VentureGarden Thessaloniki: The great opportunity to make your idea a business

On the occasion of the launch of the new VentureGarden program Thessaloniki, we spoke with George Kokkas, head of the program and director of the Entrepreneurship Hub at the American College of Thessaloniki. Can you tell us a few things about the VentureGarden Thessaloniki program? When did it start, where has it arrived today and what does it offer?

G. Kokkas: VentureGarden is a complete program that supports new business ventures. It is addressed to people with vision and dedication, who aspire to integrate into the business ecosystem by creating their own business or developing the existing one. Through the program, participants have the opportunity to receive practical training, develop their skills, and participate in a dynamic and constantly developing business network.

With our moto “Helping People Grow Ideas” we accept applications regardless of age, gender, origin and background, as we focus more on the person than the idea. Participation in the program is free of charge.

VentureGarden begins with a targeted training period, which brings participants together with the key components of business activity. The training includes 10 courses that take place in the afternoon.

After the completion of the courses, it is time to implement what was taught with the help of specialized mentors. The participants work practically with specific goals on the implementation of their plan. Mentors guide participants to avoid the mistakes they would make due to inexperience that could even lead to the closure of the business.

VentureGarden started operating in February 2014. Since then, two cycles take place every year, every spring and autumn.

For Northern Greece it is implemented by the Entrepreneurship Center of the American College of Thessaloniki, a member of Anatolia Group. How is the program included in the wider ecosystem of Thessaloniki and what are the opportunities for the participants?

G. Kokkas: VentureGarden is the oldest program that supports new innovative projects as it has been conducted continuously since 2014, twice every year (Autumn and Spring).

It is an integral part of the wider ecosystem of new businesses and startups in Thessaloniki as participants of older cycles of the program have been selected by incubators of businesses to develop their idea and have received funding from NSRF programs, business competitions, and investors to implement it. Many of them are now successful entrepreneurs thanks to the support they received from the program.

VentureGarden’s trainers and mentors are distinguished entrepreneurs and business executives from Thessaloniki. Several times, old VentureGarden graduates return as mentors to guide new generations of budding entrepreneurs.

Applications for the new VentureGarden cycle of Thessaloniki will remain open until October 10, 2021 Can you tell us some information about the groups you have supported so far?

G. Kokkas: Since the beginning of the program in February 2014, 1,501 applications have been submitted to Thessaloniki, of which 488 were selected to attend the 14 previous cycles.

From the statistics of the program we have noticed that in VentureGarden the participation of men – women is 50-50. In fact, in the first cycles of the program the majority were men, while in the last ones the opposite happens. It seems that lately women have a greater inclination to entrepreneurship.

The average age of the participants is 35 years.

VentureGarden is open to all business activities.It supports all sectors of modern business that are often found in Northern Greece such as tourism, catering, manufacturing, internet and new technologies, agrofood, and trade.

Almost one in three participants is setting up a business based on the idea he brought to VentureGarden within a year.

Stories from entrepreneurs who put their idea into practice 

THE GREEK DESIGNERS was created in 2016 by Filiana Stefanakaki, architect and Dimitra Stefanakaki, landscape architect. It is the first online platform through which products of   contemporary greek design, inspired by greek history and culture, are promoted worldwide. Today the platform hosts 40+ designers, and 300+ selected products.


“Venture Garden was the reason for the inspiration and creation of the idea of the platform THEGREEKDESIGNERS.COM. Through our meetings we were given the opportunity to compose all the pieces in various areas of entrepreneurship, to provide opportunities for the development of the idea”, Filiana told us.

Rhoeco, founded by Harris Kazas, Vaya Mitsiou and Katerina Chatziagelaki, is a company that processes organic herbs that collects the harvest of the year from small, organic farmers all over Greece.

“Through VentureGarden we had the opportunity to meet renowned business professionals who shared their experiences with us and gave us valuable advice.As an existing business, we have redefined certain practices and with the guidance of our mentor, we will be able to implement strategies that will help grow our company. We shared our common thoughts and anxieties with the rest of the people in the group and we feel we have joined a big family,” Harris said.

Melina Athanasiou worked as a chemist in one of the largest cosmetic industries in Athens and decided to create her own line. Her goal was to develop a quality and safe skin care line, using herbal ingredients that are gentle for all skin types, even the most sensitive ones. This is how Wholly Natural Skincare was created through the 8th cycle of VentureGarden.

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