“Skiji”, Founder, Village Khidistavi, Guria
If you ever visit Guria and ask locals tips about the places to see around, you will definitely find “Skiji House” on the list – a guesthouse, which has been turned from an ancestral house into a local landmark by Darejan Berdzenishvili after returning to Khidistavi village in 2015.
Darejan is a financier by profession. Having a 5000 m2 plot of land and an ancestral house in Khidistavi. She always wanted to start her own business. At first, she began producing dried fruit with a grant from the “Enterprise Georgia”: she made all kinds of dried fruits from ecologically clean products grown in her own yard or bought from her fellow villagers, and sold them under the “Skiji” brand.
In parallel, Darejan arranged the house, preserved its authenticity, turned it into a family hotel and started thinking about hosting guests in the “Skiji House”. She had staunch belief in the tourist potential of Guria – she thought that the region would be appealing to tourists considering its location, nature and food. “However, the grant I received from the “Enterprise Georgia” was not enough for the development of the guesthouse. I was facing a lot of challenges when I met Crystal’s loan officer by chance. The company showed its trust, gave me reasonable financing, consolidated my previous liabilities and saved my business from collapse. Since then, I keep saying that “Crystal” is a true friend, which gave me a hand of assistance at the most difficult moment”, – says Darejan Berdzenishvili.
Last year, with the help of the USAID’s agricultural development program, Darejan organized a new dried fruit plant in 150-year-old Gurian Oda, thus contributing not only to the development of production, but also to the attraction of tourists. At the same time, she started promoting local gastronomy: “This is one of the main directions of our activity. We are bold in experiments, we add dried fruits to the products purchased from local farmers, we create memorable flavors and we follow the world-renowned “farm-to-table” concept”, says Darejan.
“Skiji” products, which are equally attractive to local as well as to foreign customers, are mainly sold locally, although Darejan also receives corporate orders and is actively represented at fairs and exhibitions. Currently, she offers her guests to pick and dry fruits, taste local cuisine and participate in master classes in a small demonstration farm. Meantime, not willing to stop there, she plans to build cottages and an independent gastronomic space this year.
“Hippo Velo”, Co-founder, Tbilisi
Veriko has been in love with bicycles since early childhood. Being just 5 years old at the time she first saw her father tune up her little bike, she knew already it meant a way to new adventures. Little by little, her love for bicycles kept growing, bringing the title of a mountain biking champion of Georgia one perfect day.
However, before this honorary award, there was another important event in Veriko’s life: a business related to her love for bicycles and a store-workshop “Hippo Velo“, which she opened together with her friend at the end of 2020. The “Hippo Velo” team started to offer bike accessories, parts and maintenance services to interested customers. Meantime, the team also took a keen interest in the development of cycling culture and organized cycling tours, cycling competitions and various events, prepared educational videos, etc.
In parallel with the business, Veriko took part in programs of “Crystal”, aiming at supporting its female entrepreneurs. As she is claiming today, it was right these projects that encouraged her to develop and scale up her own activities: “Buzz Georgia Component, for instance, not only sparked my zest for entrepreneurship, but also gave me the strength to do what I love and what I find important for the country. At Youth Entrepreneurship School (USAID YES-Georgia Program), on the other hand, I learned the right steps for building a business, and finally, with the financial support of “Crystal”, I started work on launching the second branch of “Hippo Velo”. Crystal Consulting’s “Going Global Georgia” was also an incredible experience, allowing me to meet mentors and entrepreneurs in Estonia and share their knowledge and recommendations,” says Veriko.
Soon, Veriko will be able to welcome bicycle lovers in the second branch of “Hippo Velo”. Meanwhile, she believes that this alone is not enough to promote bicycle culture in the country. She wants to establish a bicycle school, where she will teach people of all ages how to ride a bike and will open the path of adventures she’d been treading on since early childhood to as many people as possible.
”Luxor.ge”, Founder (Crystal's first Ukrainian woman entrepreneur), Batumi
Alina is from Ukraine. She first visited Georgia in 2018 as a tourist and was so fascinated that decided to stay and start her own business here. In 2020, Alina founded an online store – luxor.ge and started to offer customers high-quality jewelry under a different concept. As the number of people willing to buy jewelry kept growing day by day, she also opened a showroom in Batumi.
Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, Alina could not return to her homeland, but despite the difficult situation, she decided not to give up and continue to develop. Shortly after, she learned about the offer of “Crystal” on Facebook: Crystal was offering Ukrainian citizens willing to start or develop business activities in Georgia access to finances and products specially tailored to their needs. As the information piqued her interest, she went to the branch to find out further details.
Today, Alina is the first customer to have used the product specially designed by Crystal for Ukrainian refugees. She received full financing and is about to open a second store in Batumi.
“Crystal allows Ukrainians to adapt to this difficult situation. I would tell them not to give up, adapt to reality, become stronger and start a new phase of life. In this difficult process, the products and support offered by Crystal are extremely important “, says Alina, and plans to open a jewelry store in Tbilisi in the future.
"Tamara Strawberries" and Hazelnuts, Founder, Gali
When young people from Gali kept complaining about the lack of prospects and planned to leave the place, Tamar thought just the opposite. The hopelessness of her peers even gave her a kind of motivation: “I wanted to show them that if you want something with all of your heart, you will do it even in Abkhazia,” says Tamar.
And indeed, Tamar and her husband started a hazelnut business 11 years ago. At first, they were just selling the output but later on, they built their own plant. Currently, they process hazelnuts on the site and transport them for sale.
“It was not easy to walk along this path, it took a lot of work and efforts on our part, but I am glad that we are moving forward day by day. I employ 18 people and they see my plant is an opportunity as well. Though we had come across a number of obstacles along the way, we managed to cope with all the hurdles with the help of “Crystal”. It was a particularly precious and emotional moment for me: despite the fact that I am working in Abkhazia, the company decided to stand by my side, making me feel that they really believe in me”, says Tamar, who is a customer of “Crystal” and an active participant of its different women empowerment projects.
Within the framework of one such project, Tamar joined Youth Entrepreneurship School (USAID YES-Georgia) and started another business activity – a strawberry greenhouse. “This school gave me the opportunity to expand my greenhouse. Together with “Crystal”, I managed to roll out my business. Today “Tamara’s Strawberries” continues to move steadily towards success”, says Tamar, while also noting that the production of strawberries has become a kind of therapy for her: “communicating with strawberries seems to relieve the stress and fatigue of the whole day. You see them and you are filled with different emotions, with happiness,” she notes.
Tamar would like to see many more such projects implemented in Abkhazia in order to give opportunities to gifted and energetic young people dwelling there.