"It took me a while to realise that knowledge is indeed power. Like the knowledge that working with a bank is the best way to transform a fragile idea into a solid business," says Bakhtiyar Meyvaddin Novruzbeyov, who set up his grocery store with the help of Access Bank in Azerbaijan, the European Fund for South East Europe (EFSE), and EU4Business.
“Just over ten years ago, I found myself without work. All I had was a roof over my head and a small garden,” Bakhtiyar says, jutting his chin towards a rather large building that comprises a grocery store and an outdoor selling space. “And a wonderful wife. I’m still amazed at how far we’ve come,” he adds, smiling to Mrs. Novruzbeyov who is waving out the window from behind the counter.
As you come to know Bakhtiyar and his family, his success comes as no surprise, however. A blend of unquenchable optimism and entrepreneurial drive, it is easy to imagine him spending no more than a few seconds about the lost job and instead seeing the opportunities in his little garden. “The first thing I did was to go see the manager of the local supermarket and ask what kind of produce he needed. And then I became a grower,” he explains. “A very small one, of course.”
Helping at every step of the way
It was a careful progression and helping his family business every step along the way was Access Bank. “Frankly, I had no idea that a bank could be helpful. Not just to finance our growth, but to accelerate it as well,” he says. “You see the van over there? By taking out a loan to buy it, we were able to adapt to rising customer demand much sooner as well deliver fresher produce faster. What at first looked like an additional cost actually helped us to generate more revenue and be more profitable,” explains Bakhtiyar. “It’s the tenth loan so far and our business remains very robust.”
European Fund for South East Europe
Part of the EU4Business initiative, the European Fund for South East Europe aims to foster economic development and prosperity through the sustainable provision of additional development finance, notably to micro and small enterprises (MSEs) and to private households, via qualified local financial institutions like Access Bank in Azerbaijan.
Under the EU4Business initiative, EFSE has disbursed more than 50,000 sub-loans to small businesses like Bakhtiyar’s in Azerbaijan, with an average loan size of just over €4,000.