Entertaining real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life
Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life. The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on July 8th, 2014

Van Vlahakis: Who started with just $22 and later built a $100 million a year company

In 1953 when he was only 18 years old, Van came to the U.S. from Greece with just $22 and the hope of building a wonderful life.

But that wonderful life was postponed as Van lived in homeless shelters and supported himself by doing odd jobs, which he continued to do while attending Roosevelt University in Chicago.

In 1958 after graduating from Roosevelt with a degree in chemistry, Van went to work in the cleaning products industry. There he got a rude awakening.

He and his co-workers often suffered from rashes and other irritations from the harshness of the chemicals and he suffered from headaches as well.

But Van knew there was a better way.

In Greece, his mother cleaned using natural ingredients such as water, olive oil and vinegar. In 1967 Van started a company in his garage to also clean using natural ingredients.

Van told the Los Angeles Times in 2013, "I wanted to make something that was better for people, safer for the environment."

Van Vlahakis
Van Vlahakis    photo: Energyworld.gr

The company he started later became known as Earth Friendly Products (EFP), headquartered in Garden Grove, California. It now has 300 employees in five U.S. based factories producing earth friendly biodegradable products.

Consumers can find EFP cleaning products such as its popular Ecos laundry detergent in Wal-Mart, Costco, supermarkets or can order them online.

Last year the company reached $100 million in sales and is continuing to grow.

But it will have to grow without 79 year old Van, who passed away in 2014 at his Key Largo, Florida home.

Yet he left the company quite a legacy as an environmentally friendly products firm, and one that does even more.

EFP wins awards for its outstanding business practices such as its use of solar energy, its waste free practices, and by incenting employees to buy hybrid or other green oriented vehicles.

But even that's not all.

EFP pays a minimum wage of $15 an hour, much higher than most American companies, and far higher than required by the U.S. Government.

Why does it pay such a high minimum wage?

Because Van never forgot what it was like to live in homeless shelters and struggle to keep a roof over his head and food on the table. As a successful CEO he acted in good conscience on behalf of EFP's lowest paid employees.

Success Tip of the Week: Van succeeded, despite incredible difficulties. So can each of us, if we are determined to do so.

Editor's Note: To learn more about EFP, Click Here. To learn more about Van, Click Here and Click Here.

In the next KazanToday: A man who saved the lives of 669 children.

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