Kosta Dionisopoulos and Christos Marafatsos, long-time best friends, started Delta Produce — a food distribution company — in their basement, and the business was awarded third place in Bloomberg Businessweek’s readers’ choice competition last October for “The Best Young Entrepreneurs of 2011″ for dramatically increasing its customer base.
“Being Greek, the most important thing is we learn from our parents and how we grew up,” Dionisopoulos said. “My dad came here by himself from Greece with no family, and got me to where I am. And I figured, why not be able to do it myself? My father traveled a sea; I have it all right here. That drove Christo and me — we looked up to what our parents did and figured we could do better, growing up with a world of opportunity rather than a couple of cities and villages.”
Both men went to the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland before venturing into the business world, and have since gathered a lot of experience under their belts.
“I always knew I wanted to do my own thing, but was not sure what at that time, especially because the economy was really bad. At that time, people thought it was bad time to start business. I thought the opposite — I didn’t want to get a job, I wanted to start a job,” Marafatsos said. “I grew up in and around a family business. Going to the Smith school, I really think it’s an amazing school, with lot of opportunities for business people and entrepreneurs. The Dingman School is really helpful — students or alumni with ideas should go to them and get help from the directors, who are extremely helpful.”
Though Marafatsos has sold his part of Delta Produce and has opened a restaurant while working on a new venture, the two are still close. Dionisopoulos is running Delta Produce and Marafatsos is finishing up his masters in finance at Georgetown University.
“Whatever we’ve been in, we’ve been pretty much in together,” Marafatsos said.
Dionisopoulos agreed, saying the two are like brothers. “We’ve been long time friends,” he said. “We always wanted to do something together, and always had entrepreneurial spirit combined. It’s something we kind of grew up in, and we were always involved in each other’s families.”
While Dionisopoulos is currently running Delta Produce, Marafatsos has entered a partnership in an investment group opening resteraunts in the DC Metro Area. He is also working on a new venture.
“Being Greek is obviously who I am,” he said. “I can say that’s an understatement. I grew up in a very Greek family household with my Yiayia and Papou living next door. The culture and everything about the cultural aspect have been instilled in me since I was a young child. I speak, I write, and I visit every summer. It’s a huge part of who I am and how I do things. Having my family come over, majority of people started their own business. Those characteristics of working hard and being one with your family, religion and culture, as well as having a network of Greeks around you definitely makes you stronger.”