving the company’s sales performance with new online orders, the consultant helped the Kontorousis family improve their three existing websites – Kontorousis Graphic Arts, Kontorousis 1961 and Hartovasileion – and better connect them to each other:
"It was a great job – very professional – and we received very good feedback from clients who used the e-shop."
To promote the new e-shop and increase their revenues, they also started working with a communications agency and launched a social media campaign centred around “Meet the Greeks.”
“Meet the Greeks” are paper models that cheerfully depict classic Greek figures, such as the Olympian Greek Gods. They can be easily assembled, without glue, from pre-cut designs printed on two A4 sheets. ⠀
The Kontorousis companies are also green. “The paper we use is all recycled. And I always remember to send our own paper for recycling," says Lefteris.
The Kontorousis’ good work has been recognised with a number of important distinctions on both national and international levels, including the Ermis Awards, EVGE - Greek Awards of Graphic Design & Illustration, Red Dot Design Awards and EDA.
The EBRD has supported around 60 SMEs in Greece so far. The advisory programme is designed to help businesses gain know-how and improve their performance and competitiveness.