Developing a business and penetrating new markets takes innovation and finding new partners abroad, and these should be key objectives for small- and medium-sized (SME) enterprises looking to gain strength.
So to help them achieve this, EU4Business – an EU initiative that helps SMEs in the six countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region to realise their full potential and boost economic growth – invited SMEs from Bulgaria and Armenia to take part in the “Match & Grow” Project.
The Project, implemented by Armenia’s Enterprise Armenia (The Fund Investment Support Center) and Bulgaria’s Dobrich Chamber of Commerce and Industry, provided support to 10 Bulgarian and 10 Armenian small- and medium-sized businesses in the bio and/or organic food sector.
Under the project, the SMEs received consultation, and conducted exchange visits to each other’s countries. They also got the chance to establish new cooperation opportunities.
Business 2 Business
Via the “Match & Grow” project, the EU-supported "EU4Business. Connecting Companies" project provided SMEs with high export potential with tailor-made consultancy in market research, marketing and branding, labelling, and forms of cooperation – as well as setting up business-to-business meetings.
The project helped businesses increase their contacts and create a springboard for launching themselves into new markets through jointly making new products, expanding their businesses, increasing export levels, creating new jobs, and boosting their competitiveness.
“Match & Grow” also aimed to create conditions for further sustainable cooperation between businesses in EU member states and the EaP.
The project’s results are already impressive: 5 Bulgarian and 5 Armenian companies have signed 6 contracts. . The contracts were for the introduction of Armenian products (organic honey and organic jams) in the Bulgarian market, and for the introduction of Bulgarian products (organic tahini, nut and seed butter, natural sweeteners, and cold pressed oils and spreads) in the Armenian market.
Marketing plans developed as part of the project for two of the participating SMEs will help one company from Armenia and one from Bulgaria diversify production in order to increase their market shares, future sales, turnover and profits.
Moreover, a survey developed by the project’s partners will help to assess the economic impact of the new partnerships formed between companies in various areas, including market share, job maintenance/creation, quality improvement, entering new markets, and other spheres.
Thanks to the project, the Bulgarian and Armenian companies raised their export potential and boosted their development through trade promotion, encouragement of inward investment, and the fostering of business links.
B2B matchmaking events, company exchange visits and follow-up visits, and seminars on e-commerce helped strengthen the internationalization and innovation capacities of the two countries’ bio/organic food sector SMEs. The companies included 11 SMEs owned by women, and 11 registered in rural areas. Six of the business owners were young entrepreneurs under 35 years old.
The business-matching visits were carried out in 2021: In August Armenian SMEs visited Bulgaria for the "Agriculture and Everything For It" fair in Dobrich, while the Bulgarian businesses visited Armenia in October for the "ArmProd EXPO" trade exhibition in the country’s capital, Yerevan.
The Armenian SMEs selected for the project were certified organic producers of herbal organic tea, organic honey, organic dried fruits, organic asparagus, strawberries, apricots, pears, raspberries, blackberries, nuts, and organic dried herbs. They visited Bulgaria to learn first-hand about the Bulgarian food market’s main players, market trends, prices and cuisine culture.
They also took part in B2B meetings with Bulgarian food distributors, wholesalers, and sales agents, as well as visited the organic shops.
At the "Agriculture and Everything For It" fair in Dobrich the Armenian businesses participated in 72 pre-arranged meetings with certified Bulgarian producers of organic chokeberry, salvia, walnuts, plums, apples, sunflower, wheat, beans, salty sticks, pretzels, seeds and seedlings, fertilizers, and honey.
They also met with representatives of NGOs and associations focused on organic agriculture, and with consultancy companies.
In turn, the Bulgarian SMEs – certified organic producers of wheat, sunflower, walnuts, apples, plums, pears, chokeberry, salvia, beans, corn, wholegrain pretzels with Himalayan salt, and coconut oil, milk powder, nuts and seeds (raw and roasted), sweeteners, vegetable fats, creams – attended the 19th "ArmProd EXPO 2021" international specialized exhibition in Armenia.
The exhibition, which fosters direct links between producers and distributors, business consultants and researchers of the consumer market with the food sales networks, turned out to be fruitful for Bulgarian entrepreneurs.
The Bulgarian SMEs held 83 B2B meetings with Armenian entrepreneurs producing similar products, established new business relations, and explored possible avenues of cooperation. As well as that, they presented their products and learned about the Armenian food market, local products, popular brands, and cultural trends.
Both at the exhibition and during the meetings, the companies from Bulgaria and Armenia discussed issues related to production certification, market demand, pricing policies, and obstacles and challenges for organic producers in the two countries. In addition to attending B2Bs and visiting company stands at the exhibition and fair, project participants organized visits on the spot – in Bulgaria, Armenian producers had two meetings in organic food stores, visited a farmers’ market and the organic farms.
During the Bulgarian producers’ visit to Armenia, the Bulgarian producers visited an organic food store and three organic products producers companies.
EU4Business: Connecting Companies (EU4BCC) project implements practical support measures to local chambers of commerce and business communities and reinforces engagement. Funded under the EU4Business initiative of the European Union, the EU4BCC officially kicked off in December 2019. Its global objective is to support sustainable economic development and job creation in EaP countries by helping SMEs grow.
Overall, 95 Business Support Organisations (BSOs) - 47 from the EU and 48 from the EaP - were involved in the actions as implementing actors (e.g. chambers of commerce, business associations, employer federations, clusters, and so on). Several BSOs are involved in more than one action. These partnerships further involve over 1,000 SMEs and BSOs as the final beneficiaries of the project.