The Secret Life of Bees Goes Public: Niki Koustsiana…
Niki Koustsiana is not immediately recognizable as a name, but tell any Greek woman the brand name APIVITA and her lights will brighten up. “The best natural skin and hair products in Greece,” Eleni gives her opinion at the APIVITA counter of a downtown Athens pharmacy.
The name APIVITA, translated from Latin meaning “a bee’s life,” is another Greek business success story thanks to the love of nature and the intimate knowledge of herbs that abounded from childhood in the soul of Niki Koustisana. A native of Tripoli, in the middle of the Peloponnesus, Niki grew up in the wealth of spring flowers and frolicking among wild honey bees in the hills around her village. After she graduated with a major in pharmacy from the University of Athens, she started her own pharmacy along with her husband, Nick.
This wasn’t just your normal Greek pharmacy that smells of antiseptic and cosmetics (you know what I’m talking about if you have ever walked into a Greek pharmacy). This was the mortar and pestle dispensary that allowed her to mix and match life-enhancing herbs and experiment with honey, propoline, and wax. Propoline is a sort of natural bee mortar that the insects use to patch up hives which has antibacterial properties. Slowly from the alchemy of her concoctions arose hand-crafted shampoos, creams, and skin balms. In fact, she was the first to create black soap from propolis, royal bee jelly. Niki founded her products on her faith in the holistic theory of medicine handed down directly from the great physician Hippocrates who practiced in Kos. Staying faithful to natural, elemental ingredients fresh from the Greek countryside and her knowledge of aromatherapy, homeopathy and apiculture (yes, there is an entire world out there related to the life of bees and their honey) Niki was able to bring the elements that ensure health. She prescribes to a holistic definition of health, as Hippocrates did, one that encompasses not just physical well-being, but emotional and environmental beauty. Beauty and health, in her opinion, go together. A flower such as lavender is both beautiful, aromatic and relaxing, in addition to its medicinal properties.
In 1979, Niki and her husband branded their unique beauty/health concoctions, with the company APIVITA. It was the first natural beauty and cosmetics company in the country. Since 1979 until the present, Niki has led the company as its CEO. The company has emerged as a leader in “green” marketing ranking in the top 14 natural cosmetics companies by the Global Cosmetic Industry in 2008. In 2013 APIVITA gained 2nd prize as a “Sustainability Pioneer” at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit in Paris conferred on APIVITA. Even Bill Gates has recognized APIVITA as one of the three most innovative companies in Greece.
Today APIVITA has a strong presence in many markets such as Spain, Cyprus, England, Hong Kong, Japan, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Belgium, Australia, America, Holland, Luxembourg and Croatia. In her new bioclimatic factory, 200 employees are employed.
Not only a successful business maven, Niki is a philanthropist and engaged in a variety of social action campaigns. One of the projects close to her heart is resurrecting the Hippocratic Botanical Garden of Kos, a modern form of the ark of Noah, which includes 254 plants used by Hippocrates during his medical practice. In 2012 she made a valuable contribution of the campaign by Médecins Sans Frontières ‘pill for the other’s pain.” She is a founding member of the Greek Homeopathic Society and the Greek Society of Ethnopharmacology, as well as a member of the Greek Society for Environment and Culture. She gives boundlessly to the children’s charity, Together for the Child (Μαζί για το Παιδί.)
The APIVITA store is stocked with such luscious sounding products as Rose Pepper exfoliating cream, hydrating hair mask with honey, organic Greek royal jelly, cleansing foam infused with olive oil and lavender, and other ingredients so good and so natural you are tempted to open the bottle and guzzle the creams down. Most products are made with some form of propoline or honey, a natural moisturizer. The herbs used in the products are so potent when you take a whiff of the stuff you are transported to the wild hills of the Peloponnesian countryside. I especially recommend the Eco-Bio Baby series for kids and infants sensitive to harsh chemicals.
In case you didn’t have a chance to pick up any APIVITA products while in Greece, there is an APIVITA store in Eleftherios Venezelos airport for the last-minute types like myself.
Thank you Niki for indulging our senses with the natural beauty that grows in Greece.
APIVITA Official site: www.apivita.com
The Doctors without Frontiers campaign “Pills for the Pain of Others”
The Hippocratic Garden of Kos, www.hippocratesgarden.gr
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