Sharing Real-Life Entrepreneurial Successes and Failures

Some say being in the right place at the right time makes all the difference in life. To Professor Alexandra “Alex” Kostakis that statement holds true as the right timing led her to Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management.

“I was visiting a friend on Lake Ontario one summer several years back and I ran into John Torrens, who had just been hired as a professor of entrepreneurial practice at Whitman,” she recalled. “I told him I ran my own business and would love to teach someday. John connected me with Whitman.”

Since 1999, Kostakis has owned her own business with her mother, Hellinis Imports, an importer/wholesaler and distributor of a variety of Greek items, handicrafts and clothing. At Whitman, she uses her experience as a longtime business owner, to help students not only to become innovative thinkers, but also successful entrepreneurs.

“I think having my own business makes me good at what I do because I can give real-life examples to the students – things they won’t get from a textbook,” she said. “They appreciate hearing about the successes and the failures!”

Kostakis teaches an average of three classes a semester to undergraduates, as well as those in the Defense Comptrollership Program, plus online and in-person courses for veterans and transitioning military members who want to learn more about starting their own businesses. She also teaches in the Boots to Business program that provides a high-level view of what it takes to run a business. Through the program she travels to military bases all over the world helping service members. To Kostakis this is her way of supporting military members and thanking them for their service.

What’s more, she serves as housemaster for the Harrison House, as part of the Goodman IMPRESS program, and she is a faculty mentor for the Creativity, Innovation, Entrepreneurship (CIE) Learning Community at Syracuse University.

“I am glad that I have opportunities to interact with the whole school and not just those in the EEE major,” said Kostakis. “By participating in IMPRESS and CIE, I meet students of all ages who are pursuing all kinds of majors. I enjoy connecting students with resources and activities that help them pursue their passions.”

Often, Kostakis counsels students who have ideas on starting a business, helping them think through concepts and challenges.

“I find that if people really want to start their own business, they’ll make it happen. They’ll take risks and move forward even in the face of challenges, such as not enough resources or difficult timing,” she said. “Sometimes you have to put things together with duct tape and it’s seldom perfect. Successful entrepreneurs have to be willing to believe that it doesn’t have to be the way they think it needs to be.”