Aris Spiliotopoulos: from The Mark Challenge stage to reality.Every success story has a history behind- how did LuxOlympus come to life and when did you decide to pursue it beyond The Mark Challenge?
The first time I thought about a business concept focusing on travel was at the preparatory stage of Mark Challenge. As part of my team I spent time thinking of exciting ideas within the luxury industry. At the same time one of our teachers and instructors focused (a lot) on the importance of finding our passion; that was when it clicked for me for the first time. Throughout my years studying abroad I found myself enjoying finding out more about different cultures and travelling to places I had never been before. That is when LuxOlympus had its first spark. It was after 1 year, following a placement in China, that I made the big step in realising that idea: LuxOlympus was for good in the making.
How did The Mark Challenge prepare you for your current work?
The Mark Challenge prepared me in such a way to understand that developing my idea and turning a passion of mine into a business was not that far from reality. To say it in simple words, before the Mark challenge it had never crossed my mind to start my own business in luxury traveling; after the Mark challenge I was seriously thinking about it. It was, literally, the first step towards LuxOlympus.
What Is your fondest memory from taking part in the competition?
Many interesting memories actually but if I had to choose only one that would be the teamwork factor. All members of the team had to put in the best of themselves. Only well organised teams made it to the final and organisation is mostly based on good team-work and a willingness to put your ego under the group’s goals. Teamwork together with a continuous effort for innovation by all finalist teams. I remember how each single team would try to differentiate at all levels, including its team-members' stage appearance. Let’s just say, some teams’ stage appearance was...very interesting!
How did you attract investors in your business?
It is always a combination of different aspects that make a business idea attractive. It starts with the team that has to run and materialise the concept in order to transform it into a unique product or service that, eventually, may succeed. It is also important to know how far you are willing to go because there is a great deal of work in convincing them to invest and ensure interests are aligned.
What are the principles you run LuxOlympus by?
Reaching excellence through teamwork and pro-activeness. Offering luxury experiences is based on being able to foresee any kind of problem, preventing it or fixing it and making sure your counterpart at the customers’ destination is at the same speed as you, ready to offer the best quality and willing to pamper customers.
What are your responsibilities?
Starting your own business means you have to do almost everything by yourself in the first stages. However, as you gradually build new layers and the team expands you begin to narrow down your focus on what really matters: growth. That is my main responsibility now, making sure the company grows and that new milestones are reached. It is not easy, it requires patience together with persistence but when you make it, it is priceless.
What are the most important lessons you have learned about running a business since starting LuxOlympus?
That no matter what you decide to do, if you believe in what you are doing then you are one step closer to succeeding. If you add to this 'persistence’ then you are half way there. I was listening to a speech made by a Harvard alumni on how you should “Fake it until you make it”. It has proven to be another big lesson one gets from starting a business. No matter the difficulties, you have to at least pretend you are on the right path and get in the mindset of successful people before it really becomes your reality and you reach that path. Another important lesson is to focus on your target and to do so you need to change habits. First step is to surround yourself with positive-minded people that enjoy...doing things, being pro-active and thinking open-mindedly. Unfortunately, it is hard to find this kind of combo so... you have to narrow down your social circle and understand your time is valuable.
How many employees do you currently have and what are the top qualities you seek in your team?
We just hired our 9th person, who is focused on growing our market in the Philippines. Qualities that are necessary include creativity, pro-activeness, planning skills, teamwork, time-management, good organisation, persistence and... positive thinking!
Was LuxOlympus your first entrepreneurial idea?
Certainly not, but it was the first idea that I really believed in and eventually, turned it into a business. At last, I had combined my business idea with my passion for travelling.
Talk us through a day of your life now.
I am based in London and Athens so I spend half my time at the office dealing with current partnerships, promos and follow ups; the other half is getting out there, as far as possible, to explore new destinations, find potential partnerships, establish promising collaborations. The best part of my work is travelling. A lot of travelling. I like to call it experiencing life. I know when it is time to take a break when my body has had enough. Now, I am recovering from a fever and over-exhaustion after consecutive back-to-back flights returning from Asia but I can’t wait for my next trip in 3 weeks.
How did your time at the IUM shape who you are today?
My move to Monaco had an important effect. It is a proof of how the social environment and surroundings play a key role in deciding what your next step will be and Monaco is perhaps one of the best places to narrow down your thoughts and start focusing on your progress, both professionally and personally. IUM takes a more practical approach that helps students become more pro-active. At the end of the day, only pro-activeness can take you to the next level; the level of being ready for the next challenge, embracing it and at last, making it to the other side. Last but not least, the international diversity and multiculturalism at IUM puts students on the global stage. It is a phenomenal opportunity because the small number of students bring each and everyone closer to each other.