We present the first in our series on smart London people – people we like and admire doing progressive entrepreneurial things in the creative, artistic or business fields. Niko Martikas is the Managing Director of Martikas, the London-based travel company that specialises in creating quality travel experiences and events for the LGBT sector.
We met with Niko on a warm summer’s evening in Soho (something to be savoured), and then we photographed him for this piece in the Foxhall look of his choice.
What was the path that led you to start your own business?
Learning to ski at 35. It changed my life. I decided a few years later to combine my passion for travel with my newfound passion for skiing. Travel business was the answer.
Give us your elevator pitch – what is it you make/do and why is it great?
Martikas organises bespoke group travel for the professional LGBT market. We create high-quality, great-value holidays and experiences with a highly personal touch for LGBT people and their friends.
We view our holidays more like unforgettable social events and activities exclusively for our clients. That is how we ensure that our guests get the very best out of stunning destinations in a welcoming, intimate and relaxed atmosphere that sparks lasting friendships.
What is the best and worst decision you’ve made to date?
As an entrepreneur you make a lot of both. Which to one pick?
Best: Applying and being accepted at an amazing program at UCL called 10k Small Businesses sponsored by Goldman Sachs. Changed my business attitude. Made some amazing friends and confidants.
Worst: Trusting a partner tour operator on a chalet property without viewing it first. Had some of my best clients going there and thankfully I arrived there a few days before. I had to profusely apologise and make it up to them. Thankfully they understood. Never again.
What’s the bit of your business you’re most proud of?
The friendship that it creates. There is no doubt about that. I love seeing people connect. I have received numerous thank you notes from guests thanking me for the experience and the life long friends they feel they’ve made at one of my events.
How do you make your business grow?
Organically mostly through word of mouth. It means we must be always delivering on our client’s expectations. They return with friends and they introduce most new people to us.
Is London good for your business?
I love London. It offers such an amazing diversity. It is easy to travel to anywhere. It’s fun, vibrant and people are curious to discover new things.
Favourite fun spot in London?
I used to love going rock climbing at The Castle. That was until I bruised badly one of my tendons a couple of years back. Can’t wait to get back to it.
Places in London you like to eat?
I love a good brunch. The Table on Southwark Street SE1 is one of my favourites.
Suvlaki Athenian Grill (used to be called 21 Bateman St) in soho. They make the best souvlaki outside of Greece!
Tell us about a London postcode close to your heart.
SE1 – especially near London Bridge/ Bermondsey St area. I lived there for over 20 years. I’ve seen it change dramatically from a dump to funky to posh in areas. Still love it just as much.
What tickles you culturally?
Dare I say folklore? Little nuggets that explain a nation’s loves and hates and attitudes. I love the music scene in London. I am a regular live concertgoer. Plus we have the best theatre-land in the world!
What’s your favourite piece of the Foxhall Collection and why?
Torn here. I have a few t-shirts from your collections. They hang beautifully on my body and love the quality of the cotton feel of them. Plus your windbreaker blue softshell jacket. Had my eye on it for ages!
How has marketing to the LGBT market changed in the past 20 years?
Coming from a media background it’s a very interesting question. At the start of my business it was all about Flyers and Gay Times. After the mid nineties more publications appeared (weeklies and monthlies) and they had the market eating from their hand until about 2007-9. Now it’s all about social media and a large proliferation of influential bloggers and followers.
A piece of advice for anyone considering starting up their own venture?
I say go for it. Surround yourself with supportive people. Get a business mentor. Educate yourself. Attend the myriad of free helpful courses in your local area. Listen and research a lot. Always ask for help. You will be amazed how much of it you will find at no cost! But at the end of the day your idea may be so new and disruptive that no one knows better than you. And should you fail remember you have gained a huge amount of experience. As my mentor says “failure is just a step closer to success”!