We recently completed this Bamboo Vegan interview and want to share it with our readers. As of this moment Bamboo Vegan is Greece’s only exclusively vegan shop and bakery. They are located in Athens and we love shopping there! Whenever we go there we are greeted with Fotis and Elisavet’s down to earth personalities, warm smiles and genuine conversation. These people are beyond awesome so whether you live in Greece or are planning to visit you should stop by and say hi! We wanted to interview them for our blog to share their story and give you a glimpse of the incredible people they are.
Q: Hello Fotis and Elissavet! To get started, tell us a bit about yourselves.
A: Hi, we are Fotis and Elisavet, the two people behind Bamboo Vegan. Recently a third person joined us, Vasilis, who helps us out. About 3 years ago we decided to open a store that focuses exclusively on the vegan lifestyle. We are vegans ourselves and realized there was not even one store for vegans in Greece. It seemed like a good idea to make something new and interesting based on our lifestyle which is something we love and believe in very much.
Beyond the store, we both occupy ourselves with different things. We enjoy movies, music, reading and other things. As much as time allows us to anyway because the store has become a big part of our life; we devote a lot of our time to it. The truth is, our job at Bamboo Vegan combines a lot of interesting things that don’t make it feel like a “job” so much as being involved with what we love. We love getting to know new and older vegans and getting in touch with a lot of people, which makes our job much more pleasant!
Q: When did you become vegans and why?
A: We have been vegans for 4 (Fotis) and 5 (Elisavet) years. Before that we were both vegetarians for about 10 years (Elisavet a bit longer). The reason we became vegans was and remains purely ethical; we couldn’t accept the fact we were eating an animal whose life we respected. We couldn’t consume animal products either which, even if it doesn’t show at first glance, are products of violence. In modern society there is an affluence of food so there is no matter of survival-ism. There is no reason to eat animals if we say we love them. After all, the vegan way of life is good for us, since we all know the dangers that come with eating meat and dairy products. Basically, a balanced vegan diet is good as it favors both our bodies and the planet. To summarize, there are many reasons that make us happy to be vegans such as saving the lives of innocent creatures, being healthy, feeling better in our conscience and doing even a little good ecologically speaking.
Q: What were the reactions from your family and friends towards your decisions to go vegan?
A: At first the reaction from our families was rather calm and relaxed, because they believed that it was something that wouldn’t stay very long. As we became more and more conscious of our choice, stronger reactions came with it. Our parents respected our choice, but also had some of the most common arguments and fears against veganism. For example, they believe eating meat is part of the food chain; that we need meat for health reasons, etc. Of course, after 10 years of abstinence from eating meat our families and our social surroundings have eventually accepted that veganism is a viable and healthy way of living life. It probably helps that we communicate our beliefs in a non-aggressive way and even if we completely disagree with eating meat, we try to put ourselves in their shoes so we can avoid becoming pushy or give veganism a negative reputation. Generally doing something with commitment and responsibility over the course of many years is the best way to make others believe and become positive towards what you do.
Truth is, every vegan person in any society gets some kind of pressure from their environment and that is something we need to accept and learn how to handle responsibly (especially us here in Greece). All of us are part of the first big wave of veganism in our country so it is only natural that we have to defend our beliefs; they go completely against the traditional mindset and the general culture of the people here.
Q: After becoming vegans, how did you end up opening the first and only (to this day) exclusively vegan mini market in Greece? What were your thoughts, goals and fears concerning this step?
A: As a starting point, we both wanted to create something of our own, a place where we would be able to function according to our beliefs and principles. Also, we didn’t want to open just any store, but find a career that would help make this world better, or at least not worse than it already is. Veganism is a huge part of our lives, so it made sense to move in this direction.
Our goals change every day since plans keep changing. We started from zero with a goal to survive, especially since we opened with a small budget during the economical crisis. Here we are 3 years later, our current goal is to continue growing without losing our orientation. We want to maintain the simplicity and foundation we started with while contributing to the promotion of veganism in a positive way with integrity. Fear is present in everyday challenges as well as in the uncertainty of the future shared by everyone, but the point is not to lose our enthusiasm within the adversity. As the market changes, we must be ready to change ourselves in order to respond to the needs of our customers.
Q: What were the difficulties you experienced as young entrepreneurs in the Greek economical crisis, especially in the area of operating a vegan mini-market?
A: As we mentioned before, we opened the store during the crisis. In 2012 the climate of fear was peaking, but we found a way to make it happen. Most people were telling us we were doing something too risky and we wouldn’t last very long. This experience taught us to believe in what we were doing and to progress. We definitely faced a negative economical climate that continues today, but, our opinion is if you build something with honesty and respect for your customers eventually you can succeed. The past is full of examples where passionate people succeeded in more negative climates than the one we live in today. Besides, our goal is not to make money but to live within our means doing what we love. Operating a vegan mini-market comes with particularities, we just have to keep learning them through our experience by making the appropriate adjustments to the products we bring.
Q: Since then, how has veganism evolved and spread throughout Greece through your eyes?
A: Veganism has evolved very much during these past 3 years. We observe a continuous influx of new people to veganism. Also, we see a stability of choice in them, meaning they don’t do it as a fad but because they truly believe in it. So, a big community is slowly being created around veganism, which is something very important. The many blogs and Facebook groups show the people’s interest in the movement. Actions like your blog are helping spread the message in a positive and fun way. The internet is very important for spreading veganism, but also includes a lot of misinformation which creates division among groups of vegans. I imagine this is a sign of the times we are living in though!
Q: What is your favorite product you currently have in the store?
A: As vegans ourselves, it is difficult to choose just one! We have so many great products here! The vegan energy bars are one of the products we really like, that’s why we bring so many of them. They are a nice breakfast or ideal snack for anytime of the day. Some sweets and candy bars are our weak spots as well. We recently brought vegan white chocolate and chocolate bar with Oreo type cookies inside as well; they both became hits! The various vegan meat alternatives (e.g patties, sausages, schnitzel, etc) or the vegan cheese alternatives are some of our best selling products and definitely within our personal favorites. We try to change it up to help keep us and our customers from getting bored. Also, the one thing we always love is our sandwiches. Honestly, we wouldn’t be able to count how many we have eaten to this day, but believe us, it has been a lot! The last few months we have received special compliments for our vegan cheese pie and we can see why!
Q: What are your thoughts and wishes for the future?
A: It might sound cliché, but as much as we like making plans, we keep our feet on the ground. We want to enjoy today by making rational plans for tomorrow. We try to maintain a simple approach to this whole thing. Sure, we want to achieve goals like expanding and bringing as many good products as possible. The future looks bright for veganism in Greece. We hope we can continue being a part of it for many more years!
Thank you very much for the interview and congratulations for what you are doing! We imagine a lot of your readers haven’t met you up close. They don’t see your good intentions or your smiles, so we would like to take the opportunity to tell them!
Thank you to Fotis and Elisavet for taking time out of their busy schedules to do this interview. We wish them the best in the future and we look forward to seeing them soon!