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A self-proclaimed “daddy’s girl” storms the construction industry and dreams big: Baltimore’s Eleni Marketis
by Cindy Klimek
When you picture the owner of a contracting company, a petite, blonde, former Miss USA semi-finalist isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But Eleni Marketis, owner of Marketi Enterprises, is all that and more. The vivacious 33-year-old is also an entrepreneur, mentor, philanthropist, former child actor, sometime model, amateur golfer, summer camp counselor, and international jetsetter, when she gets a bit of free time. “I fit a lot within one day,” she says with a laugh. “It doesn’t stop.”
Marketis’s journey began in New Orleans as the second child and only daughter of Kathy and Constantinos Marketis. (She also has two older half-brothers from her father’s previous marriage.) But despite growing up in a mostly-male household, she wasn’t so much groomed to enter the similarly male dominated construction industry, but instilled with the confidence to follow her own path.
“[My father and brothers] have influenced me in a way of knowing I’m protected, which I think is a huge thing for any young girl growing and coming into adulthood. Fathers should instill that in their daughters that they have a protector. It can just add so much confidence to a young girl’s life,” she explains.
She adds that her gender, along with the fact that she’s single, can be an obstacle. “I can honestly say that at times it can get in the way of my tenacity, but I have learned after time and time again to block that out and focus on what it is I’m trying to achieve,” she says.
Marketis’s father was a well-known singer in Greece who moved to the States in the early 1970s. Though his passion was music, Constantinos would eventually open a contracting business with Marketis’ mother in order to focus on family life. He would move the family from New Orleans to Baltimore, MD, when Eleni was about eight and she resides there to this day.
A self-proclaimed “daddy’s girl,” she would end up following her father’s footsteps in both his entertainment and construction careers.
“My father, something he instilled in my mind and tells me even to this day is, loosely translated, ‘my daughter, you are a woman with big wings who needs to be able to fly’. His statement there is strong and has stayed with me. What he’s trying to tell me is, ‘you’re strong. You can be strong. You’ve got these wings; don’t allow anyone to clip them, to cut them, to restrain them, because that’s your life.’ That has been a big part of my mindset,” she says.
Growing up, Eleni was involved in many aspects of her parents’ construction business, from attending pre-bid meetings to visiting her father on the job site. “I was born and raised in the industry,” she says with a laugh.
However, she still admits, “I never thought I’d end up in this industry. I did not have a passion for it. I probably wouldn’t say that my passion is construction, but this company allows me to be able to do things that I never imaged before because it’s a platform to stand out, to become a stronger woman, and to be able to contribute back to the community and society.”
Between being exposed to various facets of the construction industry as a child, Marketis was enrolled in a school for the arts. “I thought my life’s passion at that young age was to be in the entertainment industry,” she explains. “I really loved the theater. I still do.”
A few years later, she would compete in the Miss USA pageant. She was a semi-finalist in 2002 and was voted Miss Photogenic in 2003 before aging out. At the same time she was attending Marymount Manhattan College in New York City where she did an about face and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business and Finance. She also began to focus on her next career path – real estate. “From a young age I had an entrepreneurial spirit. When I was 18 I invested in my first real estate property. I really thought that real estate investment was going to be where I wanted to be as a businesswoman,” Marketis says.
After investing in a couple of properties stateside, and despite her parents’ wishes, she ultimately decided to try to launch her real estate career in Greece. She would remain in Greece for almost three years. “It’s more difficult to do business in Greece,” she says. “In a sense, you have to be able to read the other person’s mind.” But she’s clearly still a proud Greek and visits the country as often as she can. “I think I’m very fortunate being Greek. I think it has contributed a lot to my business savviness. There’s good risk and there’s bad risk and there’s calculated risk. I like to take calculated risks. Although there have been times when it’s just a risk, but I believe. And I believe that that part is my culture, being Greek. That strength is because of being Greek. We think differently.”
She moved back to the States in 2006 determined as ever to make it in the business world. Less than a month after her return, Eleni “rushed down” to the Department of Assessments and Taxation and incorporated Marketi Enterprises. The company will celebrate its 8th anniversary on October 30th.
At its inception, Marketi Enterprises was made up of four employees – a project manager and “me, me, and me” Marketis says with a laugh. “It’s been tough, I can say that. It’s not easy. It’s a lot of work. I live and breathe this.” Today, there are still four employees, but only one of them is Eleni herself. She also employs up to 40 people in the field, depending on the work flow. The company’s primary focus is painting, though she would like to get into more general contracting work in the future.
Not long after launching Marketi Enterprises, Eleni landed one of her first major jobs – a three-year on-call painting contract with Baltimore County and Howard County, MD for city-owned buildings such as police stations and courthouses. The fledgling Marketi Enterprises was further boosted when she landed an extremely lucrative contract with Baltimore City Public Schools.
“That was the one that really gave me more energy and drive to continue,” Eleni says. “I was seeing the rewards of my efforts.” Her working relationship with the Baltimore City Public School system continues to this day, almost five years past that initial contract. “
She admits that she has a bit of a “rare approach” when it comes to which projects she chooses to go after or what companies she’ll work with. “My goal is not necessarily to go after the project,” she explains. “What’s important to me is to learn about the individuals who are involved with a particular project that’s being solicited. Establishing a connection, a relationship, learning about someone, establishing that trust. Overall, people want to do business with people they trust and like. That’s my way of doing it.”
Marketis’s day typically begins between 4:30 and 7:00 am. On weekends, she lets herself “sleep in” until 8:00. “Mornings are very special to me. I need my time in order to gather my thoughts, to get in some reading, something inspirational, something that’s going to set the tone for the day.” Another morning necessity? “I like to have my double Greek coffee. That’s also really important to me,” she says with a laugh.
From there, she checks her emails and then begins her day, whether it be staff meetings, job site visits, charity events, or anything and everything in between. She also has been known to send emails well after midnight and keeps a notepad next to her bed just in case inspiration strikes during the night. “People are like, ‘wow, when do you ever sleep?’” she laughs.
Further contributing to Marketis’s sleepless nights are her many philanthropic commitments. Three of the main causes she supports are the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Freedom Hills, a therapeutic horseback riding program. In each case, Eleni contributes both time and money, attending charity events and, in the case of the MDA, working at the organization’s annual summer camp in Leonardtown, MD.
When asked if she would still contribute as much if she weren’t a business owner, and thus a public figure in the community, Marketis says, “Oh absolutely. I think it’s in my nature. Bottom line, I believe that everyone seeks love. Love is so important. Without love and attention, which brings on good, pure feelings, I think that this world would be horrible for lack of a better term… I know that through being me and the sincerity and love and compassion that I have to offer I can touch lives. And there’s no money that can be attached to that.”
Eleni is clearly a big believer in giving back. On a less formal level than her charity commitments, she is a huge supporter of mentoring young women, particularly her eldest niece, who she will be naming Marketi Enterprises’ Director of Social Media as soon as she comes of legal working age.
“I have a great team of mentors in my life that I look up to, which I think is so important. That can advance anyone’s career 10 years forward, just having a good mentor,” Marketis says. “Someone once told me that, in any industry, there are the good and the bad people. They exist in this world. This person said to me, ‘find the good people, collect them, and keep them in your life.’ It’s a process, because that doesn’t happen in one week, one month, one year. It takes time…and that’s why I want to be able to contribute to younger women. I know how it felt when someone did it for me.”
Through the aid of her mentors and the indefatigable drive of Eleni herself, Marketi Enterprises continues to grow. Next up for the company is The Rotunda in Hampden, MD, a facility which combines 379 luxury apartments with over 100,000 square feet of retail space. Marketi Enterprises is the prime painting contractor for the job. Eleni has also been named one of the Top 100 Minority Business Entrepreneurs of 2014. She will attend the awards ceremony in Baltimore on October 23rd. And, on top of all of that, she is in the process of creating her own luxury paint product, though she won’t go into too many details since the idea isn’t protected yet.
“I have vision,” she says. “Big vision. And I know that dreaming big is not just a cliché. It’s not something we should take for granted or stereotypical. I always had faith and believed that if you believe and you dream there is a way. So, I’m thinking big.”