Enterprise Europe Network

Plugging into new connections

Posted: 01 Feb 2015

Olympia Electronics, founded in 1979 by two Greek entrepreneurs, has grown into one of the country's most successful makers of emergency lighting and fire alarm systems.

Based in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, the 130-employee firm - which also makes gas detection systems, burglar alarm systems, electric signs and thermostats - exports to more than 70 countries in the Nordic region, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

But breaking into the United States, the world's largest and most competitive market, posed a huge challenge for the company without any contacts on the ground.

For guidance it went to the Enterprise Europe Network, whose 3,000 experts in more than 50 countries help entrepreneurs tap into new markets. Along with 15 other companies from seven other sectors, Olympia signed up for a June 2008 trade mission to New York.

"There is no substitute for face-to-face contact in business," says Vanessa Vlotides, international affairs director for Network partner, the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece. "This is something the Network proactively promotes, drawing on our wealth of resources and contacts."

The Federation planned the mission with help from the New York-based European American Business Organization, also part of the Enterprise Europe Network.

To make the mission a success, Vlotides helped prepare a company profile of Olympia and flagged the most promising business partners, with whom it arranged meetings. One rendezvous led to an agreement under which the firms are now selling each other's products in their respective markets.

"The Network opened the door to the world's largest market, which we never could have entered alone," says Dimitrios Lakasas, Olympia's marketing manager.

The SME continues to rely on the Network for regular alerts on upcoming business matchmaking events particularly in non-EU countries such as Tunisia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, promising business partners added to the Network's database, and awareness-raising events related to environmental regulation and EU certification.