For several years now, start-up club “Prityazheniye” (“Attraction”) has brought together ambitious and energetic entrepreneurs and freelancers. The club is led by Marina Matsulevich, a certified business coach and a very proactive person. Marina came to the EU-funded Biz4all "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator” programme with the idea to develop crowdfunding and crowd investing at her online platform. However, Biz4all trainings offered her an opportunity to communicate with mentors and study target audience, demonstrating that other areas are more needed to help young entrepreneurs to promote their products and services on modern web platforms.
Helping small business find customers
As the main social mission of popular.by, the team plans to send half of the money they raise to support social and charity projects. For example, within the framework of Biz4all, Marina and the team have already shot a video interview for the theatre school "Obraz" ("Image"), as well as a social commercial for autism. The team received positive feedback from their first clients, but the most important thing was customers getting feedback from consumers. Popular.by charges several times less than advertisers on TV or in the subway. With the video interviews, they use an individual approach, the clips are shared on social media, and advertising experts say that it is the surest way to find new customers nowadays.
Marina Matsulevich (in the centre) at a Biz4all training "Legal aspects of Entrepreneural Activities", 22.04.2017, Minsk Photo: Vitaly Brazousky
|Marina Matsulevich (on the right) and other Biz4all participants discussing crowdfunding and testing new equipment Photo: personal archive|
The new popular.by platform aims to help small and medium businesses promote their products, active work with social networks, as well as video interviews posted on their Youtube channel. "Only 5% of new small businesses are still alive after three years," says Marina. "This figure is so low because the business creator continuously encounters difficulties and gradually loses motivation. It may seem to them like they are alone and no longer able to manage the situation. The goal of the popular.by project is to help entrepreneurs make a name for themselves and to do so in a modern manner. I’m planning to shoot video interviews. I’ll do the interviews myself and will invite an independent cameraman and and editor. The result is an originally presented finished product about the business. Then the interview is posted in our facebook group, in other communities that we are friends with or we exchange links with, as well as on our Youtube channel, on coworking-minsk.by and popular.by, which helps the customer attract new clients. At the moment the total active audience of our platforms is 10,000 people, with the number constantly growing".
|Marina Matsulevich at a Biz4all training “Start-up Funding”, 21.04.2017, Minsk Photo: Vitaly Brazousky|
Marina gained some experience of shooting videos several years ago, when she cooperated with BelBusinessChannel (an RBK franchise). She recalls that getting even a minor market player to profess their expert opinion evoked a strong response and even caused a reverse effect. However, at the time the effect was largely negative as people were indignant that it was hidden advertising. But the effect was there. The videos she wants to shoot will help present any product in a favourable light, even those that are not easy to make attractive, like roofs or fences. It is an unusual way to make a name for themselves, attract new clients and stay in business even when times get difficult. Interviewed entrepreneurs point out that the right questions help them get a new prospective of their business, and after the interview they get unexpected ideas for further development, get their enthusiasm back and work more eagerly.
New format of crowdfunding
|Marina Matsulevich (in the centre) at a Biz4all training "Green Office", Minsk, 18.12.2016 |
Photo: Vitaly Brazousky
One of the last assignments of Biz4all training programme is to organize their own crowdfunding campaign. The coaches never placed any restrictions on the selection of crowdfunding platforms: project participants can raise their start-up capital both on international and Belarusians platforms. However, the problems is that Belarus does not have a lot of them and, in Marina’s opinion, they are not always easy to work with: “For example, ulej.by gives the project the raised amount only if it hits the intended target. However, I do not think it is right. Let’s say I need 10,000 roubles for my project, and I declare this in the description of my campaign. If it raises a smaller amount, we should still be able to use it, and simply take a loan to cover the remainder of the amount or look for other sources of funding. Existing Belarusian crowdfunding platforms are more suited for charity projects, but small business start-ups also need funds, so it would be good to have a platform that offers such services, which is why we decided to try”.
Marina decided to create her own website, popular.by, on one of the free platforms, and launch her own crowdfunding platform. Donors will be able to transfer money to an open bank account, and what’s more important, all raised funds will become immediately available to go into use. The team already has their eye on a 4 m2 room to rent to be used as a conference room to meet clients and shoot small videos in order to continue creating popular.by.
|Marina Matsulevich at one of her master classes. Photo: personal archive|
Marina Matsulevich and her team are making good progress towards their goal, bringing something new at every stage, and engaging interested, active and motivated people. To start working, you do not need a large client base right away, you just need 2-3 entrepreneurs who would trust you, believe in the idea and use the cooperation to get the impetus they need to develop their business. By helping popular.by, you can help develop small and medium businesses in Belarus.
Text by: Valerya Nikalaychyk
|The goal of the programme is to develop a package of social entrepreneurship training programmes in Russian using innovative international practices, as well as the experience of Belarusian diaspora representatives who have become successful entrepreneurs in European Union countries and the USA.|
The publication was prepared within the framework of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator", implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands), Belarusian Youth Public Union "New Faces" and International Civil Association "Union of Belarusian of the world “Motherland", with the fiancial support from the European Union.