Dear friends and supporters,
Did you know that the month of May has the largest number of bank holidays in Bulgaria? We have Labor Day, the Day of the Army, Day of the Cyrillic alphabet... Well, we decided to conduct our Phase 1 training in May as well. Again, we headed North, but this time going West. North West Bulgaria is considered to be the poorest region in the country, ironically some people call it “North-Waste” Bulgaria, meaning that nothing good grows there; no businesses, no good economic environment, highest crime rate. We saw some the effects of the depressed nature of this reason. More on that later but in spite of that, thanks to YOUR support, we had a good class of 22 candidates. Some were already running businesses, or had experience a failed business. We thought these will be bored, but they turned out to be active during the exercises and we received some of the best feedback from them. They had very interesting business ideas, from a taxi company, to bakery, cosmetics studio, women's accessories shop, etc. etc. And we already received some completed Market Research!
It was very good to reunite with Harry and Merry – a couple, who attended our Phase 1 training in 2015 and being inspired and encouraged, started a business right after that. Their business is doing well, they have the largest flower shops in town and they are thinking of expanding.
There were of course some challenges during our Phase 1 training. We had a large number of recruited participants, with around 50% turn out rate. We were not surprised by that as this is not unusual among this disadvantaged Bulgarian people group. We had a high in and out flow during the training.
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.
Speaking about increase – June 15th is the Matching day, i.e. all your donations through Global Giving website will be matched at 50%. That means if you donate towards our project 10 USD we will actually receive 15 USD. So please do not donate now (Ha, I bet you have never heard that before :) Please wait until June 15th to maximize the effect of your gift. Put it in your Calendars – June 15th, starts 9am EDT USA.
Thank you for all your support, help and trust in our cause!
Dear friends and supporters,
The winter is gone, and even though we didn't have much snow in Bulgaria, we did hit -20C (-4F) in some towns. Fortunately, the ice did not succeed in freezing our work!
Out of the 15 trained students back in October last year, 5 made timid attempts to write a Market Research and to develop a Business plan. They were indeed timid as when we started reading them, it became clear that the applicants do not have the required skills to launch the businesses and much work is required for these Socially Vulnerable Bulgarians to succeed. Rumen is one such example. He sent us a hand-written letter with two business ideas – farming and a bakery. He was not sure which one he wants to start and he had not made any preliminary research on prices, conditions, etc. Additionally, he had no experience in baking or running a bakery. We are now working with him to focus on one business idea and to start investigating the potential market. Another hand-written Market Research was submitted by a 41-year old Roma man from North Bulgaria. It was well structured and it was obvious Daniel has experience in what he wanted to start – a dairy farm. He had a big vision – he wanted to buy 10 cows! Eventually he found some sponsors that committed to giving him the cows for free and our role in the future would be to help him with business consultations.
The most promising participant is Lilia – she is a young woman with a very supportive and encouraging husband. She has had a difficult life, but now she is pursuing her dream to open her own hairdressing studio. She completed the 3 months training and obtained a Coiffeur certificate. She also found a place in the capital Sofia that she wants to rent. So with your help she will be able to buy all the necessary equipment to open the saloon... She promised we will all have a huge discount from the regular prices if we become her customers :)
Our group trainings are not the only source of potential Entrepreneurs though. We are approached for assistance from various directions and in the last 3 months we have worked with several other applicants. Rosenka is currently an English language teacher who wants to open a call center in the far North West part of Bulgaria. She has a great hearth for the young people and despite of her age, she is very active and full of ideas! Miroslav is a gentleman from Varna who is struggling with his business selling second hand laptops. We have had several conversations with him and we are encouraging him to find his ideal customer. Georgy from Varna, Krasimir from Yambol with a hi-tech development for beer brewing and others... We are glad that we have developed a good network and people are not shy to turn to us for help.
Another good news is that Taner – the bee-breeder – was able to fully pay off his loan to us! He has been a great example of honesty and integrity and we would be happy to continue working with him in the future.
Speaking about the future – March 16th is the Global Giving Bonus Matching day, i.e. all your donations through Global Giving website will be matched (pro-rated).
Another future event is our next training, which we will run in May, 6-8th. We will be recruiting participants in the next couple of months and we already have some early birds that have signed up. It will sure be exciting!
Thank you for all your support, help and trust in our cause!
Our journey to train socially vulnerable Bulgarian entrepreneurs is underway.
At the end of October, 2016 six trainers made long trips, at their own expense, to serve. 8 hours on the train, 7 hours drive and more than 15 hours flight for six trainers to get together at the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. And yes, we did taste different types of local fish, but that was not the main reason for this long journey.
Between 22nd and 24th October in the city of Varna we trained 15 Bulgarians in basic entrepreneurial skills. 80% of them were Roma people from socially vulnerable background. 3 days of active training starting at 9am in the morning and finishing at 5pm in the afternoon... we didn't even have time to go the beach! Surprisingly though some of the students still had energy at the end of the day (probably from the freshly baked and hot served croissants throughout the whole day) and managed to spend time in the free gym. This has been the smallest class we have ever had so far, but at times - the most difficult. For some of the students it was difficult to sit on a chair 8 hours a day (of course we had coffee and lunch breaks!), so the trainers had to be veeery creative to keep them motivated - breakout sessions, drawing pictures on the board, theaters, role play games, competitions, chips tasting (well by the time the photographer arrived, the chips were gone) during the Marketing session, talking about cars and jewelry in the Finance session. With so much fun the trainers wondered if the students have really learned anything, but during the examination in the last day we were all amazed that everybody knew the difference between financial report and budget; what is 'know-how'; the five Ps of Market driven business and most importantly - what is the foundation of a successful business - ethics and moral.
The trainers... wow the trainers - did an amazing job being creative and committed. We had 3 American trainers, 1 Swedish professor and 2 Bulgarians. That mixture allowed the students to hear different perspectives on business and many of them actually felt 'special' and 'privileged' that foreigners traveled such a long distance particularly to teach them how to have a better life - that touched their hearts and motivated them even more.
Thank you for your involvement in the project so far!
The journey for these 15 students has just begun. We are yet to expect the changes that these people will bring in their communities. In the next three months we will be receiving the participant's 'homeworks' and ideas to start own businesses. We will be evaluating the business concepts and in the next report you will find out how many of them stepped out of the boat and decided to swim in the Entrepreneurial Sea... With your further support we will be mentoring and coaching them individually to create excellent Business plans and to present their ideas to potential investors.
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