Social Entrepreneurship With Grandma
Maitri, Petya, Deni and Monika, all in their mid 20s, thought that it was a shame how the granny knitting talent is going to waste and decided that Bulgarian babas ought to take their deserved place in the world as the “knitting gurus” that they are.
Teodora Zareva is an entrepreneur, writer, board games geek and a curious person at large. Her professional path has taken her from filmmaking and photography to writing, TEDx organizing, teaching, and social entrepreneurship. She has lived and worked in the U.S. and Bulgaria and is currently doing her MBA at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. Her biggest passion lies at the intersection of media and youth development. She is the co-founder of WishBOX Foundation, a Bulgarian NGO that helps high school students with their professional orientation by organizing events, courses, summer camps and developing digital media resources.
There’s hardly ever been a Bulgarian kid growing up in the 80s, including myself, who doesn’t remember their baba (granny), sitting on the couch, knitting yet another sweater. For some it may have been the horrible piece of clothing they can’t sneak out from wearing and for others a rare chance to show off some western styles, unavailable anywhere in Bulgarian shops. Either way everyone who has grown up in Bulgaria knows that knitting is the trademark pastime of our babas.
Bulgaria is a small country, a member of the EU, snuggled between Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey. It has a population of 7.5 million, 1.3 million of which are people over 65 predominantly living in rural areas being steadily depopulated. The average pension in Bulgaria is 295 leva a month. That’s 151 еuro. It took a Swiss guy to see the entrepreneurial potential in this picture and to found, together with three Bulgarian girls, Snug Essentials.
Maitri, Petya, Deni and Monika, all in their mid 20s, thought that it was a shame how the granny knitting talent is going to waste and decided that Bulgarian babas ought to take their deserved place in the world as the “knitting gurus” that they are. After some brainstorming and rejecting ideas to make clothes for kitties, babies, or pillows, the team decided that the growing market for smart devices might be the best one to tap into and not long after the first granny-made crocheted Kindle cover was born.
“We think that most of the cheap, mass-produced covers are ugly. We offer products that are original, eco-friendly, hand-made and infused with lots of granny love.” says Deni. Petya adds, “The women are so happy that their craft is finally being appreciated. One of the grannies said that her grandkids didn’t care at all for the clothes she makes them and it’s the first time she can knit something that someone really wants and likes. Plus, it’s a great way for them to earn some extra money.”
In less than 5 months Snug Essentials’ team has successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, created a website, and won the first stage of Start IT Smart's 3Challenge entrepreneurship tournament which brings together young entrepreneurs with experienced mentors to help them develop their businesses. Currently, most of the orders come from recommendations and through word of mouth, but the team hopes to be able to grow and employ more grandmas than the six working right now.
“Working with grannies is great”, says Petya, “there are so many benefits to it. You don’t just do business with them, you kind of become their surrogate grandchild, with all the perks that entails. Like, you constantly get to hear all these interesting stories and receive wise advice about life, love and everything else.”
The team’s vision is to make Snug Essentials a brand recognized around the world so that everyone knows that Bulgarian grandmas are "knitting gurus". They also want to involve as many grannies as possible, and as the business grows even train them to be coordinators, accept orders and work with the digital platform.
I can only wish Snug Essentials luck and hope to see more happy and working grandmas in Bulgaria.
Please leave your comments and reactions to the idea here. I’m sure the young team will appreciate them.
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