How Alex Pissios Is Giving Back to Those in Need Through Education -

Education has been a defining thread running through Alex Pissios’ life.

Chicago entrepreneur Alex Pissios’ father was an educator. Pissios originally planned to follow in his father’s footsteps, but life took him on another path. His passion for teaching, however, never went away, and he found new outlets for helping young people.

He leveraged his business success to forge partnerships with film schools in the Chicago area. He also created one of the best internship programs in the state. His work helped many low-income young people in Chicago launch great careers in the movie business. Pissios recently sold his company, Cinescape Studios, and is turning his attention back to his first love, special education.

Image Alt Text: Alex Pissios’s father, Spiros, working as a special education teacher at Anixter.

Image Description: Alex Pissios’s father, Spiros, working as a special education teacher at Anixter.

Image Caption: Alex Pissios’s father, Spiros, working as a special education teacher at Anixter.

Pissios’ Father Found Fulfillment as a Special Education Teacher

Spiros Pissios was born in northern Greece and came to Chicago as a young child. Spiros’ father owned a restaurant near Lincoln Square. Spiros worked weekends in his father’s business while he was in school. Despite his early exposure to the restaurant business, it wasn’t something he wanted to pursue.

Teaching was Spiros’ true calling. After graduating from Northeastern Illinois University, he became a special education teacher in the Chicago public schools. Soon, he had a wife and three sons. To support his growing family, he worked as a teacher during the week and had a second job on weekends. His work ethic and dedication to his calling made a big impression on Alex Pissios.

“When you’re a Chicago public school teacher,” Pissios said, reflecting on his father, “it’s not to make money.” When Pissios became a father himself, he understood Spiros on a deeper level. His father “woke up every day and really gave his life to helping,” he said. “It’s something else.”

Alex Pissios Planned to Follow in His Father’s Footsteps

After growing up in Chicago’s public schools, Pissios went to Northeastern Illinois University, intending to become a special education teacher. He saw the difference his father made to his students. It was a good life, he thought.

Everything was going according to plan. Pissios started student teaching. Soon, he would graduate with teaching credentials and get a classroom of his own. Then, life threw a series of curveballs.

Fur, Leather, Real Estate, and Movies

In 1994, Pissios’ uncle gave him a call that would change his life. The uncle had a fur and leather business in Indianapolis and was opening a store in Chicago. He needed someone he trusted to run it.

“What are you talking about?” Pissios remembers saying to him. “I don’t even like fur.” But the uncle quoted a salary that was more than three times what Pissios would have made as a teacher. The next thing he knew, Pissios was in the fur and leather business.

Pissios discovered he had a talent for business. After 10 years, he left the fur store to develop real estate projects. He was taking on increasingly large projects. Then came the real estate crash, and he went bankrupt.

The next twist of fate happened when Pissios ran into his mother’s uncle, Nick Mirkopoulos, at a wedding. The man called “Uncle Nick” owned Cinespace in Toronto. He was a “stern old guy” who wanted to help. He invested $500,000 for Pissios to buy a building to establish a branch of Cinespace in Chicago.

That one building became another and then another. Cinespace, under Pissios’ guidance, became the largest film studio company in North America. It had grown to 52 acres when Pissios sold it in 2021 for more than a billion dollars.

Alex Pissios and Cinescape Give a Hand up to Young People in the Neighborhood

Even with all his business success, Pissios never forgot his dream of helping the next generation. “I always tell people,” he said, “what I’m most proud of is the Cinecares Foundation.” He started the foundation in honor of his Uncle Nick.

Cinescape’s studios are in an underserved neighborhood, but most of its employees come from elsewhere. Pissios knew “something was not happening in the right way.” He started the Mirkopoulos Apprenticeship Program for low-income young people in the city, providing paid internships after high school. The foundation also pays the interns’ $5,000 union dues.

Pissios partnered with NBC, Wolf Entertainment, and the Academy Awards. The program grew to be one of the best internship programs in Chicago and all of Illinois. After finishing their internships, the program participants get good jobs in the film industry that pay in the mid-five figures.

The program is still going strong. The new owners of Cinescape wanted the Cinecares program, and it became part of the sales deal.

Business and Higher Education Come Together Through Alex Pissios’ Partnerships

Alex Pissios’ drive to help young people did not stop with the Cinecares program. He also forged partnerships with DePaul University and Northeastern Illinois University.

DePaul University’s film school was ranked very low before Alex’s partnership. He invested time and money, and now it’s one of the best in the country.

The Next Chapter

After selling Cinescape for $1.3 billion, Pissios can do whatever he likes. One thing he’s chosen to do is go full circle in his life — back to helping people with special needs.

He wants to focus on an area that isn’t getting enough attention. When kids with special needs turn 18 or 21, they lose the services they had when they were younger. But they often still need help. Many can’t find jobs. They may come from families that don’t have the money to give them the opportunities in life that they need.

Philanthropy will be a major part of Alex’s future. “For my next chapter of my life,” he said, “it’s going to be … more important than making more money. It’s going to be … about giving back.”

Originally published at https://ventsmagazine.com on May 31, 2022.

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Alex Pissios • President, Alecko Capital • Former President / CEO of Cinespace Chicago Film Studios • Greek American • Chicago Native

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Alex Pissios

Alex Pissios

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Alex Pissios • President, Alecko Capital • Former President / CEO of Cinespace Chicago Film Studios • Greek American • Chicago Native