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
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
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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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Rachel, 64-year old widow
Rachel, 64-year old widow

Dear friends and supporters,

Christmas is long past but we would like to share some of what we did around Christmas.. You know Christmas is about giving.. God gave us the Greatest Gift, Jesus Christ and thought us how to give generously.

We also decided to give to various small businesses in Bulgaria. Here are two examples:

Nellie is an unemployed single mother, who attended our Start-up training in 2016. She is willing to start her own business in selling children's clothes. She needed a bit more time to submit her initial draft business plan and we did not know why. Eventually we received it.. hand-written on paper. She did not have a computer, nor a laptop. So as a Christmas gift she received a second hand laptop so she can write her business plan and do more research on the Internet. She was indeed surprised as we did not tell her anything beforehand... Just on Saturday morning, December 24th, an unknown man turned up at her door, rang the bell and gave her the laptop. You can imagine her excitement.. or maybe not... She will need some time to learn how to use MS Word, and we will be expecting her Business Plan soon.

On the picture you see Rachel (fake name, the picture is also intentionally blurry.) She is a 64-year old widow in a Muslim village in South Bulgaria. Rachel is a devoted Christian and living in a Muslim village is not always easy for her. She has no job and no support from the Government. She is also too young to receive a pension. She has a daughter and a granddaughter, living a block away. Rachel has some skills in sewing and she decided to start her small own sewing business. Because of your support we were able to contribute financially with a gift to buy two second-hand sewing machines. They are not professional machines but are sufficient for her at this stage. In the future, after she masters the sewing techniques we are planning to help her buy a professional machine.

So thank you very much for your support in these two (and some others which we will mention in the next report) initiatives.

In the last quarter, we became members of Freedom Business Alliance, an international organization fighting against human traffic. Apparently, Bulgaria is number one in trafficked women from Europe, so we are hoping that our wisdom will help many Freedom businesses to grow financially and thus reduce this atrocious slavery.

Our next Start up Business training is at the end of April in South Bulgaria. After the training we are planning to travel North for a promotional trip as we received several inquiries about our work from that region. We maaay be expanding! How exciting!

Thank you once again and best regards!

Nellie, single mother, now with a laptop
Nellie, single mother, now with a laptop
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Dafinka with a burger and pizza kiosk
Dafinka with a burger and pizza kiosk

Dear friends and supporters,

I hope you have enjoyed a relaxing and cool summer with plenty of time for the family and loved ones.

The high summer temperatures in Bulgaria were not really motivating for the businesses but what a dramatic change happened on September 1st! The towns were suddenly transformed - traffic multiplied, new deals, increased sales and busy environment… And so it happened with our entrepreneurs. We had quite a busy month of November with a number of individual consultations. Our Bulgarian consultants did a wonderful job in identifying the real problems, the areas where the entrepreneurs needed encouragement and the specific actions that need to be taken from now on with each of them. The consultants provided extremely valuable input to each beneficiary and the comments that we heard were all very positive: "I have never heard that before!", "It was so motivating to hear this confirmation!", etc. etc. Almost all entrepreneurs were taking notes while they were consulted and in some occasions they even asked the consultants to pause and repeat so they can take notes.

Some of the most encouraging business situations are with:

Silvya with the healthy snacks kiosk re-opened on September 1st and is not making a profit that allows her to hire a person for 2 hours/day.

Vasil - car detailing workshop. His business now turned 3 years and is still going. He is able to provide for his family and they can pay all their bills. They admitted that when they started they had no idea how to run this business and it was due to our help and counseling that they made it so far.

Lilia, the hairdresser, was ready to launch her business, but she was surprised by the changes in prices – it turned out she needs almost a double start-up amount than what had planned in the beginning. She was not discouraged though and now we are launching her business in stages.

Daniel - biowaste business. Less than two years after opening his business Daniel now has 200 customers. He is working hard, approx. 10 hours/day, the business is now able to break even. He is still not making much profit, but he has a good network of customers that trust him.

I would also like to mention that ALL entrepreneurs confirmed that they do not have anybody else to consult with individually, neither on a business, nor on a personal development level. Individual mentorship and guidance is not popular in Bulgaria. If it does exist, it is quite expensive and provided by not trustworthy coaches. So for these young entrepreneurs, having someone speaking in their lives personally, was more than anyone has ever done for them.

Thank you very much for your support and prayers!

Yes, a reminder: The 2016 #Giving campaign will begin November 29th, 2016, at 00:00:01 EST and end at 23:59:59 EST on November 29th, 2016.Your donations will be matched at 50%.

Lilia will be doing the best hair style in town
Lilia will be doing the best hair style in town
The brave women with Daycare center, one is widow
The brave women with Daycare center, one is widow
Vasil with the car detailing workshop
Vasil with the car detailing workshop
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Dear friends and supporters,

With a summer with 40-42 C working is slightly more challenging. That applies for our students and business we consult as well. Most of them have closed down for the summer and will re-open Sept 15th at the beginning of the school year.

Lilia, the hairdresser from Sofia has put on hold her business because the locations she was hoping to rent, is no longer available. She started a full time job as a hair-dresser and meanwhile she is looking for another place to rent.

Our other promising barber – Raihan, is still working on his Market research.

After a short drama Harry and Merry decided to relocate their flower business to another facility in the same town. Now they are introducing more products as well trying to sell souvenirs.

We continue to offer continuing consultancy to those who are considering business or have launched businesses through our program. We think this “high-consultancy” model sets us apart from other micro-finance programs and is necessary to address the many issues and challenges faced by disadvantaged Bulgarians. Many struggle with their loan repayments and we work with them to find ways to get them back on track and increase the repayment rate.

Thank you for all your support, help and trust in our cause!


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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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