The Next Generation Continuing the Family Business of Helping Those in Need – Interview with Nancy and Nikoletta Michailidis
The company, Orthostatical, is a family business which was founded 20 years ago by Mary and Vassilis Michailidis in Greece. Orthostatical has been active since 1990 in the field of orthopaedic and rehabilitation aids. Distinguished for its flawless structure and quality of products and services, Orthostatical has privately-owned facilities in Athens and Thessaloniki, each with a properly designed exhibition space, a service department for repairing products, and offices for a thorough administrative service.
The installations in Thessaloniki and Athens cover 1650 sq m in total, and are fully modernised and accessible for disabled people. Orthostatical has eight vehicles – designed with a special ramp, offering free demonstrations to customers as well as free service. Orthostatical offers every type of wheelchair, electric and manual, transport cranes, uprights, passive exercise bikes, bathroom fittings, ladder systems and solutions, as well as a wide variety of rehabilitation aids for everyday living. Orthostatical has an important place in the recovery market, and has large, fully equipped rehabilitation centres as well as hospitals.
In this exclusive interview with Nancy and Nikoletta, who run the business together, the sisters share the story of a family business to which they are emotionally attached through the power of compassion.
Nancy, what inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I was brought up by two incredible parents who have overcome my mother’s paraplegia and transformed it from a “barrier”, to an ”opportunity“ to have a different view of the world and respect the diversity and the uniqueness of everyone.
When I was 10 years old, me and my family had a car accident and my mother was severely injured, and is now paraplegic. This sudden and unexpected event changed my parent’s life and business route, and they started a new business importing wheelchairs and rehabilitation products in parallel with their main clothes company.
During my studies in Economics at Macedonia University in Thessaloniki, I was working part time in the rehabilitation business where I had the chance to implement whatever I was learning in University to the family business. After completing my studies, I worked for a year full time in the business, getting acquainted with all aspects of the business: sales, procurement, accounting, marketing and customer service.
Seeing the real business in practice and how things are working, I decided to further my education and do an MBA, which would help me grow the family business. Our continuous contact with big multinational rehabilitation companies all over the world led me to choose an international environment for my MBA, so I chose VUB in Brussels.
It was almost like a second nature for me to be an entrepreneur, since I was raised in an entrepreneurial family. Both my parents used to run a retail clothes business for 30 years and I remember helping them in one of our three stores at a very young age. Sales and customer service was the first aspect of business that I experienced, and although we were in high school, my sister and I were working every Christmas, Easter and summer holidays. I remember that although that it was holidays for everybody else, for us these holidays meant working with our parents and meeting people every day. Although it was demanding, we had lots of fun, and I would say that it became something like a tradition for us since we were celebrating the most important anniversaries with a crowd of people: our customers.
After my degree in Economics I encountered other aspects of the rehabilitation business such as procurement, marketing and accounting. It was really enlightening to see a totally different way of running a business, different from the retail shop. I still remember and feel my enthusiasm to implement new ideas, new procedures and to create new systems that I have learned in my MBA. The most inspiring part of being an entrepreneur is the thirst for creation, and that you can do whatever you feel like doing. The freedom of expression, an extension of yourself, and the impact that you can have to on peoples’ lives.
Nikoletta, what is your main business goal?
Our main goal is to awaken people with physical disabilities to the possibility of living their lives knowing that they can surpass any physical barrier and live a life like everybody else. Our solutions are based on the philosophy of improving the daily life of people with disabilities, and providing complete rehabilitation solutions in the healthcare facilities so that therapists can offer more efficient and result oriented treatment.
Nancy, you are daughters, sisters and powerful businesswomen. What drives you as entrepreneurs?
The best thing about being an entrepreneur is the feeling that I can help other people improve their lives, knowing that I can create a positive impact for people with disabilities and also spread the mentality that we are all equal but the way that we are doing things is different. That’s what makes us humans, isn’t it?
Nikoletta, how do you define success?
Success is something totally subjective and I believe that every woman should have her own definition. For me success is a blend of doing what speaks to your heart and the impact you are having to other peoples’ lives; it is the magic of your vision that is feeding your enthusiasm and keeping your desire to succeed alive during the daunting ride of entrepreneurship.
About Nancy and Nikoletta
Nancy and Nikoletta Michailidis run Orthostatical together, having taken over the business from their parents, the sisters act as CEO and CFO of the company respectively.