What is your full name, title, and business name?
Matina Zenios, President & Owner, Artina Promotional Products
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Give us a summary of your business in 200 words or less.
Artina Promotional Products has grown to become one of the largest promotional firms in America. We are in our second generation of family ownership, and proud to be a woman-owned business. At Artina, we are dedicated to providing superior promotional products through innovative ideas and personal customer service from start to finish. As a team, we aim to build lasting relationships with our customers while we create marketing, employee recognition and brand awareness solutions. We help customers deliver their message and stand out from the crowd. Throughout our more than 50-year history, Artina has maintained an outstanding reputation. We have set the bar for the highest quality customer service in the industry. Our quest to be the best promotional products company is not by happenstance – it is the result of caring about our customers our employee family, our vendors and our communities. By making the right investments in technology, relationships, continued learning and caring for our work family, we continue to evolve to make the customer experience the best it can be. We strive to make a great first impression in all we do. Our Best Work Has Your Name On It!
How did the idea for your business come about?
Our founder Chris Bouzounis came from Greece in 1967 as a printer. When he moved to Ohio to give his sister away in her wedding, he eventually met his future bride and decided to stay. Printing is what he knew, so he and his wife Sue started Olympic Press. Soon after starting the business they learned of the promotional products industry, which was called advertising specialties at the time. Chris loved the idea of being a distributor of these products and not having to do the printing himself. That is when he changed the business name to Olympic Incentive Ideas and went from there.
What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?
The turning point for me was in college. I was a full time student at Ohio State commuting from my home in Westerville. Artina was located in downtown Columbus at the time, and I was always motivated by money. I spent half of my days in class and the other half at the office helping in the engraving and accounting departments. I was also cleaning the office building on the weekends. My major was Child Development, but during those college years and working part time in the business, I fell in love. It was by my junior year, that I knew this company was special and this career was for me.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
Responsibility. My dad used to talk about this, and now I get it. When you have a business with people working for you, you carry a big weight on your shoulders to have a financially sound business. Your employees and their families are counting on you.
What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?
Columbus is my home. I was born and raised here, stayed for college, built my family business, got married and started my family. I love everything about it EXCEPT for the cold winters. I love to venture out for travel and see the world, but I always love coming back home. I’m proud of this city and how far it’s come in my lifetime. We’re a great midwestern city that is warm and friendly but still vibrant and growing rapidly.
Are you from Columbus?
Yes, born and raised.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
Surround yourself with other successful business owners that can serve as advisors to you and lean in. You can never have too much support.
What’s the most challenging part of your business (i.e, what keeps you up at night)?
Being short staffed. Our employees are dedicated and work hard, and I worry about anyone being overworked, and falling short for a client.
Every business owner has a flaw. What’s yours?
I’m late almost everywhere I go. 🙁
Why do you think most business owners fail? What has made you different?
Not doing enough research and not having a solid plan in place. In my case, I did not start Artina, but I realized it’s success and potential, and was excited to dive in upon my graduation from OSU. I learned a lot of valuable lessons from my fathers leadership, starting with the need to be financially sound.
What tool has helped you the most for your business (invoicing, accounting, shipping, plugin for website, etc.)?
Our cloud based CRM that is fully integrated with our PO system, search engine and full service website. We adopted this platform in 2013, and it was a game changer for our business. It not only elevated our level of professionalism by several levels, but it allows our team to work from virtually anywhere in the world.
When did you know it was time to expand your business, make your first hire, etc.?
I was not involved in the business when we made our first hire. In today’s environment, we add to our sales team strategically, as we are moving our newest sales team members up the ladder. Recently we have been successfully adding one per year.
What is something that you did that was a game changer for your business?
A game changer for our business was when we created our Culture Club. The Artina Culture Club mission is to foster a great place to work with a unique personality and family spirit. We make this happen by providing a fun, positive, healthy and creative atmosphere – layered with respect, integrity, teamwork, generosity, knowledge and opportunities for growth.
The results were not overnight, but overtime we saw great benefits including reduced employee turnover, and more engaged and productive employees. Our employees are a part of the Artina family and so worthy of this investment.
What was an idea that you spent a lot of time on or thought would make a big difference in your business that didn’t pan out?
Going after government business. We do work with a number of government departments and government funded agencies, however a number of years back, we decided to try harder and attend various conferences, etc. We have not found this to pay off, and have therefore pulled back our efforts. Typically, we do our research before diving deep in to something. If we have an idea that we want to explore, we might start small and test it out, before going in with both feet.
What is something that your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth it?
Professional development for our team. Knowledge is one of our core values and something that I learned from my father. He did not have a formal education, but if you add up all of the seminars he attended, books he read, and mentors that he learned from, he would have a Phd. At Artina we are always looking to educate and develop our team, so that they can grow within our business, and add greater value to Artina and our clients.
As previously mentioned, we also love to invest in our company culture and work environment. In some cases it’s a lot of money, such as investing in an Artina gym, but typically it’s more time than money.
What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
Our new “Artina Choose Kind Foundation”. We formed the foundation in March of 2019, and it was inspired by the spirit of our family Matron, Sue Bouzounis, who had a compassionate heart for making a difference for those less fortunate. Through the “Artina Choose Kind Foundation” we intend to lessen the suffering and give strength and hope to those in need.
What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
Email marketing campaigns paired with sales rep follow up. We also have some good success with exhibiting at trade shows within some vertical markets.
Who is your best Columbus resource (accountant, lawyer, marketer, etc.)?
Law firm Emens & Wolper and the Conway Family Business Center have been great resources to our business. We use Bea Wolper of Emens & Wolper for our succession planning, and they are the founders of the Conway Family Business Center. The center deserves great credit for the educational programming they provide to family businesses such as ours, including peer groups, consulting and networking opportunities.
Who do you vent to when you have a business problem?
My husband. He is a business owner as well and he understands. I also have multiple peer groups whom I can go to at anytime. It is important to surround yourself with people that are in similar shoes that you can trust.
Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
If we stay on track with an annual growth of approx 10%, then I see our business close to double in size in 10 years. Regardless of our growth rate, our goal is to maintain our core values and business reputation. We have been honored to receive the Best of Business award from Columbus CEO magazine readers consecutively since 2011, and that is an honor that we want to continue.
What is your revenue range?
When you’re stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to overcome this feeling?
Take a deep breath and regroup. I typically have a pretty level head, and know when I need help. I love to collaborate with others and have no problem with leaning on others for help to get a job done.
What’s one component of entrepreneurship that’s much different than what most people think?
I honestly don’t know what others think of entrepreneurship. Maybe they think you can create your own schedule or work as much or little as you want. If that’s the case, it’s a fairy tale. I find that I work around the clock, but that is how I manage my work-life balance, if there is such a thing. I get pulled away from my business on occasion for my kids or my husbands business, or personal appointments, but that doesn’t mean the work goes away, it’s just there for me to get to from the sidelines of the soccer field, or later in the evening.
What’s your end goal with the business? Is this something you want to pass down to your kids or would you like to eventually sell?
I would love for one of my kids or my brothers kids to get involved in the business. We are active in The Conway Family Business Center, and we see the benefits and challenges of working in a family business. In an ideal world we will see the third generation of our family carry Artina in to the future.
How would your business fare if the economy hit a nasty downturn like it did in 2008? Have you prepared for this?
We are more prepared for a similar situation, since we did experience the 2008 downturn. The timing was challenging in 2008 as we had just made a move and an investment in to a larger brand new office space, and we contracted by nearly 40%. We made some strategic adjustments that allowed us to manage the hit, and we would take what we learned and make even quicker decisions, should we experience another. Fingers crossed it’s never that bad again.
What other entrepreneur do you look up to most?
Joe DeLoss, Hot Chicken Takeover – I love his vision
If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do/see/eat in Columbus, what would it be?
Probably an OSU football game. Even if you don’t go to the game, tailgate. Nothing quite like the environment and the experience.