Kyprianos Bazenikas of Alumil USA: Living the Greek American Dream
When the new Great Recession struck in 2008, Wall Street and Main Street alike felt its devastating effects. In the United States, consumer spending and business investment crumbled, big and small businesses shut down their doors, and millions of jobs were cut. More than 5,000 miles away, Greece was contending with financial turmoil and civil unrest of its own — the lingering effects of which have confined the small country into its current state of crisis.
But in every tragedy, there is a possibility for triumph. Kyprianos Bazenikas (who goes by Kyp) realized this when, in 2008, he embarked on a new endeavor — launching the North American branch of a Greece-based aluminum extrusion firm called Alumil SA — while his homeland, Greece, and his adopted land, the United States, were riding the waves of economic havoc.
Though certainly not the most apt time to begin a new business, Bazenikas and his small team of two in Long Island City, Queens were determined to overcome the challenges they faced.
“During the crash of 2008, as we were just starting out, we decided to keep a low profile,” Bazenikas told NEO magazine. “Our priority was to work very hard, organize the company, and, most importantly, to hire the right people. We knew that when the work came around, we would need to be equipped to handle it. We also made the right moves by promoting ourselves to the architectural community and general contractors in New York City.”
Today, Alumil NA (North America) has 55 employees with an additional office in Minneapolis, and a manufacturing facility in Chester, NY. And, President Bazenikas and his thriving team are in the middle of a major project for one of the biggest companies in the world: Google.
Thanks to its top-notch engineers, Alumil NA was selected to replace all windows in Google’s building at 111 8th Avenue in New York City. The project marks a major feat for the firm, which had to compete with a sea of local and international producers of architectural systems to land the gig. Bazenikas credits winning the project to the company’s research and development (R&D) department, which was assigned to develop an innovative, state-of-the-art architectural hinged system, with a very low coefficient of thermal transmittance to meet the tide energy requirements specified by Google.
“The energy cost in Europe has been very high for a long time,” explained Bazenikas. “So Alumil SA with many investments in its R&D sector, developed a high-end energy-efficient system. We were able to implement this innovative design here in the US, giving us a one-up against our competitors. The quality and energy-efficiency we provide, in conjunction with the prices we offer, is what helps us to effectively compete in this industry.”
Alumil SA, the parent company of Alumil NA, was founded in the industrial area of Kilkis, Greece in 1988 by its present shareholders, the Milonas family.
Bazenikas said the parent company’s president and CEO, George Milonas, is “a visionary” and his “mentor,” as well as the primary reason the North American branch was able to persevere through the economic uncertainties of the recession. “He had faith in me and my work ethic and he was and he’s still there at every step of the way. For the opportunity to lead Alumil in the US and for his support in general I’m humbled and grateful.”
Alumil SA — which specializes primarily in architectural systems designed for every architectural application, including doors, windows, and facades (i.e. curtain walls) — is now present in 50 countries and five continents. It also owns 25 companies worldwide and is one of the top five largest manufacturers of architectural aluminum systems in Europe. Among many other notable awards, Alumil SA was recognized eight times as one of the top 500 fastest-growing, leading corporations that created the most employment positions in Europe by GrowthPlus’ Europe’s 500. It’s now ranked 25th on the European scale.
“George Milonas built the company from the ground up,” Bazenikas said. “He’s been actively involved in the company all these years, and he is the main reason Alumil has become what it is today.”
He also said that Alumil NA’s success is also the result of the collective efforts of his skilled team and a lot of hard work. “I have an excellent team of professionals. Each department has a head, and I pick the best of the best. We also promote local production, like the fabrication and assembly of aluminum windows and unitized walls. We demonstrate commitment to our clients by the people we invest in.”
Bazenikas has also received much support from the Greek American community.
He noted that some of his greatest allies in the Greek-American community during the inception and progression of his business, included President of Alumaline, Greg Samaras who helped him more than anybody else and introduced him to major players and provided him with invaluable industry knowledge, Michael Psaros, founder of UTOG and owner of the Four Points Hotel in Long Island City, Steve Valiotis, Alma Realty and Alma Bank founder and Elias Fillas co-founder of Sacco&Fillas LLP. This support came in handy especially because New York City, Bazenikas said, is a very demanding market, leaving no room for error.
He has become very well acquainted with city that never sleeps from the moment he first arrived from Greece almost 15 years ago on September 10, 2001, a day before the terrorist attacks that left the world in shock.
Bazenikas settled in College Point, Queens and went on to study at Baruch College, where he obtained his degree in Business Management.
After starting Alumil NA in 2008, it was some time before the company landed its first major project: 150 Charles Street in New York City. Eventually, the firm landed other big projects since then, including 160 Madison, Google, 15 Renwick, and a building in DUMBO, 60 Water Street, by the Brooklyn Bridge.
The recipe that’s catalyzed his success, Bazenikas said, is the support from a visionary owner, endless hours of hard work, a good team, and a supportive wife; He credits his wife, Adela, and his two children, Alexander and Anastasia, as the force that drives him.
What’s next for Alumil? Currently, it’s expanding to several new markets in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and Canada, where it’s already taken a major project in Vancouver and looking at another project in Toronto. He hopes that in 10 years the company will expand fervently throughout the US and Canada. In Greece, the company is public, but Alumil NA is not — which could change in the future.
And despite the current financial turmoil in Greece, Alumil SA has continued to fare well. “All companies in Greece have been affected by what’s going on, but we’re international, so most operations (95%) happen outside of Greece,” Bazenikas assured. “The company is especially doing well in United Arab Emirates, North Africa, Central Europe, India and other places.”
Alumil SA boasts five core values: integrity, team spirit, initiative, loyalty, and meraki. According to the company, “Meraki is word that modern Greeks often use to describe doing something with soul, creativity, or passion — when you put ‘something of yourself’’ into what you are doing.”
Bazenikas has proven that these values drive success, and has his own formula for getting ahead in business, and in life: “Work very hard, take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, and always deliver what you promise,” he said.