Martin C. Barry
‘A good cigar is a Smoke.’
– Rudyard Kipling –
Without apologies to Kipling, who knew a thing or two about stogies all the same, there were plenty of cigars to go around – just as a good number of toasts of single malt scotch whiskey were hoisted and downed – during the Hellenic Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal’s cigar tasting evening at Stogies Crescent St. cigar lounge on Jan. 25.
“This is our fifth annual cigar event where we invite clients, as well as guests and members of our business community to take part in an evening of fine cigars while enjoying a good drink,” said Evan Kiousis, vice-president of marketing for HBOT Montreal.
A convivial atmosphere
In Stogies’ upstairs cigar lounge and bar where up to 70 people crowded during the event, the air was thick with fragrant cigar haze. As well, the atmosphere was as convivial as a 19th century gentlemen’s club. Although a few women members of the HBOT were present, they were outnumbered by their merry male counterparts. And by the look of things, the men appeared to be getting the most enjoyment from the cigars.
“Cigars are something that are enjoyed in a social setting,” said Kiousis. “Very few people like to smoke cigars by themselves. Some people do. But we do this because it’s a very social and convivial environment and it’s conducive to sharing experiences and business practices.”
Among those networking were entrepreneurs, lawyers, doctors, accountants and other professionals. They shared stories, and in some cases offered advice on how to attain professional success. “We invite our clients, our friends to participate in an evening to see if we can increase the presence of Hellenic business people in the community and to show them the strength of the Greek community in business,” added Kiousis.
Mentoring younger members
“We’re very proud of what the community has accomplished and we’re looking to further that, while mentoring young up-and-coming Greeks and allow them an opportunity to meet other more successful Greeks. We want to help the younger generation get to where we are quicker with everything we’ve learned.”
As he suggested, a new and younger generation is beginning to make its presence known in the HBOT, just as an increasing number of women are also becoming members. “There are more women coming on board than we’ve had in the past,” said Kiousis. “Especially in the legal, accounting and medical professions. And they’re coming on board to share their experiences and to try to help the up-and-coming generation in the Greek business community to go further.”
Vanessa Velentzas, an auditor and senior manager at Montreal-based accounting services firm Richter LLP, typifies the younger generation the HBOT would like to see more of in its membership. “I think it’s important for people of my age to realize that we are a presence in the Hellenic community and that it’s important for us at a young age to start building relationships,” said Velentzas.
The HBOT holds many events
According to HBOT president John Charalampopoulos, the board is actively trying to recruit younger members “in order to take this organization to the next level and continue for years to come,” he said. In an average year, the HBOT holds more than a half-dozen important events, several of them for networking. Including smaller gatherings, the board holds an event each month, he added. The HBOT also interacts and occasionally holds events in conjunctions with other groups in the Montreal region, including the Italian and Jewish chambers of commerce, in order to broaden network connections.
The HBOT’s Deka Awards Gala, celebrating Hellenic excellence, is without doubt their largest annual event. Held this year on May 10 at The Windsor downtown, the awards recognize outstanding Hellenic individuals and businesses in greater Montreal who through their creativity and excellence have contributed to the enrichment of the region. The award winners are chosen by a selection committee made up of professionals and business people. The deadline for the 2017 Deka Awards is Feb. 14 and nominations can be submitted by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.