Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship

by Cornerstone Foundation
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship
Train 20 Vulnerable Bulgarians in Entrepreneurship

I have titled this report “Be an example” as this came to us when one of our loan-takers passed away in May 2018. He was a young man, born 1981 (37 year old), died of a heart attack, leaving a wife and a 6-year old girl. Several years ago we gave him a loan to start his own food supplement business. This man owed us $4312USD. Legally, after his death the debt was inherited by his child and we had the right to pursue our money from his wife and child. After a short discussion though Cornerstone Foundation Board made a decision to write off the loan. In order to arrange the paperwork, it was time to talk to the family. The first one that we contacted was the the debtor's mother. She was initially surprised by our act of kindness, she doubted... she asked questions, she couldn't understand WHY we are doing this. It took a while to convince her, but eventually she cooperated as much as possible so we could arrange the papers on our side. She shared she was honestly surprised that we gave him a loan as a start as her son had problems with drugs in the past. I said WE KNEW that too and that shocked her. I.e. we knew that he had problems in the past and despite of that we gave him a loan... were we crazy? We said we believe that God can fully transform people and while her son was at our trainings he was clean. She cried on the phone, then she calmed down we talked more.. 20min later she called again and we talked more… It was such an emotional day. We had a similar experience when we talked to the debtor's wife. She was surprised we won't chase them for the money. She was initially suspicious and did not talk much. She needed about 2 weeks to inquire about us as an organization and people. That again gave us an opportunity to share our values and moral principles, to explain that we are living what we are teaching. Eventually, she called us back and said she will fully cooperate for the paperwork around writing the loan off. We went a step further.. we walked the second mile and asked "Could we somehow help you, now that you are a single mother with a little girl." She was touched, her voice trembled...

Now, I am not writing this to boast or brag about our attitude, but to share the joy of seeing grateful eyes and hearing sincere words of thankfulness. And yes, we lost the $4312USD, but can you measure the light on people's faces? Can you measure their hope that there is still goodness and undeserved mercy on the planet Earth? Maybe this girl will grow with a little bit brighter future now, maybe the mother and the grandmother will teach her that there is forgiveness regardless of how much you have messed up... No, we do not regret for losing the money.

I mentioned moral and ethics, and would like to share some information about Bulgaria, just so you are aware how much good values lack here. In Nov 2017 there was a national research on the religious classification of Bulgarian population. 81% of the Bulgarians have identified themselves as Orthodox. Orthodoxy is not popular in the West; it is a Christian branch, similar to Catholicism. Of the Bulgarian Orthodox people:
78% are atheists.
68% do not believe in Hell.
54% believe in the evil eye.
40% believe in magic, witchcraft and sorcery.
37% believe in reincarnation.

So you get the picture and it may be easier for you to understand why writing off a loan is not something people often encounter.

Last... Did you know that on September 29th is the International Day of Beaurocracy? According to a research a Bulgarian entrepreneur spends an average of 180 hours/ year for beurocratic services.

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Training in Silistra
Training in Silistra

The spring of 2018 would be noted in our calendars as a milestone. In the early Cornerstone years we started with 1 training per season. Then we tried several different formats and we discovered that we are able to run two trainings per season, wither consecutively or simultaneously in two different halls. And we have been doing this for the past several years. In April this year we stepped further and we cinducted 3 trainings in a raw - we have never done this before! We started with a training for beginners in a small town Silistra, on the Dunabe river, border with Romania. We had 13 students, all excited that someone came to visit them. Apparently, since it is such a small town, there are not many business related activities. Then we headed towards Ruse, which is also on the Dunabe river.. we unsuccessfully tried getting on a barge and ended up driving for 2 hours between the two town.

Another milestone is that for the first time we had one of our students teach at our training. Daniel completed our training program in 2013 and he started his own business in the bio-waste industry. His business is still running, he now has 1 employee and growing. He came over to our training in Silistra and thought for the first time. He did an amazing job and we will surely use him again!

Lately, we have been seeing a great need of carrier consultancy for young people and graduating students. Young people are lost and the larger percentage of them have no clue what they want to do in life. So we attended a couple of trainings in the area of Carrier Consultancy, and we are preparing to launch our first carrier planning seminar, so we will hopefully have more news in the next letter.

We (Cornerstone Foundation) are now part of 3 projects, ran by partnering organizations:

  1. Digital training of micro-businesses, including Digital Marketing. We are part of the discussion and focus group. Later in the year there will be trainings provided to micro, small and medium size businesses. So our beneficiaries will benefit from the fact that we are part of this project.

  2. Know-how Lab for Social Entrepreneurship. This project started in December 2017 and focuses on how to develop the Social Enterprises personnel. We were able to go to Italy on a study trip (no sight-seeing at all!), which was fully financed by the funding body and we visited several Social Enterprises and tried to learn from them. It was useful for me, as I met with a training organization (like us) and we had a good exchange of information, mainly on the training topics and methodologies. Based on that partnership we will be improving our training programs.

  3. Social Change Challenge – The essence of the Social Change Challenge project is: Train the people; Send them home to observe their small community; Come up with ideas for social change; Identify local resources; Implement step-by-step. It is all about changing the community with what there is available, plus raising local leaders, etc.

So all these partnerships are helping us to expand our network, to promote our program and to improve our training materials and structure.

Thank you for allowing us to grow and to mark these milestones!

Training in Silistra
Training in Silistra
Training in Ruse - beginners
Training in Ruse - beginners
Training in Ruse - running businesses
Training in Ruse - running businesses
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Slava teaching HR
Slava teaching HR

Dear friends and supporters, in this issue I would like to share with you the story of Slava. Slava was a student during our April 2017 training. She was just made redundant from her full time HR job and she was looking for guidance how to start her own HR business.

After the training she never submitted a market research, she never worked on a business plan and we lost contact. In January 2018 I was in Sofia for a training and guess who do I meet? Slava! So we had a lot to talk about. What happened with her between April 2017 and January 2018? She had started her own HR social enterprise business. She is consulting companies, developing and implementing team-building programs, etc. BUT the most important work she is doing is the social part /community impact of her work - Slava is training NGOs/charities/non-profit organizations for free! She makes enough money from her other customers to afford free training for certain clients. In fact, she was so busy, that she did not have time to create a website or even write a portfolio! And she is happy! We met by coincidence almost a year after the training and I saw the effect of our work in full action! It was a great encouragement for me and I want to encourage you too - You may not see the fruits of your seeds right now and maybe not even here on this earth. But this should not stop you from doing what is right and what is good. We should not be 'results-lead', but rather 'inner conviction-lead'. Thank you for listening to this inner guidance and supporting us! I am sure sooner or later we will all see a clearer picture of how much we have changed people's lives.

Did I say picture... Yes, we had a TV team filming our training back in November last year. The video material is still not ready, as the crew filmed over 2 hours and now we need to reduce it to 15min as per the contract. So much needs to be cut, but we like it all and we do not want to cut anything... Well... while we are thinking about it, maybe, just maybe... you could think about helping us financially to pay for the video material? It costs 360 USD to produce the 15min video, and then we need to negotiate and sign a contract how often to have it broadcasted.

Also in November we had a meeting with several business people from a town called Lovech - we wrote about that in the previous newsletter. Several months after the meeting we received a thank you email from one of the businessmen, writing:

“The meeting in Lovech was definitely very useful, for which I am extremely grateful. The trainers are great and very experienced!”. That was another "blast from the past" which encouraged us...

Last - In December we (with your support) were able to give a micro-loan to one of our previous students to expand his business. He needed money in order to increase his transportation capacity and currently he is regularly paying back his loan.

Thank you very much for your support!

Me and Slava when we accidentally met.
Me and Slava when we accidentally met.
We had a table at a large national youth event
We had a table at a large national youth event
and another table at another national youth event.
and another table at another national youth event.
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The burnt sewing machine
The burnt sewing machine

I am not sure if such a term exists, but it best describes what our main focus was in the past month.

But before that in November 2017 we completed our training in the North Bulgaria. We had two groups of people - beginners and advanced entrepreneurs. We had a positive challenge with the advanced group, as we usually keep those classes to 4-6 people; this time we had 12. So we had to rush through the material and restructure the training, so we can ensure individual consultation and time with each of the business owners. Eventually, we received only positive feedback from both groups.

Then in December we participated in an event called "Lab for Social Enterprise Know-How". We were invited there by the organizers as one of the 27 organizations involved in the project. The aim of the project is to develop different training programs for systematic and sustained increase of the qualifications and competences of employees of the social enterprises. During the "Lab" we found out that there are multiple non-profit organizations with a great heart for their cause, but 0 business skills. Which of course, revealed a great field and many potential students for our trainings. During the "lab" we mainly networked, shared opinions, experience and people listened to us! It turned out - indeed, we are the ONLY ONES doing what we are doing in Bulgaria... I.e. providing BUSINESS training to people starting and practicing Social Entrepreneurship. So by supporting us, you are supporting something unique and we are so grateful for your donations!

Now, the incident relief... In a small village in South Bulgaria, there is a Roma woman, who had a clothing shop and she was also doing some sewing and clothes repairing as well(tailoring business). In the beginning of December due to an electrical circuit shortage her shop burnt. It happened during the night and nobody noticed it, the family only saw it in the morning. No, there was no fire alarm. In fact, when I spoke with her husband, I said: "When you are repairing the shop, make sure you put a fire alarm." He asked me: "What is this?"... I had to explain. There were many damages from the fire - the lady had just bought a lot of stock for Christmas, and the shop was full. Her expensive professional sewing machine burnt. There was no insurance on the shop nor on the stock - people in the poor villages do not do that. In all this though the lady stayed very calm and relaxed, she was singing and smiling in the church and people were surprised. Everybody expected her to cry and complain, but she said nothing. She was a great example of how to go through difficulties in life and how to keep her peace and joy even when all income has ceased. And very soon the help started coming. Local people, some of you and others gave money towards the shop and towards a new sewing machine. So by Christmas not only was the shop rebuilt, but it was full of stock as well and the lady had a brand new sewing machine! This is what I call a quick recovery.

Thank you once again for your open hearts! Your help reaches people that really need it and have no other sources of support!

 

The burnt shop
The burnt shop
The rebuilt shop with new stock
The rebuilt shop with new stock
The new sewing machine
The new sewing machine
Participating in the SE Know-How Lab
Participating in the SE Know-How Lab
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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
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Organization Information

Cornerstone Foundation

Location: Sofia - Bulgaria
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Maia Hristozova
Plovdiv, Plovdiv Bulgaria
$13,110 raised of $17,500 goal
 
90 donations
$4,390 to go
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