Nov 13, 2017

Bringing the community together

First day of training... was difficult.
First day of training... was difficult.

Dear friends and supporters,

I am writing this report from the town of Razgrad, in North Bulgaria. What are we doing here? I am glad you asked. After our promotional 1 day seminar here in April, now we have a solid group of 26 people who have signed up for our training. Wikipedia says Razgrad has 31700 people population, but the locals told us it is much less than that. Our long-term partners and helpers in this region have helped us to organize a 4 day training for beginner entrepreneurs. We are having a mixed group of people – men and women, from 25 to 73 years of age, at various stages of their business development. Some are still unsure what to do, others are now one year into business. They are wonderful people and they have so much potential in them, though we have had some psychological barriers to overcome. WHO are you and WHY are you doing this for us for free? We are small, we do not think big here; why would I share my dream and vision with you, this is too personal. We had to engage all our inspirational and motivational arsenal in order to kindle that little spark of entreprenalism in their hearts. In the beginning they did not feel comfortable even sharing between each other. But now, after 2 days of training, they are braver and we see them encouraging one another.. which is something you don’t see in the Bulgarian business world. Because of all these new facets of our participants, we slightly modified our training curriculum and emphasized even more on the moral, ethical part of the business, on doing business with integrity, generosity and love. Generosity had to be completely redefined, as most people had .. let’s say limited definition of this concept.

I would love to write longer, but I need to run to the next session. We are teaching Marketing and in this class we will have a REAL marketing survey. We will taste various mueslies and biscuits produced by one of the students. So we will teach Marketing theory in a 100% practical way. Exciting, ah.. and delicious too.

We are expecting a local TV team to arrive tomorrow and film part of the training. We hope to be able to show you the video in the next report…

Talking about videos, some of our supporters have developed a short promotion about our work, so please feel free to share it on your Facebooks. https://www.facebook.com/eradicate.poorness/videos/640691149462449/

Last month we gave another loan to a small business owner. I will write about this next time…

Students engaging in discussions in the free time
Students engaging in discussions in the free time
Small groups really helped to break the ice
Small groups really helped to break the ice
Aug 15, 2017

Going Healthy

Nikolay with the barrels of apple vinegar
Nikolay with the barrels of apple vinegar

Dear friends and supporters,

During the last several months we have been working with several new Bulgarian entrepreneurs and here we will present one of them.

Nikolay – graduated as an engineer, for several years tried politics, but realized this is not his thing and now out of the blue he decided to start his own business producing natural apple vinegar and dried fruits/vegetables. When he started he had nothing. Literally. He took a credit from a bank (which he will be paying for another 8 years) and rented a wretched building in a remote village. I mean really remote – about 2.5 hours drive one way from our office. Slowly and with a lot of efforts he managed to convert the miserable building into something like a mini factory for drying fruits and vegetables and for fermenting natural apple vinegar. Difficult years, many sacrifices, including his wife leaving him as she did not believe in him, but right now he is selling to some of the larger chain supermarkets (well, not like in the USA, but large for our economy) and his sales are increasing. Throughout the years we have had many business that we have worked with, but first time ever with dried fruits/vegetables and apple vinegar; so we had the opportunity to learn a lot about the benefits of apple vinegar. We were honestly surprised that this is his top selling product, as in Bulgaria every other family makes their own home made apple vinegar and we did not expect that someone will actually buy it from the shops.. But there you go – Nikolay now has orders on the waiting list and he would really do better with a higher capacity fermentation cabin.

So what did we do for Nikolay? As a start – we made it to his mini factory. He said we are the first and ONLY people who have honored him to physically visit him at his factory in the remote village. No other client, vendor, even the bank (which he took money from) has ever visited him! He was so honored and pleased that this immediately quickened respect in him towards us. So thank you so much for the support, as we wouldn't be able to visit him without your financial support (cars still run on fuel here... :))

What else did we do, and still doing for Nikolay? Design consultancy – how to improve the labels of his products. If anybody has a creative idea for apple vinegar bottle labels, please let us know, Nikolay surely needs help; Company image consultancy – since he is planning to export to Greece, Germany, etc. he really needed help to create company presentations and broshures. Again, if you are good in proofreading or designing broshures.. we WILL use you; Pricing consultancy – Nikolay already knew all the details about each of his products, but we asked him which one is his most profitable product (so he can focus on it) and he had trouble telling us right away. So we opened those big Excel spreadsheets together and started calculating. I know how much you love numbers, so I will skip the details. Automation of the process – right now all the work is done manually. Nikolay employs between 5 and 9 local women from the village and pays them a minimum wage. On several occasions, we would sit down and scratch our heads (for a long time) thinking what could be done to automate the process and make it faster. Oh yes, and without large investment. Anybody heard of automatic cherry pit remover? It looks like we will be working closely with Nikolay at least for another few months and I would like to take the opportunity and thank you all for the support as it not only allows me to eat dried fruits and veggies as much as I want, but it greatly encourages Nikolay as he sees our support in practical and emotional way – something not even his wife was able to offer him.

Thank you once again and best regards!

His mini factory
His mini factory
Some of Nikolay's products
Some of Nikolay's products
May 18, 2017

The WOW experience

Training in the South - the advanced class.
Training in the South - the advanced class.

Dear friends and supporters,

I am sure you have all heard the expression “The WOW experience” - when something really exceeds your expectations. This terms is most often used in relation to Customer Service. And this was the main topic that we taught during our April training, which we conducted in Plovdiv, South Bulgaria. We had two groups of students – beginners – those just starting a business or not even sure they should start a business and an advanced group of experienced small business owners. Afterwards we traveled to Razgrad, North Bulgaria to conduct a ½ day promotional seminar on starting and running a social business. We had 25 participants of all levels of business maturity – some with no idea what to do and others with 10+ years of experience in running a business.

So in South Bulgaria we taught how to create a WOW customer service experience. But not just that – we had a Marketing module, Sales, Finances, Business Concept, etc. etc. We ourselves wanted to serve as an example and we tried to create this WOW experience in our students. And we are glad we succeeded. How do we know? From the feedback that we received. We had a survey (as usual) at the end of our training and some of the statements about the level of our training were absolutely encouraging. Without going into boasting we will only mention one feedback. Dania is a professional sales rep, she has worked as a full-time worker for a German company in Bulgaria for more than 3 years now. She has been to hundreds of high class sales trainings. Her words were: “I have never been to anything like that before” - and she particularly meant our Sales module, lead by one of the Bulgarian trainers. Her words were such an encouragement for the Bulgarian trainers! We know our USA colleagues are super-great, and we always hear positive applauses for their lectures, but to read such a statement from a professional Sales rep about our Sales module, was a real booster :))

While in the North we visited a small house where 6 orphans were accommodated. These were young people - between 18 and 40 years of age, but since they have been orphans all their lives, instead of being kicked out on the street after turning 18, they were all placed to live in something like an orphanage... except there were only 6 of them in 3 bedrooms. Houses like that exist in Bulgaria and they are in a difficult situation as they Government subsidies are not sufficient to support them and they rely on private companies. The young people are unable to find jobs, so they grow veggies in their garden for their own consumption. They run on a very low budget, no luxuries at all. We decided to create a WOW experience for them too. So we bought them food, basic hygienic materials and the WOW – an ice-cream cake! I know most of you may WOW at an ice-cream cake.. me too.. but it was so sweet to hear these abandoned people laugh and clap hands when they saw the presents. We are so grateful to our American donors who created these WOW experiences in the Bulgarian hearts!

Now, to those of you who are in the Plymouth, Minnesota area, we would like to invite you to a small reception on June 25th, 1-3pm. I (Maia) will be visiting some of our USA based donors and we will have a typical American BBQ, at which you are all welcomed! Now, I as a Bulgarian, have no idea what a “typical American BBQ” is, so I will be surprised, but I am sure you will enjoy it and I will definitely enjoy meAting with you! Please call Global Ministries at 763-971-5107 for more information.

Thank you once again and best regards!

Visiting the orphanage for adult orphans
Visiting the orphanage for adult orphans
Training in the North Bulgaria
Training in the North Bulgaria
 
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