Hello Art, thank you so much for hosting this meeting! Can you please share the history of Artina and how it started?
Artina was started by my father, Chris Bouzounis in 1967. He first came to the United States in 1966, only a year earlier. He came to give away his sister that was getting married. My father did not speak any English when he came to the US! He soon met my mother Sue, who was born and raised here in the States to Greek parents, who came from the same area my dad did in Greece, Lakonia. They married pretty quickly after they met, as they did back in those days, and during his first year in this country he started Olympic Press, which was the first name of the company.
Artina was created during a time that the stereotype entrepreneurship for Greeks business owners was to open restaurants or get into real estate. How did your father get into promotional products?
My dad had experience in printing after his military years in Greece, working for a printing shop. When he came to the States he worked a little bit alongside some of the Greeks here and his brother in law in the restaurant business. He soon realized that it was not for him and so he started his own business. Carrying over his experience in printing he started Olympic Press which evolved into Olympic Incentive Ideas.
At that time, he was printing calendars, letterheads, business cards. He then started to learn about promotional products, which were then called advertising specialties. He quickly observed in the businesses that he visited as a printer the mugs sitting on their desks or the hats the employees were wearing, and he thought that adding those products to his printing company would be a good addition or transition to get into the advertising specialties. That’s how Olympic Press evolved into Olympic Incentive Ideas. It was not just a printing company anymore; it was all kinds of promotional, advertising, marketing products.
What a determination and accomplishment for an immigrant not speaking English to start his own business!
Definitely his experience at the printing shop in Athens geared him in that direction. Actually, he was the co-owner of the printing shop and when he moved here, he sold his half. I guess his strong personality and his attitude that “if I work hard and I do a good job and come through for my clients” led him to the decision to start and build a business.
How about the name Artina? How did it come about?
The company was named Olympic Incentive Ideas until about 1995 when we received a letter from the US Olympic Committee that basically said you need to cease and desist the use of the name Olympic. I remember I was just out of college back then and at the begging we did not think too much of it, but we received more and more letters. Basically, we had to make a decision at that point. Is this something we want to fight, especially going up against the US Olympic Committee? We were a small business and at the time fighting would be an expense and a huge hassle for us! So, although deep down in our hearts the word Olympic means so much for us Greeks, we decided to make a twist to it, embrace it and change our name. The name Artina came from my name Artemis and my sister’s name Matina. Our mom came up with that name and at the beginning we laughed but here we are! So, the name changed to Artina Promotional Products in 1996 and we have had that name ever since.
How do you see the future of Artina?
We made it to the second generation! Matina and I are now full owners and run the business. Family businesses have decreased odds to succeed every generation that comes in. We would love of course to keep going. Matina has two boys and I have two girls. Hopefully, in the future one of them or more than one of them will want to be involved in the business. We would love to make it to the next generation. But also, what we want is to keep growing and never forget our roots. Where we came from. We always keep that in the back of our mind as we grow and change.
Artina is a family owned and operated business. Are there challenges in running a business with family members?
I grew up in the business and I appreciate it, but I can understand the challenges also. I can also understand if a family member in another business does not want to be a part of the business. The dynamics have to work and there has to be respect and understanding across the board. With family business, business is your life. You may be discussing business on the weekends or the holidays or every time you sit down for dinner. Or during a business discussion, you discuss something personal. For me personally, my personal life and busine life are meshed. I’ve known it my whole life and I don’t think a too much about it.
Does your Greek upbringing affect the way you run your company and if so in what way?
Absolutely. The beauty of is that we don’t want to forget how we started, our roots and our foundation. We are pretty progressive minded in terms that we want to adapt and change but our core values remain the same.
Artina is a female populated business. Is this something that happened along the way or by choice?
The story of my life! I have been around strong women all my life. Well, no it is not on purpose. We just had more success with women employees. We are not looking to hire women. We are looking for the best candidate regardless of who they are for whatever position we have. There is not intent one way or another. We have a great team and that is all that matters!
Artina is heavily involved in the Greek community by supporting Greek events, artists, young athletes to name a few. How important is to you to keep the Greek community united and strong and why?
We have always been involved in the Greek community here in Columbus, OH, the church and the Greek organizations locally and nationally. My dad always loves to support and help other Greeks with any given opportunity. Our mom was the same way and Matina and I definitely follow the steps of our parents.
Tell us a few things about the Choose Kind Foundation.
The Choose Kind Foundation was inspired by our late mom, Sue. She was born here in the States and her parents were from Greece. She had the kindest heart and she always wanted to help others and especially those in need. Through the Choose Kind Foundation we have found opportunities to be involved and help those less fortunate. Choose Kind Foundations started about three years ago and hopefully going forward we continue to grow it and do good things. We are working to expand our reach as far as people finding out about us and learning about us and wanting to help us raise funds is concerned. And at the same time, we are working on identifying the right organizations or groups that we can help. So far, we have been able to help about 7-8 groups.
What part of Greece does your family come from? Have you visited?
My family comes from Lakonia in Greece, from a village called Molaoi. We usually go every two years and when we go we stay for a month. We always go the chorio, also spend a few days in Athens and then we go somewhere new. My wife is also Greek and her mother comes from the same village as my mom did, Krokees in Lakonia.
What is one of your fondest memories from your visits to Greece.
The first time I went to Greece I was fourteen years old. It was in 1985. It was the first time for my dad visit home as well since he came to the US in 1966. It took him almost twenty years until he went back for the first time. So, my fondest memory is the first time that we visited, and we stayed for the hole summer. I went with my mom and my sister, and my dad joined us for three weeks. Being there for the first time and meeting all my cousins, being at the chorio and going to the beach, I just fell in love with this. I have been fortunate enough to go every few years and enjoy it.Artina Promotional Products