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Ecce homo: wear your true colours

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Sometimes you just stumble across gaps in the market and business opportunities. You could say that’s what happened to Panos Kapsomanis when he wanted to get his partner some decent underwear as a gift. “High quality underwear for the LGBTQ+ community simply wasn’t available,” he explains. “If you looked online, the only stuff you found was oversexualised and low-quality.”

On the back of this experience, Panos decided to set up his own brand of high quality, simple, functional underwear that doesn’t discriminate. “We wanted to make a contribution to efforts against discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community.”

“In the US, they’re way ahead in this field. We didn’t find anything like this in Europe,” explains Stefanos Giotakis, Marketing Director. “We’ve just started the company, but there’s a lot of potential. We want to produce in Greece and take advantage of local artisanship, but the target clientele is all of Europe. With a bit of luck, and some good feedback, we’re hoping to get traction.”

As a start-up, Stefanos acknowledges that access to finance has been challenging: “We’re trying to introduce a product that doesn’t really exist in the European market, a product that’s very close to personal identity, trying to build a new trend… I think people sometimes have difficulties accepting different things or new things and we’ve found doors often closed for this reason.”

With an EU-guaranteed loan from Pireaus Bank, backed by the EIF under the Investment Plan for Europe, the company was able to purchase equipment and raw material to get going. “Honestly, we wouldn’t have started without the loan.” Stefanos adds. “I think start-ups need more support in general. We won’t maintain stock. Rather we want to be sustainable, so we’re only going to produce on demand,” he explains.

Social responsibility is something that Ecce Homo take very seriously: “That’s why we will ensure that 5% of our returns go to the LGBTQ+ community. The idea is that it’ll be up to each customer to select which organisation they want to support when they make the purchase. We’re working with 6 organisations across Europe to set up partnerships at the moment to get this going,” he explains.

This social responsibility, making it more than just a business, is also reflected in the brand name. “We chose the name Ecce Homo - ‘behold, the man’ – because we want to get across the message that there’s no need to judge and discriminate. Here’s the human being. Just accept it the way it is.”

Company: Ecce homo wear

Type of business: Clothing

EIF financing: EaSI Guarantee Financial Instrument; EFSI

Financial purpose: Purchasing equipment, raw material

For further information abiout EIF intermediaries in Greece, please refer to: http://www.eif.org/what_we_do/where/el

 

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