Many young people in rural villages head right for big cities once school is finished, but now there is a counter trend: An increasing number of young entrepreneurs from rural areas are staying home and starting businesses.
Many of them feel that contributing to their community is an important part of what they do.
“I believe that success has nothing to do with the place, that is, whether it is a city or a village, but with the quality of services you offer to people” said 28-year-old chef Andreas Fouskotos, owner of Fouskomagiremata that sells home-cooked food in the Troodos village of Evrychou.
“The secret to my success is the good food, cleanliness and the proper service to my clients,” Fouskotos explained. His take-away restaurant was established in Evrychou village in the beginning of 2020, and his business is growing fast.
“In recent years, Evrychou has seen many businesses started by people of about my age,” the chef noted, as more and more people end up choosing the serenity of the mountains that combine a less stressful lifestyle with limited noise and air pollution instead of heading for the big cities.
Such is the desire to work at home in the village, that young entrepreneurs finance their businesses themselves.
“I love my village. I didn’t want to leave” said photographer Nectarios Kammas from the same picturesque village. “I like how peaceful it is, and I prefer living away from the hustle and bustle of the city” he said.
Thirty-year-old Kammas sold two of his cars to open the NeKam photography studio in 2019. It later evolved into a graphics and printing shop to meet the needs of the nearby residents. Refusing to borrow money, Kammas is slowly expanding his operations with new equipment whenever he can.
For now, NeKam is the only photographics and printing shop in the area, where local residents and artists can print their designs without having to drive to the city.
“I thought it was something needed in the area and I wanted to contribute and increase the services in our village.”
Working in a remote village comports challenges, however. “Suppliers will definitely charge you more if you operate in remote areas,” Kammas explained. “But cheaper rent balances it out.”
Another village entrepreneur built a restaurant with a swimming pool entirely by hand.
The new venue-restaurant was inaugurated this month in Nikitari village combining food, signature cocktails and special mixed shisha flavours next to a swimming pool. Built amidst the olive trees, the Olive Garden is for now only open from Friday to Sunday, while the location is available to book for events.
To reduce the costs, the Georgiou family put in most of the manual work themselves.
“It was all made by my family with our own hands, from the swimming pool to the restaurant’s tables,” Georgiou said. His father owns the property, while his siblings, Antonis and Eleni Georgiou help with management.
Because it was built on farmland, the dream-like venue came with a price as the process for building license took longer than expected. “It took us about three years to obtain a license for our business,” the 26-year-old manager Costantinos Georgiou told the Cyprus Mail. “Many families are forced to build on residential land closer to the cities for the same reason” he explained.
“Our goal is to actively support the region we grew up in, with social responsibility” Georgiou said. “We strive to provide consumers with pure and high-quality products. We do not import anything. we only buy local food.”
In fact, most of the young village entrepreneurs feel strongly about using local materials and ingredients.
Also in a village at Troodos mountains, Eariko concept store started out as a café to be turned into a traditional delicatessen. “Our philosophy is to support small Cypriot producers” 25-year-old owner Michalis Xenophontos said. The reason why the coffee-lover decided to open Eariko is so he can follow his passion while staying at home.
Xenophontos also wished to do that without depending on financial institutions. “I saved for two years because I didn’t want to owe money to a bank,” the coffee shop owner said.
Apart from ‘buying local,’ young entrepreneurs also aim to increase agrotourism.
Andreas Markou, the owner of the only bar in Kalopanayiotis said he relocated from Nicosia back to the countryside this summer to reopen Markos River Park near his family’s restaurant and offer a night out to the nearby residents.
“I decided that if I would start anything new, it would be in my village to attract more people to rural areas” he said.
The bar is built next to a river and consists of a large outdoor space that fits about 250 people with Covid-19 restrictions. It hosts famous musicians and Djs including DJ Gee Papa aka George Papapetrou who broke the Guinness Record of 116 Hours Non-Stop Mixing in 2008.
In August, owner wants to turn the bar into bouzoukia while continue to offer shisha and live music.
As the Cyprus government has plans to support this kind of youthful entrepreneurship, we may see much more of it in the future.