MBA Student Learns Her Lessons First,
Pursues Dream of Owning Own Business

By Maria A. Karamitsos
The Greek Star


CHICAGO-After years of working in her parents' businesses and learning from them, one young woman finally realized her own dream of owning a business-not without a lot of hard work.

Maria Christopoulos-Katris was born in Mount Prospect, IL and later moved to Glenview. She grew up in a very traditional Greek household, with immigrant parents. Her father came from Kokkinou, Kalamatas, and her mother from Amygdalies, Olympias. Her father and mother came to this country at the tender young ages of 21 and 17, respectively, and attended pharmacy school. Later, they opened the Alpha Pharmacy, at Lawrence and Rockwell. Subsequently, the family opened a restaurant and a fruit market. It was a very busy family indeed, and all pitched in to work. Christopoulos-katris, as



Maria Christopoulos-Katris

well as her sister Niki, began working in 5th grade, and learned many valuable lessons in business from their parents. "I'm so much like my father, in the entrepreneurial sense. You'd swear HE gave birth to me!" she said. I only Wish I had my mother's patience, but I am working on it!" Her parents sold the pharmacy 4 years ago, and both currently work for Dominick's pharmacies.

Following high school, Christopoulos- Katris attended Miami University in Ohio, where she studied finance. She always wanted to start her own business, and upon graduation, was convinced it was the perfect time. Her father advised her well. "Go to work for a while, you need to learn more before you start your own business. Wise words indeed.

For two years she worked at Arthur Andersen, and continued on for another two years with Huron Consulting Group. The life of a consultant often is full of travel. Christopoulos-Katris met her husband, Billy Katris, and then decided to attend graduate school; by then, the traveling had become overwhelming.

From there she took a position at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in the corporate strategy division. She no longer had to travel, however, she was conscientiously honing her skills, so she could someday realize her dream. While at Northwestern, in January 2005, she decided it was time to start putting the wheels in motion. Her mentor took her to an entrepreneurs' event. "Everyone there was under 40. There was so much energy. I felt like, this is me, these are my kind of people, this is where I belong," she explained. She and her mentor had discussed various business ideas, and the idea of a nanny agency came up. Coincidentally, while in college, Christopoulos-Katris had worked as a summer nanny, and went through an agency.

Utilizing the entrepreneurial spirit she gained from her father, and channeling her mother's enduring patience, she began to lay the groundwork for the business. First the business plan, incorporating the business, and considerable research with existing agencies. She met with parents who employed nannies; as well as with nannies themselves. She spent the better part of a year putting all the pieces in place, and ensuring she was doing all the right things. "I really owe all of my success to my family," explained Christopoulos-Katris. "They always gave good advice. I also learned the strong, Greek work ethic, which along with the entrepreneurial spirit, is what drives me. "Between my parents, sister, husband and relatives, I have all the love and support once could only hope to attain. My husband definitely gets the disproportionate share of complaints, but he is nevertheless patient and supportive."

Finally, on January 15, 2006, she launched Nanny Boutique. Nannies and families find Nanny Boutique primarily through referrals, the Internet and advertising. Nanny Boutique is city-focused, therefore working primarily with families in the City of Chicago. Six months later, the business is growing quickly, and she has a commissioned recruiter on staff that assists in seeking nannies. "It's a very personalized service," she told The Greek Star. We conduct in-home consultations with families, and interview every nanny. We want to be sure they are compatible. We have to be sure that it works for both parties." She recently placed a nanny with a Greek family, and that was satisfying. "It's always wonderful to make that good pairing, plus I believe Greeks should be helping Greeks."

To other young people who dream of opening their own business someday, Christopoulos­Katris suggests that first and foremost, learning the business before investing any money. "It's very expensive learning. Don't go in blindly," she, shared. She also recommends that one have a lot of patience, perseverance, and be willing to ask for advice. "Always ask questions and ask for advice, from professors, mentors, friends and family, as well as other entrepreneurs," she elaborated. "Don't spend money before you're making money. When building a business from the ground up, it's critical that you are careful in how you spend." These words of wisdom are timeless, and can be applied to any type of business.

As for Christopoulos-Katris, she'll continue to grow Nanny Boutique. In the meantime, she is finishing up her MBA at Northwestern University, with a December 2006, completion date. She and her husband, Billy reside in Chicago. For more information on Nanny Boutique, visit www.nannyboutique.com.



(Posting date 7 August 2006)

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