The CEO of Chipita, Spyros Theodoropoulos, explains how a house in Moschato can create a company that sells billions of products every year in more than 56 different countries. He talks about the value of an idea and proper implementation, the principles of business and the conditions of proper cooperation, the importance of production, but also about the human factor, emotional intelligence and their decisive role in life and business.
His life a journey of being creative
By Christina Katsantoni
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
When Onassis was asked about how he’d created so many ships, he answered that he had just made one and that one just brought the second and so on. The case of Spyros Theodoropoulos is something similar. He just bought a company that back on the day had only 50 employees and was based in a house in Moschato. One thing led to another and the company named Chipita today has more than 4,700 employees and produces almost 1,8 billion products a year in 56 different countries.
The first deals
Spyros Theodoropoulos was born in Exarcheia and grew up in the neighborhoods of Pangrati. He made his first deal when he was still in primary school by convincing his mother to continue watching the seminars of the administrative council of the small family business in exchange for fulfilling his school’s obligations. But soon he would need to deal with the obligations of real life.
He lost his father at the age of 16-17 and was forced to give up on his dreams and drop out of his university studies because he had to work at the same time. That injustice of his life back then was rather proved to be causality. He searched for a faculty where there would be no absenteeism restrictions and he found the Supreme Commercial Faculty of Athens University of Economics and Business. Instead of becoming a civil engineer he became a businessman.
After graduation he worked for six years in other companies before he decided to move to his first business enterprise. He saw a good chance in the import of matches from Italy and that choice didn’t let him down. Although it was indeed effective, it didn’t last more than 8 months as matches were soon forbidden in Greece. This precocious end of his first business attempt was another unfortunate turn that he later converted to fortunate. The next step of Spyros Theodoropoulos was to find a company for sale. He found that company in a small cottage industry that was producing cheese puffs under the name of Chipita.
The loss of his father taught him to be a fighter that never quits but always tries harder. And soon when problems started, as cheese puffs was an unhealthy product, he searched for a product that could support the company in Greece and abroad. He thought of industrialising croissants after he had seen someone filling up a croissant with praline in a bakery in Patision Boulevard. But his idea wasn’t warmly welcomed. After many consecutive presentations and lots of rejections by possible investors, he found a foreign company which accepted to invest in the plan and as a consequence, the pre-packed croissant filled up with praline came to the market ready to conquer the world in 1991.
Later, as Onassis would say, one thing led to another. The company entered the stock market and the international market. One factory led to another, croissants led to bake rolls and, in 2000, Chipita products were distributed across 25 European countries and across many countries of Africa.
In 2006 and as the company had scored a record financial turnover, the vision of a national champion in the food business led Spyros Theodoropoulos to the decision to collaborate with Dimitris Daskalopoulos and DELTA for the creation of Vivartia.
Facts changed one year later when the MIG of Andreas Vgenopoulos bought Vivartia in contrast to Theodoropoulos’s objections to sell. He kept his post as CEO for the next four years with the aim of getting his company back. He finally made it in 2010 when with support from the company Olayan he bought Chipita again and a new era started for him and Chipita.
The new era
Buying the company of Nikas in 2017, the expansion of Chipita to include 14 production facilities in 11 countries, the company’s further development in the huge markets of North America and Russia and the company’s entrance to other markets in Far East countries are some of Spyros Theodoropoulos’s latest career highlights.
A career, full of both achievements and failures, lost battles and difficulties, peaceful family moments and professional obligations that never end. A life that he sees as a journey that never ends and as an evolutionary process based on the belief that being creative is the most beautiful thing.