The Cypriot Young Professionals Host 3rd Leadership Dinner
by Katerina Athanasiou
The Cypriot Young Professionals (CYP) of the CYPRUS-U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted their 3rd Leadership Dinner with Bareburger co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, Jimmy Pelekanos.
The intimate, sold out evening took place at the KEO Room of the Cyprus Consulate in NYC and included a crowd of 20 CYP members and three Chamber Board members. Pelekanos shared his entrepreneurial story of Bareburgers’ beginning – an unlikely venture born between friends and family, at the start of the recession – and frank advice including, “Leave your ego at the door.” Today, Bareburger boasts over 30 locations, with restaurants opening everywhere from Santa Monica to Tokyo in the coming year.
Catered by CYP’s very own Elena Papageougiou’s family owned restaurant, Zenon Taverna, who has also been a long time supporter of the CYPRUS-U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the story of Pelekanos’ success was paralleled by the support of his wife, Chrystanthy, who joined the dinner to share stores about the business development and partnership. Newly elected Chamber Board Member, Architect and Founder of Method Design, Demetrios Comodromos said, “I think it said a lot that his wife came, and how integral she was to the narrative of Bareburger starting. She was so aware of all the details – clearly a life ‘partner’ and not just his wife.”
President Emeritus Stathis Theodoropoulos moderated the event. As an emerging entrepreneur who founded his own company, Firefly Lighting, just last year, he described the event as especially influential. “Being able to sit with Jimmy, have a meal together, hear his story and pick his brain about being a businessman is a tremendous opportunity that a lot of young professionals and entrepreneurs don’t have. Being an entrepreneur and starting a company isn’t easy, but listening to Jimmy reaffirmed the journey I am on and left me with lessons to apply to my own venture,” Theodoropoulos said.
Tatiana Raftis, fashion designer, CYP member, and key organizer of the event, asked if Pelekanos’ family experience of being Greek-Cypriot refugees after the 1974 Turkish invasion had any influence on him. Raftis stated, “When I asked him at the dinner if seeing his family lose everything gave him more of a drive to succeed he got teary eyed and shared the story of how he always remembers watching his grandfather sitting at the table and saying ‘Ta exasa ola’ [I lost everything].” Pelekanos mentioned that he reflects on his grandfather’s experience of having to start over again whenever faced with obstacles.
Mrs. Pelekanos shared that “[she and Jimmy] found the evening to be warm, inviting, and overall very informative. There’s a wonderful mix of talent among [CYP].” CYP is grateful to the Pelekanos family for sharing their stories, and hopes to facilitate many more meaningful gatherings in the future.
Nicolas Nicolaou, CYPRUS-US Chamber President and CFO of Mana Products, a Cypriot-run business, stated that this type of event is at the core of what the Chamber stand for, which is to provide professional development opportunities to its members. He congratulated the Cypriot Young Professionals for organizing such a successful event.
CYP’s Leadership Dinner series is one of the Chamber’s core initiatives. These events function as an opportunity to bring together leaders from the Greek/Cypriot American community and young professionals for an exchange of ideas and experiences. The perfect platform for aspiring entrepreneurs and established professionals. Leadership Dinners are among the events reserved for members of the CYPRUS-US Chamber of Commerce. To join CYP, visit cyprususchamber.com/.
Katerina Athanasiou is an analyst with the NYC Parks Department and the Vice President of the Cypriot Young Professionals (“CYP”) of the CYPRUS-U.S. Chamber of Commerce.