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Innovating and profitable businesses launched under European projects

In recent years, European funds have greatly supported the development of small and medium-sized enterprises. Lilia Verlan from Pârâta, Dubăsari is one of the young people who have turned their ideas  into reality by acceding to financial support offered by EU programs. Earlier this year, the young woman opened a chinchilla farm - an innovative and profitable business, as more experienced farmers say.


Mariana Şalamac 


Lilia Verlan would’ve liked to have her own business and started thinking about it since 2006, when she graduated from the Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova and was hired as accountant at a private enterprise, but still thought about working for herself and remain independent. Given the lack of financial resources, the launch of her business has been postponed, until she saw a funding opportunity announcement on TV. It was about a business funding opportunity offered under the SCBM Programme, financially supported by the European Union and implemented by UNDP Moldova. "I have been dreaming of this business. My husband and I have been thinking about starting something new, got informed, saw how other succeeded, but our efforts seemed to remain vain. I found out from a TV announcement that young people from both sides of Nistru river had the possibility to apply for a business grant and I did it. My husband didn’t know and was so impressed when the answer came. “I was called and invited to attend training courses, then have developed and presented my business plan”, she recalls.  


She has already invested over 17,000 Euro


At the beginning of 2016, following a series of training courses, Lilia has officially launched Dark Velvet Ltd, which raises chinchillas and belongs to a relatively new sector in our country. "The project started in October 2015, we learned that we were awarded the grant at the end of December and have officially launched our business at the beginning of 2016. In April 2016, I already had chinchilla families at home. The support received from the programme was crucial, because money really decides a lot. Many have ideas, but don’t materialize them because they don’t have the resources”, the young business woman told the ECOnomist.


Under the SCBM Programme, Lilia Verlan has received a grant of 10,630 Euro, which were invested in the procurement of 24 chinchilla families. She has invested her own money to create the chinchilla room. "Until now, we have invested about 17,000 euros, including the grant, but we still have very high spending. We did not apply for credits, our parents help us. They believe that we can make something beautiful here and live in our country”, she added.


She learns from the experience of the “chinchilla father” in Moldova 


Lilia learns the secrets of chinchilla breeding from the Internet and she also has a good mentor. "There are more than 20 chinchilla farmers in our country, but it is still an innovative business for Moldova. We collaborate with Mihai Stăvilă from Ialoveni, considered the "chinchilla father" in Moldova, who sold us the chinchilla families and supplies us with animal food. He is always available to answer our questions. He is not our competitor, he is rather a mentor”, the young woman explained.


„These are sensitive little animals”


“Raising chinchillas isn’t tedious. This doesn’t require too much time. Our business plan provides the creation of three new jobs, but we don’t employ currently because there is no need. In the morning, I feed chinchillas, which takes me half an hour, while in the evening I also provide them with food and make them take a sand bath, as they have a thick fur that needs to be cleansed. Cleaning is done once a week. If they have the necessary conditions and quality food, farming is not complicated."


The main difficulty is to create optimal conditions for chinchillas, similar to the natural habitat they come from. "These are sensitive animals, from somewhere in the mountains of South America, from Chile, where the conditions are obviously different. I bought conditioners to ensure a constant temperature between 16 and 24 degrees Celsius, fans because they need ventilation, a humidifier to keep a humidity level of 50 to 60 percent”, Lilia said.


Chinchilla fur is exported to Bulgaria and Hungary


Chinchilla fur is exported to Bulgaria or Hungary, which have specialized processing companies. Small farmers aren’t able to export it directly because they don’t have sufficiently large quantities. "Mihai Stăvilă collects the fur from the majority of producers and exports batches of about 1000 furs. We sell a fur for 30 Euro, while abroad the price of one piece varies between 40 and 100 Euro. About 50 furs are used to create a short coat. We are currently building a larger room, this year we intend to increase the number of chinchillas by at least 50%. We want to expand our business and be able to export ourselves”, Lilia Verlan said.

Being at the beginning, the entrepreneur doesn’t have any profit yet, but is convinced that the business will become lucrative. "All my colleagues who have benefited from grants under the same programme already obtain revenues, but it is a little more difficult for us, we still have solely spending. We haven’t sold any fur, we hope to deliver the first batch in March next year. Other entrepreneurs who have been developing similar businesses for a long time say it is profitable. Sometimes it seems too hard and we doubt about it, but others encourage us to continue. We are told that investment is recovered within a year or two”, she added.


A business with perspective in Moldova


There are about 20 chinchilla farmers in Moldova. However, official statistics do not exist because most breeders are natural persons, according to the representatives of the National Agency for Food Safety. But this branch of the zootechnical sector is obviously taking shape.


“The production of chinchilla fur is a new and profitable field if we consider, for instance, Romania’s experience. There is a quite high demand in the market and it is not too complicated to raise these animals, the investments are not enormous. It is a good business sector for village people who don’t own much land or compared to other activities which require large investments. Farmers who have experience raising similar animals in cages, such as rabbits, nutrias, can also raise chinchillas. I think that farmers who have chinchillas should already create an association to exchange experience", thinks the ANSA Director, Gheorghe Gaberi.


Under the SCBM Programme, funded by the European Union and implemented by UNDP Moldova, 70 young people from both sides of Nistru river have created their own businesses and employed about 350 people. They have also benefited from training and consulting services.