Fruits beyond competition
Less than thirty percent of able-bodies population have been officially employed in Samegrelo region. No wonder that this region is one of the record-breakers in Georgia in the local population outflow. Many of its residents, mainly women, are leaving abroad to earn living. They most often search for jobs in Turkey, less often in the European countries. These women work as babysitters, sick-nurses, hired employers on agricultural plantations; they maintain families, not seeing them for years.
Those, who remained in the region, have found jobs and become economically independent. There are so few really successful private entrepreneurs, doing small business in Georgia, that they often have no competitors.
For example, Maya Shengelia, 45, has no rivals. Maya lives in Darcheli village, Zugdidi district. She produces dried and candied fruits, marshmallow. Maya’s dried fruits are very tasty and ecologically friendly, besides, they are very beautiful.
Many entrepreneurs in Georgia still do pay no attention to how their products look like. Some of them even underline their unattractiveness, meaning that only imported, pesticide-grown or produced with adding harmful additives can be nice.
Maya has chosen another way. She makes rosebuds from fantastically thin and silky pears, polka-dot marshmallow and even somehow cuts from dried apples the Georgian New Year tree – Chichilaki.
One can see usual dried persimmon hanging on each balcony in Samegrelo, but people turn to Maya, when it is necessary to decorate a wedding table, children’s holiday, send a parcel to someone or present a gift.
Maya purchases raw material – apples, pears, citrus, feijoa, kiwi fruit and many other fruits all over the district and plans to plant its own garden, as well as procure special packaging equipment. Maya executes only private orders; she has no such equipment that’s why she cannot deliver her products to shops.
Several years ago Maya won a competition for private entrepreneurs, which was organized by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and she was handed over GEL40thousand worth fruit drier. The drier is in the yard and it takes from three days to a fortnight to dry raw fruits.
“Everything began in the 90s. The children were little, shops were empty and the war was waged. I wanted to please my family on the New Year holiday and decided to dry fig. I knew how it was done, as my parents had dried fig, apples, persimmon, recalls Maya.
Gradually she started experimenting with other fruits. At present, Maya makes candied fruit and marshmallow practically from all fruits, growing in Georgia.
Maya would work much more effectively if she had no breast cancer. The disease has affected her morally and financially, as she had to take a bank loan for treatment, requiring a huge amount. It is not easy to cover the debt, because Maya’s incomes have considerably reduced. On average, she earns approximately GEL500 ($205) per month by selling dried fruits. But there are seasonal ups, for example, ahead of the New Year the income usually increases twice.
Maya continues working, undergoing treatment and hoping for speedy recovery.
“I never used any chemical additives before and now I understand even better, how important it is to produce eco-friendly products, the entrepreneur notes.