A PASSION for people and adding some colour and cheer to Nelson Mandela Bay residents' lives have driven two dynamic cousins to succeed.
Evy Evlambiou and Maria Markides – best known for putting together Port Elizabeth's spectacular and popular Christmas Shop every year – said the key to the success of any business was to be driven by passion.
"If you don't have that passion anymore you should reconsider what you are doing," said Markides.
Running the annual Christmas Shop, a "floating shop" showcasing a collection of enchanting Christmas decorations from around the world, is not all the duo get up to. They have also been running Red Feather Trading in Walmer – home to some of the most exquisite imported jewellery and other gifts – for the past 13 years, successfully.
The pair also share a love for travelling across the globe searching for beautiful jewellery, mostly sterling silver, semi-precious jewels and other gifts which they then bring home.
Having a passion for people and travel are not the only characteristics they share. Both also have firm roots in local business. Evlambiou learned all she knows about running a business from her parents, who opened the Sunridge Spar in PE in the 1960s.
"I grew up in Spar and helped my parents from a young age," Evlambiou said.
After finishing school, however, she decided to study teaching, but soon changed her mind after finding one of her subjects – anthropology – fascinating. "It was such a stunning subject, learning about different cultures and learning to respect these differences."
This brought out her love for people and stood her in good stead for her future business endeavours.
But it was only years later that she ventured into business.
When working as a personal assistant at a computer programming company, her boss branched out and started importing computer consumables.
She decided this was her moment to start her own business and began selling these products.
In 1993 she sold the business and moved to Cyprus where she became involved with compiling a business, travel and shipping directory.
Only when she returned to South Africa in 1998, did she take the first steps towards opening both Red Feather Trading and the Christmas Shop with Markides, after a friend showed her some beautiful imported items.
"I think having passion for what you do is key to success. How do you measure success? Many people measure it by financial means, but for me it is by making a difference and leaving a legacy," Evlambiou said.
Markides, who was born and raised in PE, started her business career as a holistic healer, but today does both.
"It is wonderful to work with people and therefore juggling both is not that difficult," she said.
"My businesses are very rewarding, seeing that you provide joy in someone's life.
"We've seen many people walk in and out of the Christmas Shop and they just light up when they see all the beautiful decorations.
"For many the festive season is not an easy time of the year, so we see tears from time to time, but we connect on a personal level with our customers and make sure they walk out with a smile."