Six Georgian startups that got their boost from the pandemic
Business during a pandemic in Georgia
The crisis that has developed in Georgia due to the coronavirus pandemic has affected virtually all sectors of the country’s economy. However, there are exceptions – companies and initiatives that, on the contrary, have been able to grow, achieve success and increase their revenues.
JAMnews tells six such stories.
Nodar Bagishvili, founder of The Wine Library:
Vinoteka is already three years old. We have chosen this niche from the very beginning – we sell high-quality wine to small and medium-sized businesses.
The idea was to create a place for winemakers where wine would be served in a special way. When a winemaker is satisfied, he has more motivation, which means that the customer will be satisfied as well.
From the very beginning, we decided to closely communicate with the public. We created a club where special meetings were held. Every Thursday one of the winemakers presented their wine, which was sold at a special price that day. Many came to these meetings, everything went very well.
However, March 2020 came and the difficult period began. We had to close the store. We realized that if we didn’t come up with something, we would not be able to survive.
We said to ourselves: wine has been made in Georgia for 80 centuries, what hasn’t happened during this time!? The coronavirus stop everything. This philosophical thought inspired us not to stop there. And we decided to launch our wine Thursdays online.
At first, producers did not understand how to taste wine online. But when the first experience on Zoom was successful, others also wanted to participate. And meetings on Zoom have become regular.
Participants buy wine from us via the Internet in advance, and on Thursday everyone opens the same bottles, only everyone is at home. On Zoom we discuss the taste, talk and joke. We have a wonderful toastmaster moderator who entertains guests and motivates them to try more. And that’s how we went through the difficult times of quarantine.
Now our wine collection is already very large – 170 winemakers offer 750 types of wine. This means that our idea was justified.
And this is logical – statistically, alcohol consumption does not decrease during crises. Drinking a bottle of wine in the evening while sitting at home is a pleasant pastime for people who are under stress.
As a result, in 2020 our revenues have increased by one and a half times. And in comparison with the previous two years, this year was the most successful.
Of course, there was a risk of failure. Many new problems arose – how to work with the delivery service, how to get passes, when there was a particularly tight quarantine and it was impossible even to move around in your own cars. It was not easy to organize big meetings. But the main thing in business is not to stop. There is no need to be afraid of mistakes, we can afford to make mistakes, we are not cardiac surgeons!
We survived because we didn’t stop and went the right way.
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By Nino Chkhikvishvili, Home Cooking Adventure
Regardless of whether the quarantine continued or was canceled, I was already at home. I didn’t have a job anymore. And something had to be done.
I really love to cook and have always loved. And when I got really bored, I created a Facebook group. And it was a miracle. Two to three thousand people were added a week. Since that time, the group has not stopped working. And now, in just eight months, there are already about 50 thousand of us!
I’m surprised myself, because there are many culinary groups on Facebook that have been around for many years. I don’t know why it was my group that caused such a stir.
The secret, probably, is that I wanted to work hard. I was ready to do this business 24 hours a day. I read all comments, selected messages, personally wrote to all users who left negative comments, blocked trolls. From early morning until late at night, I was online. One user from America even asked me, “Do you never sleep?”
I can say that I know almost every member of the group.
Well, as soon as our group gained enough subscribers, an advertisement appeared. At first I was very reluctant to publish it, declining most of the proposals. I wanted people in this group to just enjoy delicious food, good environment, positive aura. And no disputes, quarrels, aggression and endless low-quality advertising.
I still do not place a lot of advertising, I carefully select it. I reject brands whose products I do not know personally, or which I know and I do not like.
I publish only what I am sure of.
As a result, the group’s earnings for 2020 increased two and a half times. And I myself now earn much more than I received a salary at the job that I lost due to the pandemic.
We are no longer in quarantine, but the group is still very active with at least 30 posts per day and about 500 new subscribers per week.
In my opinion, the secret of success is that I did it at the right time – everyone was at home, everyone was seized by depression. Cooking in general has become very popular in quarantine, and it has brought success to my group as well.
I recently started a new project with my friend Nestan Mamatsashvili. We named it Cool To Cook. We make handmade kitchen utensils.
Also I want to create a Home Cooking Adventures website. There will be collected all the recipes published in the group. I also want to have a Home Cooking Adventure Day. I have a lot of ideas that I will definitely implement.
By Keti Topuridze and Salome Arabidze, Person / Easymask
We have been working since 2016. We started by selling bags that are worn at the waist. Now we sell comfortable free style clothes. Even before the pandemic, we wanted to work only online, but it turned out that Georgia was not ready for this. Therefore, in December 2019, we opened a store.
But it only lasted a few months since the pandemic began. As soon as we realized that this was for a long time, we decided to come up with something new.
We studied the market, chose fabrics and accessories, and in mid-August 2020, we started production of protective masks. They are special, we use ventilation and a valve, so that a person can breathe freely.
Gradually, we improved the quality, brought special filters. We are constantly studying the market, the desires of consumers. We noticed that at the time when the mask is not in use, many people attach it to the sleeve or lower it on the chin, which is very unhygienic and impractical. And we have offered convenient lightweight protective mask storage cases, there are seven different colors to choose from.
Then they offered beautiful cords, you can attach a case with a mask to it and it will hang from your neck to your chest like beads. We also have children’s masks, multi-colored, with a valve. We also made a corporate line. For example, for the basketball players of the Georgian national team who play at an international tournament.
Our sales have grown significantly thanks to the production of masks and accessories for them. But of course, we really want the pandemic to end, vaccinations to begin, and the economy to flourish. And we will come up with something else interesting for people.
By Giorgi Tushurashvili, echolize.com
Echolize.com is a platform for business people to plan a marketing campaign, discuss a budget, find out how much a campaign might cost, and more.
When the pandemic hit, most companies cut their marketing costs and we were hit hard. Then the country was completely closed.
And we realized that this is the time to come up with something new, to bring something to the market. And they came up with a voucher system of mutual assistance.
We contacted the Bank of Georgia and suggested that they jointly create a platform where they could buy vouchers, but use them later, after the quarantine was canceled.
For example, you buy a ticket to a hotel. You cannot go there now, but you are helping the company to survive in this way. And use your coupon as soon as possible.
As a result, our platform in the summer of 2020 was able to collect more than 100 thousand lari [about $ 30 thousand]. At the same time, we minimized our costs, in particular, we transferred all employees to remote work. We started working on other new ideas and did our best to improve the quality of our services. It all worked out great.
We had the highest revenues in November and December 2020 for the entire history of the company, and overall we have grown in all respects.
We are a startup, an experiment, and we are constantly thinking about development. And the pandemic has simply accelerated this process.
Learn all your life – this is our principle. Throw away what is in the way and move forward.
By Ekaterina Mdivani, E2clean
Before the pandemic, I had a regular job, a routine, one might say. In February 2020, when the virus was just beginning to spread, I noticed that disinfectant solutions have risen in price and are selling well. And my husband and I had an idea to create our own, Georgian, antiseptic – inexpensive and of good quality.
I have a medical education, so I came up with the composition myself. I made the first sample with my own hands and took it to the laboratory. They approved it, and within a week we started production. We rented an apartment, renovated it and set up a small factory.
The first profit was received two weeks after entering the market. This is not surprising, since disinfectants were the most sought after product. In addition, we were one of the first to start such production.
At first we worked 24 hours a day. When transport was banned in April, it took time to get permission to move around the city. And we just received a very large order.
And we just settled in our factory for a week.
Now the demand has dropped, and many other companies are already producing antiseptics. Everything comes to an end – both the virus and our factory. But this is the case when you are happy.
However, now I know that I will continue in this direction. I have other interesting ideas.
By David Gabunia, Giorgi Gvelesiani, Vakho Mdzinarishvili, Tengo Chikvaidze, 180 degrees
David Gabunia narrates:
I myself have been addicted for many years, and for two and a half years now I have not used drugs. I wanted to share my experience with others. And I also know what methods are used in Israel and America to get rid of addictions.
But a pandemic began, a quarantine, I did not have the opportunity to conduct my sessions. I didn’t know what to do.
But soon there were two people with whom I started working from home. Then a few more people turned to me. But I can’t go to everyone’s house. And we began to hold our meetings on the street. The situation helped – after all, any transport and movement in private cars was prohibited.
Then I met Giorgi. He invited me to participate in this case too. Tengo gave us a place to work. Then Vakho joined us. And so we created “180 degrees” – a place where we help people get rid of various addictions.
Today we have so many people who want to get help that we are not enough. But you can clearly see how serious the problem is.
There are not many places in Georgia where people who have gone through addiction themselves carry out such activities. Theory alone is not enough. When a person himself has found the path from drugs or alcohol to freedom, he will be able to help others much more effectively. The main thing here is personal experience and personal example.
In the context of the pandemic, the problems faced by addicts have worsened. They remain face to face with themselves or with members of their family, locked in their homes. Therefore, many people needed us very much.
Our center deals not only with drug addiction. We fight addiction as such, which is a disease in itself.
Drugs, alcohol or gambling addiction are all symptoms of the disease. We help those who cannot refuse, we also work with family members who are in codependency. After all, they also need serious rehabilitation.
We have very good results. We now have a 100-square-foot office, but we hope to expand further. There is such an idea that those who are now being treated with us and are already on the way to overcoming their addiction began to use the method.