Paul Evmorfidis is the founder of Coco-Mat, a company based in Greece that is not only defying the crisis there, but staring it straight in the face without fear. Coco-Mat produces all-natural household linen, mattresses, bedding and furniture with retail shops throughout the world and global sales of $70 million in 2011-- a year that kept many people sleepless.
Evmorfidis was born in Sparta and grew up in the Greek diaspora community of Munich, Germany. For much of his life he has been a Greek of the world, living and working as a physical education teacher in England, France, Spain, and Holland, where he currently resides with his wife and four children. He also worked for a time as a journalist for London's Daily Telegraph newspaper.
He graduated from the Athens University of Economics in 1985.
He founded Coco-Mat in 1989, cornering the Greek market and quickly becoming an authority and well-known activist on the importance of natural products and sustainable development. His his company uses wood reclaimed from Greek beaches and seaweed that he calls a gift from the ocean.
Today, Coco-Mat supplies hotels around Europe with high-end mattresses, filled with layers of natural rubber, coco fiber and seaweed, and has 70 stores in 11 countries. Global sales in 2011 were $70 million-- fifteen per cent higher than the previous year.
A passionate environmentalist and social entrepreneur-- Evmorfidis is also a fitness and biking nut. He recently launched a bike manufacturing company in Greece with a goal to make the "world's greatest bicycles". Last December he and one of his sons decided to forgo the flight from Amsterdam to Athens, instead opting for a 2-week bike ride across Europe.
Quotable: The New York Times recently featured Paul's story:
“This is a country with 300 days of sunshine per year,” he began, proceeding into a rambling, fast-paced discourse, the central point of which was that in buying into the euro, Greece tried foolishly to mimic other countries and in so doing shifted away from its natural advantages and way of life. “Working in offices is good in countries where there is lots of rain,” he said. “Greeks don’t need to be in offices. Athens has doubled in size in a couple of decades — it’s now half the population of the country! Two-hour traffic jams, man! After we joined the euro, the mentality totally changed. Suddenly it was like if you still live in the small village where you were born, you must be retarded. So Greeks left their islands and their villages and moved to the city, and they became maniacs. They started expecting loans and handouts.”