An interview with Evita Sideri and Kate Mitchell, founders of Agora Products, bringing the best of Greece to Singapore.
I remember the moment when I realised that olive oil wasn’t just for cooking or salads. A random pop-in to a store over ten years ago was the start for me. In that store, there was a bar of perhaps 20 different olive oils and they invited me to try each one.
While most people would prefer to taste wine, I instead would prefer to taste olive oil… with good bread dipped in or on the tip of my finger. Mmmmm.
My very first meeting of 2017 was with Evita and Kate to talk about Agora Products. We had organised to chat over a coffee but I was surprised and delighted when they brought along their entire range of beautiful Greek products for me to try. Heaven, it would seem, had come to me in the form of these two Angels. Starting first with their range of Terra Creta EVOO, we gleefully dipped and tasted while they told me about how they met and came to start Agora Products.
I listened in awe as they told me about their sourcing trip to Greece. To me, it sounded like the perfect foodie holiday – visiting olive oil producers and tasting honey! They showed me their original map from that first journey and we talked for a few hours, about themselves, their products and the truly talented producers that they source from. That morning, I tasted an amazing array of olive oils, some in the most gorgeous bottles. I was also treated to honey, tea (I think this is where I started to fall back in love with tea!), olives… I smelt herbs and soap, looked at homeware, even tasted some truffle salt – so good!
They sent me home with four bottles of travel size Terra Creta EVOO (one of which my nine year old stole to take to school for her salads). I also immediately went to their website to order some more of my favourites, from olive oil to bay leaves (Agora Products is also going to be top of my mind when looking for unique gift ideas.).
I was thrilled to be able to taste the exceptional products but it was also a true pleasure to meet Evita and Kate, both of whom loved sharing their experiences. Their passion for the producers they represent is apparent and their willingness to share their knowledge about their products and how they are sourced and produced was simply amazing. If anyone wants to know how a good EVOO is made or how the best honey is sourced, they are the people to talk to.
Thank you so much for talking to me, Evita and Kate!
Tell us a little bit about yourselves
Evita: I grew up in Greece. While I was there, I was the Greek Ladies National Golf Champion four times. I even represented Greece as part of the Ladies National Golf Team for over ten years. Because I was quite driven and had a competative nature, I wanted to get an MBA. I applied and was accepted at the Thunderbird School of Global Management to study an MBA in Marketing. Following that, I worked at Chiquita brands (in America, this agricultural company is one of the largest distributors of bananas). With the company I also got the opportunity to work in Central America and lastly in Asia, in Singapore.
The plan was to stay in Singapore for one year and move on, but as life changes, we are still here after ten years! I have a truly supportive husband and four children. If I were to describe myself, I would say that I’m a highly organized mother of four with the ability and know-how to win, know-how to lose and know-how to win again.
Kate: I grew up in the United States. I also pursued my MBA at Thunderbird, focusing on Finance. This is where I met Evita. I went on to work at Citigroup until I left banking to pursue my own dream. I went on to work in microfinance with cocoa farmers in West Africa. Later in NYC, I helped low income New Yorkers and undocumented workers access affordable banking services.
Evita and I met at Thunderbird during the 1st semester and after we graduated together, we met up in New York during our internships and always kept in touch. Several years later, here we are together again in Singapore.
Why did you decide to start Agora Products?
Kate: I moved to Singapore when my husband was transferred and I became interested in starting my own business. As luck would have it, Evita was also looking for a challenging yet flexible work environment that could accomodate her lifestyle with four children. We had discussed importing food products, given our shared past experience in the agriculture industry. Greece was the natural choice with its abundance of amazing food products. Of course it helped that Evita is a Greek national and understands the ins-and-outs of the business culture.
Now, our biggest motivation would be the unique people that we have met and the producers that we have the honor of representing here in Singapore with their products and brands.
What is Agora Products all about?
It may come as a surprise to many, but the economic crisis was not all bad news for Greece. Following the dramatic decrease in domestic demand, a new generation of Greek entrepreneurs turned to markets abroad to ensure their companies’ survival. These Greek visionaries, gifted with talent, insight and perseverance developed new ways to bring humble everyday Greek products to international tables and homes.
Now the famous Greek quality and tradition with a twist of innovation is available in Singapore for consumers to experience a bit of the Mediterranean every day. Agora Products brings you a broad collection of these products, handpicked by us after a discovery tour around Greece. We selected the best products in terms of taste, ingredient quality, brand presentation and value for the end consumer. We are proud to import fine food and lifestyle products of exceptional quality and value.
How do you source your products?
Evita: We source our products directly from the producers. In most cases, we have had the opportunity to personally meet and actually shake the hand of the farmer. This way, we have a tremendous amount of confidence in our products, their origin and the farmers’ commitment to creating delicious, healthy food. We truly believe in what we sell and putting money where our mouths are… we use our own products daily, in our own homes.
Who do you think would most appreciate your range of products?
Kate: Any lover of the Mediterranean diet and what it stands for – healthy, pure, delicious food. People that want to know where their food comes from, people who want to have a healthy diet but not compromise on taste!
Which product is your favourite?
Kate: Hard to say! For me, in EVOO, I love LIA and the Terra Creta Organic EVOO in a pump spray. I am addicted to olives so, of course, I go for the olives stuffed with almonds. From our honeys, I think The Family Beez Organic Thyme Honey is one of the best honeys that I have ever tasted. For the Anassa Organics herbal teas, the organic mint tea is so refreshing. A real treat.
Evita: This is a tough call! Similar to Kate, I love the Anassa Organics Herbal Teas both hot and cold! The Organic Mountain tea is very close to my heart as it is found only in Greece. Our Extra Virgin Olive Oils are exceptional. They are all very different but my palette goes for the stronger flavors. The Terra Creta Organic Kalamata Olives are a must. Amazing flavor and texture. Lastly, yes, I am addicted to The Family Beez….Organic Thyme from the island of Serifos gives me a boost of energy every day and I have to admit a spoonful is never enough!
What’s coming up next for Agora Products? Are there any new products that you’re looking at that we should be excited about?
Evita: We just brought in a range of affordable truffle products. Yes, Greece has truffles as well! We have another sourcing trip planned and are excited about what else we will find.
Is there any advice you’d give to someone wanting to start their own import business?
Kate: Even though I was new to Singapore, I found the incorporation process very easy to navigate. It is transparent and well thought out so many of the obstacles to starting businesses (perhaps even in some of the readers’ home countries) are not an issue here. Second, creating an e-Commerce site is a breeze with all of the technology available today. Once you’ve established yourself, it becomes very important to find a good bookkeeper so you can focus on your business, especially if you have a large product range.
Evita: I would say, just start. That is the hardest part. To start. If you don’t know something, ask. If you don’t understand something, ask again. Find the people that can advise you and inspire you through the tough moments. Try to choose the right partners for every step of your business. If you can’t find them, try again. Compromising on the quality of people you work with, products or services can only lead to mediocre results.
For more information, visit www.agoraproducts.com.sg
Phone: 9725 7091
Phone: 8357 2070
The entire range is available at:
A selection of the Agora Products range can be found at:
“Agora Products brings you the famous Greek quality and tradition to your table for a bit of the Mediterranean every day. Our food range includes organic or 100% natural products: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Olives, Balsamic, Vinegar, Truffle Products, Marmalade, Pastes, Preserves, Honey, Herbs and Organic Teas. We work together with small to medium-sized producers in Greece and represent brands that are award winning in terms of taste and design!”
EVOO refers to Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
All images have been supplied by Agora Products.
This article was originally published on vanillabeige.com