April 17, 2013. Philadelphia. – He’s not the “Jolly Green” giant, but he is Green and he is a giant in the “Green” industry. Van Vlahakis’ company “Earth Friendly Products” has the number #1 selling (environmentally safe) laundry detergent in America and soon they will take on Europe via Greece.
In 1967, when nobody ever used the word “Green” other than to describe grass, Van Vlahakis founded Venus Laboratories, Inc. to make better cleaning products and pursue his dream of business success.
Yesterday, at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Dr. Maria Hnaraki, Director of Greek Studies organized the eco-friendly evening called: “A Cretan Green Story: From Kazantzakis to Vlahakis”. The event was co-sponsored by The College of Arts and Sciences along with the Earth Friendly Products and the Drexel Hellenic Student & Philadelphia Associations.
The evening opened with a book presentation, “The Terrestrial Gospel” and signing by Professor Thanasis Maskaleris, marking the 130 years of Nikos Kazantzakis’s birth. Between the book presentation and the movie screening Hnaraki spoke about the Green industry movement before introducing the film “A Green Story” and Van Vahakis whose life the film was based on.
“A Green Story” is a film about the life and journey of entrepreneur, Dr. Van Vlahakis, founder and CEO of Earth Friendly Products. Filmed in Greece and the United States, the independently made film featured many well-recognized actors. After watching this film pace itself back and forth throughout the last half century of Vlahakis’ life one finds himself connecting with many parts of it.
Obviously we Greeks, felt the cultural connection, but that was only one of the elements that stood out about this man’s life. When people look back at the film and examine Vlahakis’ life, they will realize that Vlahakis is a hero, for lack of a better word. He is a man of integrity and perseverance, which is the underlying message of the film.
Much of the history of his life is revealed here; from his initial landing in Chicago-via New York, where the financial struggles of foreign immigrants obviously affected him to his bout with a cancer; and the challenges and obstacles of becoming successful. Needless to say that his native “green” island, that of Crete and the village of Kalyves-Chania, played a key-role and yet still functions as an inspiration to his vision for a sustainable world.
Van Vlahakis, who has created the most important household cleaning company in America today, arrived alone from Greece to New York City in 1953. He spoke no English and had only twenty-two dollars in his pocket. Another expatriate gave him the money to pay for a train ticket to Chicago, a “stranger he owes to”.
Van Vlahakis is a man who leads by demonstrating and is a modern day Greek American hero who needs to be embraced and celebrated. At a time when the world economy and our motherland are struggling, Vlahakis is a man that is already thinking ahead. With 5 North American factories already at hand, Greece will be among the first to follow.
With offices already established in Syntagma Square, Greece, in August, Earth Friendly products will begin searching and building a new factory which will initially employee some 60 individuals. What’s truly incredible here, is that “we will employee 60 members from Greece, and salaries will start at more than double the living wage of what employees are getting paid in Greece”, said Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, Vice President of Earth Friendly Products.
This practice has been a constant at Earth Friendly Products. Employees that work for Earth Friendly rarely leave. Their compensation in the US is the same. Employees starting salaries are more than double the living wage that most companies pay. This will certainly build “Earth Friendly Products” reputation abroad as well.
The newest addition to the EFP products seals an “animated” collaboration with the esteemed “Walt Disney Company”. “We are thrilled to present products that we stand behind with the utmost confidence,” said Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, Vice President of Earth Friendly Products. “Our new Disney Baby ECOS products are effective, safe and green, which is the best combination to sustain a healthy family and the environment”.
This event and film presentation also commemorated the late Drexel President Dr. Constantine Papadakis (1946-2009).
For more information about upcoming Greek events at Drexel University please contact:
Dr. Maria Hnaraki, Director of Greek Studies Room 304-PSA Bldg #47
3234 Powelton Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19104