Lukan Chervenkov, who owns performance sock company Shushon, is sure 1 + 1 = 3. This is the synthesis of his entrepreneurial philosophy. He believes that if two people swap ideas, they will end up with three ideas, and these will be even better than the ones they first had.
The importance of exchanging ideas, working in teams, and reaching out to competitors—these were themes Lukan spoke about to aspiring entrepreneurs at a session of the Business Achievements for Social Entrepreneurship (BASE) program this spring. The first edition of the program was launched in January 2018 as a joint project of the Industrial Cluster Srednogorie Association and the America for Bulgaria Foundation. Over three months, established professionals and startup founders like Lukan took the time to pass on their experience and knowledge to budding entrepreneurs from the Srednogorie Region and guide them in starting their own businesses or developing existing businesses further.
Lukan’s decision to join the program is somewhat self-explanatory, as he is from the Srednogorie himself, but that wasn’t the only factor. He was also motivated by the need for a new challenge and his desire to return to the classroom—where this promising young entrepreneur’s journey began. Lukan was a student of mechanical engineering when he started working on his first business, Origin Bike Equipment. An avid mountain biker, Lukan tested all new Origin products himself. Today, Origin is an established brand of innovative bike parts with clients around the world; Origin RAWW pedals are the first Bulgarian bike pedals. Off-road biking also inspired his main venture—Shushon, a manufacturer of high-quality merino wool socks in Bulgaria. At the age of 28, he is at the head of a thriving business with huge growth potential and many loyal fans (one of whom is Slavi Nestorov, who recently climbed Everest).
Asking customers for feedback and never compromising on quality are critical for success, Lukan says. Businesses have to support one another and cooperate in order to reach as many people as possible, especially in a region such as the Srednogorie. The more people they attract to the region, the larger their customer base will be. Lukan himself uses his contacts from his days as a mechanical engineering student and (later) professional.
Only the first stage of entrepreneurship is simple, says Lukan, yet he is firmly committed to it—despite the difficulties. It is “a challenge you always win, no matter whether your dream comes true or you fail.” He thinks novice entrepreneurs must overcome the fear that someone will take advantage of their ideas or they will fail.
“There will always be days when it seems like everything has turned against you and you’re asking yourself, ‘Should I give up?’ I know it sounds banal, but the answer is ‘no’—don’t give up, just slow down a bit, change your strategy, take an evening, day, or week off, but don’t give up on entrepreneurship. You never know when the golden opportunity will come—you just need to keep looking.”
The city of Vratsa will host the next edition of the BASE program as part of ABF’s efforts to promote entrepreneurship in Northwest Bulgaria.