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Georgios Georgiou: “If every company importing a product could adopt a new community to manufacture its product it would create real economic opportunity for people who didn’t have any before”

I’ve thought a lot about making a difference, as I mentioned when we were talking about my motto. I truly believe that every company can make a difference somewhere in the world. It doesn’t always take a huge commitment to change someone’s economic outlook. Often we are afraid to try because other people’s problems seem […]


I’ve thought a lot about making a difference, as I mentioned when we were talking about my motto. I truly believe that every company can make a difference somewhere in the world. It doesn’t always take a huge commitment to change someone’s economic outlook. Often we are afraid to try because other people’s problems seem so enormous. But I think if you realize that making a change on a micro-level reverberates out in the community and creates lasting impact, we can help a lot of people. If every company importing a product could adopt a new community to manufacture its product, educate and train its residents with new skills to the point that they become an integral part of the manufacturing process it would create real economic opportunity for people who didn’t have any before. Going to areas that might not have had manufacturing experience before likely means lower wages so companies could fulfill capitalistic dreams and consumer needs while at the same time giving an opportunity for a better future to people who might not have had the chance otherwise. For example, I am searching out handmade, one-of-a-kind “finds” sourced from local artisans across the globe. I’ll then work with them and their community to scale up production which will ultimately help them financially and make me proud of Gigi Seasons’ investment in human capital. Think of it as an upside down Christmas tree. Gigi Seasons efforts are like the narrow point of the tree but the work we commission will spread upwards like branches of the tree and soon be full and green as education and economic opportunity grow, Education is the passport to a better future for everyone.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Georgio Georgiou, founder and CEO of Gigi Seasons — a wholesale and direct-to-consumer online retail company that works year-round in China making sure we have all the cool and fashionable holiday and seasonal decorations we need for our homes and businesses. Georgio was born in Cypress, served in the Air force there, went to England for college but moved to pursue further education in the U.S. in 1995– and never left. He’s based in Chicago but travels the world for business and to compete in marathons and Ironman competitions. He’s been working with companies in China for more than ten years, So far in 2018 he’s made four trips there — spending a total of three months combined in the country.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My career path was not anything that I had planned. I was working on my Masters Degree in Information Systems at DePaul University in 2002 while also working full-time as an expense control analyst for a major bank. At that point, a friend was setting up a trading company in the holiday décor industry and he asked me to help on the administrative side for a few hours a week. Before I knew it, it became a full-time position and an adventure of sorts. Because I’m multi-lingual, and have traveled and experienced many cultures, it was easy for me to be the liaison with the overseas vendors — most of whom were in China. As time passed, I became more involved with not just the back-end, bookkeeping and computer aspects of running the business, but also with communicating our design ideas and needs. Essentially, other than direct-to-consumer sales, there wasn’t any aspect of the business that I didn’t have a hand in and so eventually, I decided to start my own company. Gigi Seasons launched in February of 2017.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

After working for another company for 14 years, everything I do for my OWN company Is an exciting project! Since starting Gigi Seasons, the most challenging recent project has been to get our online store set up in time for the holidays — a new direction to be since it was B-to-C. I already had the design concept ideas for this year’s line of products so that was easy. Already knew the factories and where to have things made. The online store was new since we had not done that in my previous job — even for B-2-B. My goal for the website was to offer consumers a one-click complete Christmas decorating solution. Over the years, I’ve met a lot of people who just don’t have an eye for what goes together well, or who simply don’t have the time tosearch out an entire “look” even though they know they want that. Drawing from my own experiences as both someone in the industry and as a consumer, I know that it can be a challenge to be keen for style but find only limited design imagination. I wanted to fix that pain point with my site. In addition, we have been working on some alternative and innovative ways to light a Christmas tree. Should everything go according to plan, we hope to have an exciting new product in the market for Christmas 2019.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

A tough question to answer but I would say that I am most grateful to my parents and grandparents for they instilled in me the value of education as my passport to a better future. My mother dropped out after the first grade of primary school to help look after her two younger siblings while my grandmother was at work. Mom never learned how to read or write. Dad dropped out after third grade to tend to the family’s flock of sheep and help work in the fields. My parents had their struggles in raising four kids but they were very hard working and determined. Although very proud of them, I knew that I wanted to do it differently and quickly associated education with a future offering more opportunities. I poured myself in to being the best student I could and with their hard work and support I was able to go to a private English school which provided a strong foundation for further studies abroad. Without their sacrifices, I’d probably still be in Cypress living a vastly different life.

What do you think are the new untapped markets in China that may become the next “big thing”?

The sheer size of the population and the rising middle class makes China the ideal market for any company that is looking to grow. A lot of business people from the US tend to only think about buying things from China, about going there to have things manufactured there more cheaply than they can at home, but trust me, Chinese consumers are craving to experience, try, taste and acquire — and they now have the disposable income to do so. After spending more time in China overseeing production, I’ve come to realize through my networking that in addition to manufacturing in China, there is also huge potential for me to target the Chinese consumer. I am already exploring some opportunities of importing something truly Western to China — but can’t talk about it yet! And I’m not just talking about the Chinese people in the major manufacturing/industrial cities. Even people out in the rural areas are doing better and interested in broadening their consumer choices.

One caveat is that their tastes and frame of reference are not necessarily the same as our tastes in the United States. For example, the vast majority of Chinese people don’t even celebrate Christmas but I see a way for me to sell other products over there because I’ve paid attention to what interests them in their homes.

What challenges does that new market face? How would you address it?

China is not America and running a business in China is completely different than running the same business in the United States. I know a lot of what it takes to manufacture in China but very little about setting up a company in China and selling to the Chinese consumer. I don’t want to say it’s a closed business culture there but you definitely need help navigating your way into existence. You need to start on a small basis with people you trust and to whom you have proven your trust-worthiness and then go from there. They are not insular but are guarded about who they work with. It’s not like starting a business in Europe where as long as you have the money to establish yourself, you are good to go. Through the relationships I have built over the last 15 years and through American organizations that help businesses to start up in China, I feel that I am now in good hands to start testing the market potential.

Can you share the top challenges of doing business in China and how you overcame them?

Enforcing quality standards has always been a challenge but more so today because of the pressure to sell the same or similar product to retail chains at a matching or lower cost year after year so as to maintain certain retail price points and profit margins. With the cost of resources going up and especially the rising labor costs, the factories are pushed to get “creative” which could result in compromised quality. A partnership with a reliable quality control (QC) company to manage production and enforce standards on our behalf, has been the best decision because of their knowledge of the Chinese business environment and culture. And as I mentioned earlier, you have to accept that often times things move more slowly when doing business in China as you earn respect and build your reputation. You have to be willing to be patient when getting established over there but if you are, and you treat people well, the rewards will come.

We keep hearing about the “Trade War”. What are your thoughts about it? Given the unknowns, how do you plan to pivot?

Decades old trading policies have been largely in favor of China flooding our market with cheap and cheerful products and creating a throw-away society that has come to expect low cost products that are destined to only last for a season. Higher tariffs on products manufactured in China are forcing companies to look at other emerging Asian countries. We are doing the same and have already started working with factories in India and Thailand and exploring other opportunities elsewhere. There will come a point, possibly in our lifetime, where we have exhausted all of our cheap labor options around the world, and will be forced to retrain the end consumer to expect higher quality products that are meant to last, at a much higher price. Right now, I am trying to straddle both worlds by providing fashionably stylish items that are higher quality goods than people typically see in holiday décor but remain at reasonable prices. I am able to pivot into either direction — depending on the location of the factories working on any particular piece.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

When graduating high school we were asked to write down a short bio and our motto of life to be published in the year book. Up until that moment I hadn’t thought of a personal motto but drawing from my experience to that date it was an easy one to summarize in a few words. I wrote down “Think positive, work hard, and never give up. Do that and then you will never fail.”

I have had my fair share of struggles, road blocks and disappointments since leaving Cyprus in 1993 — a few of which made me momentarily doubt some of my decisions — but I kept reminding myself of that motto and kept moving forward. Every set-back was just a way for me to learn and help guide me on my path to success. That motto reminded me to double down, think positive and have the courage to take that next step in 2017 by starting Gigi Seasons. Staying true to those words allowed me to embark on this journey where others might have given up. I also have added another part to the motto — “Share your journey with others who need an opportunity and success will be even greater!” Now that the business is up and running, my goal is to help others learn how to become entrepreneurs so they can improve their circumstances like I have been able to do.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’ve thought a lot about making a difference, as I mentioned when we were talking about my motto. I truly believe that every company can make a difference somewhere in the world. It doesn’t always take a huge commitment to change someone’s economic outlook. Often we are afraid to try because other people’s problems seem so enormous. But I think if you realize that making a change on a micro-level reverberates out in the community and creates lasting impact, we can help a lot of people. If every company importing a product could adopt a new community to manufacture its product, educate and train its residents with new skills to the point that they become an integral part of the manufacturing process it would create real economic opportunity for people who didn’t have any before. Going to areas that might not have had manufacturing experience before likely means lower wages so companies could fulfill capitalistic dreams and consumer needs while at the same time giving an opportunity for a better future to people who might not have had the chance otherwise. For example, I am searching out handmade, one-of-a-kind “finds” sourced from local artisans across the globe. I’ll then work with them and their community to scale up production which will ultimately help them financially and make me proud of Gigi Seasons’ investment in human capital. Think of it as an upside down Christmas tree. Gigi Seasons efforts are like the narrow point of the tree but the work we commission will spread upwards like branches of the tree and soon be full and green as education and economic opportunity grow, Education is the passport to a better future for everyone.

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