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One of the impacts of the economic crisis in Greece, a crisis more evident in the cities, has provoked the interest of many people towards the Agrifood business sector in the last years. Although initially promising, succeeding in such new activity proved more difficult than expected. Successful entrepreneurship has to rely on targeted consultation by experts in the field.
Yiouli Doxanaki is a business consultant, CEO of Lotus Business Consulting, as well as co-founder of the «Xorafaki» online platform for entrepreneurs wishing to get involved in the agricultural sector. In this brief interview, Doxanaki talks about her career, the Agrifood sector in Greece and Europe and the «Xorafaki» services.
You started your career as a marketing manager at the Greek National Opera, after you completed your master’s degree in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy. You are now a business consultant, emphasizing on the sector of agricultural development. What has been the driving force behind such a transition?
Yiouli Doxanaki: I have been working as a business consultant for many years, alongside other marketing of funding jobs, before I decided that agribusiness is the sector I enjoy more being occupied with.
Since I was a student, I have always wanted to combine business and culture. I believed that to be successfully involved in the cultural aspects of the society, you need to have successful businesses that promote culture.
Food and gastronomy are integral parts of culture. Especially in Greek culture, as in the culture of other Mediterranean countries, many important landmarks of our everyday lives happen or are celebrated around a table with food: birth, marriage, successes and failures, even death. Food can be soothing, comforting, celebratory, intriguing.
Hence for me, there is no such a great distinction between growing food and making art. They both are pretty messy and technical in the process but the end result can be beautiful.
How do you value the importance of entrepreneurship in the Agrifood sector for the Greek and European economy in general?
Y.D: I believe that entrepreneurship and leadership are very important in any sector. Agribusiness and especially the primary sector are only lately gaining attention and support, especially if we talk about the Small and Medium Enterprises which form the majority in Europe. I believe we need even more incentives to get people become involved in the sector, and give them tools to develop sustainable and viable businesses.
How can sustainability and innovation mold the growth needed for the Agrifood sector?
Y.D: Sustainability is the non-avoidable future of the sector. In order to be able to plan for the future, we need to work only with methods that can secure sustainability for the resources and environment, but also the viability of the business. The only way to achieve this, is by using modern technologies and innovative methods.
You are the co-founder of the «Xorafaki» platform, providing useful tips to people who wish to cultivate their land. How does «Xorafaki» work and what is the feedback from its users?
Y.D: Greek farmland that used to provide with the essentials, is an asset passed from one generation to the next. A major turn to agriculture today has led Greeks trying to cultivate their land for an extra income or as the basis for a full time new profession as farmers. But how people from the city, or with little experience in agriculture and the industry, will decide what to cultivate and how to grow and sell their crops?
If you own underexploited land and think of using it for an extra income, if you believe that agriculture may be your future business but you don’t know how to start, «Xorafaki» has the answers. «Xorafaki» is an online service created to guide you through the first steps of utilizing your plot of land, from cultivation to production, the placement and even standardization of your products.
You have to follow three simple steps: answer a questionnaire online, send a soil sample for analysis, and get your customized report from the platform’s experts. We give you the realistic return of your cropping, expenses and income, all customized to the specifications of your land and profile. We help you schedule your cultivation tasks, introduce you to other farmers in your area and to merchants willing to buy your first crop in a fair price to get you started. Sustainability and best cultivation practices are key issues.
In addition to that, we have recently added various services during and after cultivation. This helps the new entrepreneurs to have the support needed from agronomists and experts on technical matters, use online tools to better organize their farming tasks and expenses and enable them to make the next step in expanding their business to food processing and packaging.
What is your advice to young entrepreneurs who desire to make their own career in the agricultural field?
Y.D: To make a strong business plan, ask for advice and have patience.