No stranger to successfully identifying and tapping into niche markets, Greek-Australian entrepreneur Graham (Grammatikos) Athanaseris has done it again as the COVID-19 pandemic spurs the market for hand sanitiser.
We’ve all been advised to wash our hands and use hand sanitiser, yet shelves all over the world are emptying as the demand for hand hygiene products far outstrips supply.
It would take 385 million litres of sanitiser to provide every person in the world with just one small bottle. Yet this quantity is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the 2.9 billion litres per month – or about 35 billion litres per year – that The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates will be required by healthcare professionals in order safely to get through the pandemic.
Graham’s Chemical Technologist business Envirosystems has expanded into the production of hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants just when the world needed it most. Independently tested by the Commonwealth testing authority (CSIRO), the products are made to the WHO standard, which have been registered and approved by the therapeutic goods administration (TGA).
During this time of global need, Envirosystems has been supplying its hand sanitiser to the market at wholesale prices and also offering bulk purchasing from 1000 litres, 15 Litres, 4 litres, 1 litre, 500ml, right down to 250ml bottles.
In early 1989, opportunity first presented itself to Graham in the business world when a good friend, employed with the then newly-established Multiplex constructions, required waterproofing on a project.
After assisting with his enquiry and researching the products and services available in this sector, it became clear that waterproofing was an untapped market with a very real and relatively unchallenged opportunity existing to enter this space.
So Graham set forth and registered his services business, engaging for the first time in the building industry and commencing waterproofing.
He remembers the humble beginnings of his business which has since gone on to become the largest waterproofing contractor in Australia.
“I registered my waterproofing contract business in 1989 and started working out of a small sunroom in the front of my parents’ modest home in Kingsford.
“I initially contracted my services to Tier 1 and Tier 2 building companies and proudly after 31 years have established offices throughout Australia (Brisbane, Hunter Valley, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney) employing over 200 staff,” says Graham, describing the unprecedented growth of the business.
“My remedial business commenced 10 years ago servicing body corporate, strata managers, and mining corporations.”
In 2003, another opportunity presented itself.
The Australian construction product market at the time was dominated by multi-national foreign interests, renowned for importing and distributing outdated technologies that were bitumen based with high solvent content and manufactured overseas.
It became glaringly obvious that an alternative was needed.
So, Graham established Envirosystems Technologies as an extension to his services companies.
Speaking about this decision, “The genesis of Envirosystems was necessitated by the lack of environmentally responsible construction products in Australia and, in particular, in the building industry," says Graham.
“If anything, the global pandemic has taught us that we must support locally manufactured products and support Australian business and not be reliant upon imported products.
“I established an in-house research and development laboratory in St Peters, hired the best chemists in their field of expertise, and started investing in Australian made and engineered equipment. I started manufacturing internal and external coatings in acrylic, epoxy, and polyurethane.”
The business went on to introduce sealants and thermo setting sprayed elastomers, bringing us to its present-day expansion into hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants, with all products being produced to the highest possible quality.
“Our construction products are independently tested by the Commonwealth testing authority (CSIRO). Our hand sanitisers are made to the WHO standard, which have been registered and approved by the therapeutic goods administration (TGA),” Graham confirms.
Although Founder and Director of one of Australia’s leading manufacturers of construction products, Graham has an extremely strong connection with his Greek lineage of which he is most proud.
Both of Graham’s parents were born in Thessaloniki, Macedonia Greece and he describes them as the greatest role models for his family.
His father Steven (Sotiris), who Graham attributes as the greatest influence in his life, comes from a family of 9 siblings (5 brothers and 4 sisters) and his mother Poppy (Kalioppi) from a family of 7 siblings (4 brothers and 3 sisters).
Engaged to be married in Greece, Steven and Poppy had to postpone their wedding day after Steven was summonsed to Australia in aid and support of his older sister who had a fledgling fish and chips shop in the Sydney suburb of Rose Bay.
Like many Greek migrants of that time, Steven arrived in Sydney Australia on the renowned passenger ship “The Patris” in 1960.
Two years later, Poppy followed the long voyage to Australia on the ‘Arcadia’ to be with her fiancé and overjoyed to be reunited, the happy couple married four months later. Not long after, Graham and older sister Dina, who has worked alongside her brother in the business for the past 15 years, were born in the Sydney suburb of Kingsford.
Despite the size of his parents’ families, Graham’s immediate family here is what he would consider to be relatively small compared to other Greek Australian families, with three sets of cousins collectively from both sides.
However, in true Greek style the family remains close.
“My favourite childhood memory growing up was when we used to get together with our family and friends to celebrate special occasions,” remembers Graham, “a tradition we have kept in our family to this day.”
His Greek heritage very much a part of his heart and soul, Graham was honoured to be elected Director and Secretary of ‘Alexander the Great’ Greek community club, in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville in 1991 at the tender age of 25.
“It was a proud moment for my family and myself representing the “Macedonian community of the Greek Diaspora” and the region of my parents’ birthplace,’ says Graham.
But this momentous appointment was destined to bring much more to Graham than this sense of patriotic pride and a chance to give back to his community. It was also the catalyst that led him to his wife, Betty, who he describes as his ‘soul mate.’
“At one of the many functions held at the club, I was blessed to have met my lovely wife Betty and her extended family,” recounts Graham. Both of Betty’s parents Jim and Victoria, whom Graham regards as more like an older brother and sister than in-laws, were also born in Thessaloniki and so from the very start it was a match made in heaven.
On October the 22nd,1994 Betty and Graham were married at St Spyridon Greek Orthodox church at Kingsford by Father Steven Scoutas, whom the couple count as a good friend and confidant to this present day.
“We have three boys Stephen, Dimitri, and Alexander,” Graham is proud to say. “Stephen is in his final year of university studying business majoring in finance and works in the family business part time.
"Dimitri is in his second year of university studying Bachelor of Education, majoring in history and also works in the family business part time.
"Alexander is in his final year of high school and completing his higher school certificate and sometimes comes in to help out in the factory in between his soccer commitments.”
Happy days. But it has not always been smooth sailing.
Graham tell us that the years have not been without confronting moments and challenges.
“My success in business would not have been possible without the support of my loving wife, partner and soulmate,” Graham says affectionately about his wife of 26 years, Betty.
“Betty has a caring personality and is a calming influence. She offers sound advice, ALL THE TIME.
“Upon reflection, when I look back, I consider my family as my greatest achievement and success. It has been a great journey and I look forward to the second half of my life.”
And speaking of great journeys, it would be remiss not ask Graham about his family travels back to the motherland.
“We travel to Greece often and every time we visit we seek a new destination and experience,” says Graham. “All of Greece is beautiful whether it be an island, mainland city, or remote township, they all have their own uniqueness and customs.”
One of Graham’s passions is cooking, and he and Betty have undertaken cooking classes both in Australia and in Greece.
“We will be looking forward to seeking new culinary adventures once the COVID-19 lock down is over,” he says.
In the meantime, Graham will continue his engagement with the Australian Greek community which has spanned over 25 years.
In addition to the Alexander the Great Community Club, Graham is also proud to have served on the boards of the Hellenic Club Sydney and the Sydney Olympic Football Club.
He also continues to sponsor and support Greek Australian charities and initiatives such as The Hellenic Initiative (THI) and The Lysicrates Foundation, to name but two.
In parting, Graham shares his ideas as to what he believes to be key to a life of happiness and success.
“I believe the secret to success is hard work, sacrifice, become the best at whatever you do, and always remain humble.”
FURTHER INFO and RECOMMENDED LINKS
Envirosystems hand sanitisers meets the requirements of the TGA Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Goods – Hand Sanitisers) Determination 2020..
That means it is locally manufactured in Australia by Envirosystems to the correct formulation, with the correct ingredients making it suitable for both consumer use and for use in healthcare facilities. ⠀
Envirosystems hand sanitiser and surface disinfectants can be purchased on line on www.envirosystems.com.au or by visiting the Enviro system trade centres located in Sydney at 295 Princes Highway St Peters NSW or in Perth at 78 Discovery Drive Bibra Lake WA.
Envirosystems offers wholesale pricing and bulk purchasing from 1000 litres, 15 Litres, 4 litres, 1 litre, 500ml, and 250ml.