Interview with Vasili Kreatsoulas, Entrepreneur and Owner and Founder of Kalimoji's App. Interview conducted by Tony Kariotis of GreekPosts.com
Tell me a little about yourself!
I’m the youngest of 4 siblings and currently live in Wading River, NY where I grew up. My mom’s side is from Kozani, Thessaloniki, Constantinople and the island of Marmara in Turkey. My dad’s side is from Chios and around Smyrna. My name always had people asking what background I was but besides saying I was Greek I wasn’t truly connected with my heritage until I moved to Pittsburgh for college. I joined the Grecian Odyssey Dancers of East Pittsburgh that my parents helped form in 1981 and really started to learn about what being Greek was all about. I learned to read and write Greek by constantly playing Greek music and writing the lyrics over and over and learned a lot about the culture through the dancing. It really was a turning point in my life.
Favorite Greek food: a pile of fresh pita and some tzatziki and I’m good. Besides that I can never say no to Stifado, Karidopita and my dad’s Baklava. Favorite singer is Glykeria and Eleftheria Arvanitaki because their music was some of the first ones I listened to.
What does being Greek mean to you?
Being Greek to me is having a sense of history and pride in those who came before you. When you walk into a Greek Orthodox Church or climb among ruins you instantly feel connected to the past.
What makes you proud calling yourself Greek?
I think the tenacity and resilience of Greeks is something that I really admire. I have a lot of family who had to leave everything behind after being forcibly removed from Anatolia and start over in a new country, whether it was Greece, the United States or Australia. To start over with nothing and build yourself up with a family to feed is never easy. And to do this so family in the future that you may never meet has a foundation to succeed is something I’m extremely grateful for and proud of. If they did that for me the least I can do is be respectful of the traditions and language they fought to preserve.
What inspired you to build your own Greek app?
In summer 2017 I was getting ready to go to Greece with my friends. I was texting my friend and wanted to send her an emoji of a gyro but the closest thing I could find was a burrito. I had seen earlier in the year a comedian had made iMessage stickers of one of her characters and wondered how hard it could be. I always wanted to combine my creativity with something Greek and decided this was it. I reached out to a friend who was an app developer and he said it was easy to do and was willing to help. Over the course of a couple months I designed the first 24 Kalimojis and added more a few months later with the help of a designer on Instagram.
Tell us a little bit about your app Kalimojis!
Kalimojis is designed to help Greeks express themselves over text. Whether it’s sending a Kalimera message in the morning or congratulating someone on their wedding.
Aside from building Kalimojis, what else do you do?
I currently work in automotive advertising and freelance social media on the side.
How often do you get to visit Greece? Where do you stay!?
I’ve been to Greece 4 times (1995, 2009, 2014 & 2017). We’ve always gone as tourists the first half of the any trip since the majority of the time we have non-Greeks with us who want to see the sights. We always end the trip in Chios where my father has a house a couple hundred feet from the water. I highly recommend Chios if you’re looking to go to a large island that has a variety of beaches without too many tourists. Agia Dynami is my personal favorite. My goal is to have one of those colorful houses on a port in either Kastellorizo or Syros and to spend at least 3 months a year there every year. I saw a post on one of my friend’s Instagram accounts last year talking about waking up your first day in Greece and having that feeling like you’re in a dream - I want to have that feeling all the time.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit growing up in a family of small business owners but never had an outlet to express it on my own. I started to surround myself with people who were successful and motivated to break away from the status quo and their mindset rubbed off on me.
The support of the Greek community of has been tremendous. I had reached out to a lot of pages and publications online to get the word out about Kalimojis and the response has been great. I’ve made some great friends though the process and am so thankful for everyone who has helped. I’m still working on more stickers and getting an Android version up off the ground.
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