Lina Tsaltampasi is the owner of OCEON Group, a business and development consultancy she set up in 2003. In this post, Lina talks about her experience as a woman in the international business environment.
Hi there! I am Lina Tsaltampasi, I live in Thessaloniki, Greece and I own OECON Group. People ask me what I do for living and I tell them that I am a Business Development Consultant. My kids say that this is a lie; because I’m actually a juggler…well perhaps this is also true. Being a mom, wife, daughter and a businesswoman in the field of international business sometimes makes you feel like a juggler (a good one I hope).
My business is oriented towards developing extroversion and internationalisation for SMEs and stakeholders. As you can imagine this type of business requires frequent travel. Trips mean less available family time, less personal time. So, you have to make choices. The first step you take in being an entrepreneur is making choices. Choices about how you are going to spend or invest your time, choices about resources (there is usually a lack of all types of resources at the beginning), choices about lifestyle. But your business is something that you also chose to nurture; it is your child too.
Being a woman in international business is even tougher. Airports become your home, and you notice that frequent flyers, especially to third countries, are mostly male. In Greece, female unemployment is currently running at almost 67%. Eighty per cent of women entrepreneurship is in traditionally female sectors. Achieving your goals in a competitive environment demands hard work and personal sacrifices. But once you have achieved it, there is an immense sense of satisfaction.
In OECON Group we just have started a MEGA project with a Chinese public counterpart. To us, this seems as large a challenge as climbing Mt. Everest. So, now we’ll have the chance to try out our climbing skills… With this project we are developing a Trade Support Gate for transactions between Europe and China. This will result in actual benefits for SMEs, since this Trade Support Gate will enable even smaller companies to have safe transactions with China.
For us, being a typical European SME, it seemed very ambitious to get involved in such a huge deal. Although we might be little dreamers, nevertheless we believe that we, and other SMEs, can be part of bigger projects. We have already gone against all the odds up to now. We developed our biggest projects over the last five years, the years of global recession, the years of the Greek crisis, the years of non-existing bank finance….so yes, everything is possible.
My business is part of who I am. If I had listened to people around me I might have quit. Many times, people tried to discourage me, telling me that this is not a job for you. I replied to them this job is me. Being a woman, you will be told many times what you should do. Just tell everybody what you want to do, and just DO it. Gender is not an obstacle. Gender is who you are.