Another team of graduates from our social entrepreneurship school Biz4all-2, Hanna and Andrei Verbitsky, live in the village of Mikhalova near Lahoisk and are owners of the Dymki creative space. The family moved to the village from the city, and they have been trying to bring the local community together and make suburban life more diverse. Over the past 10 months since the space opened, the Verbitskys have set up the first playground in the village, organized a big family picnic and alternative New Year performances, and have regularly welcomed guests from the capital city.
Biz4all "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator” programme is organized by ODB Brussels (Belgium) in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands) with financial support from the European Union.
We already wrote about the building a playground in the village and organizing a big family picnic on our website: Big Family Art Picnic in Dymki Creative Space: Always Have a Plan B, and today Hanna Verbitskaya talks to us about the alternative New Years performance and looking for a business model.
We are having a video call with Hanna, because the entrepreneur continues to study and travels continuously. After the Biz4all social entrepreneurship school Hanna took a course on Leadership in Local Communities from the Office of European Expertise, and is now doing an internship in Poland. “Under the programme, we have to visit public organizations and social enterprises in Poland. I am really interested in social businesses, and I’m really looking forward to that part. I might be able to find some new areas for work and for myself”.
Andrei and Hanna Verbitsky during the final event of the Biz4all social entrepreneurship school in Minsk. Photo by: Vitaly Brazouski
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“SnebaBusiny”: uniting the community step by step
Hanna says: “After the summer picnic I got even closer to other creative people from Lahoisk. Viktoriya and Dasha, two new mothers, suggested organizing an alternative New Year’s matinee celebration for children, which would be different to the traditional one organized in the District House of Culture. I loved the idea, and together we wrote an interesting screenplay about saving the New Year. I made the decorations myself”.
A children’s ticket to the matinee cost 8 BYN, and adults could accompany the children for free. The matinee was held in the large guest house built by the Verbitskys themselves. All in all, the matinee was attended by 80 people, with three sold-out shows. “In the end, we concluded that this format is not suited for everyone. It is about something new and creative, about being sincere and feeling at home. We are happy that so many people have responded, we had guests not just from Lahoisk but also from Minsk, and most of them liked the show”.
Cooperation with creative mothers is still ongoing. Today Hanna and Andrei rent out the main room of the guest house and the creative workshop space for children's birthday parties. So far, this business has not made it possible for them to achieve self-sufficiency, but, as Anna stresses, even with no additional advertising there is a lot of demand. The entrepreneur plans to start advertising actively and continue to explore the demand.
Not just gaining but also sharing knowledge
Gradually, various Lahoisk institutions start to send cooperation requests to Hanna. In our article "Dymki Creative Space: Outdoor Master Classes and Developing Local Communities", we described how the entrepreneur organizes master classes on neurographics in her creative workshop.
Hanna showed this method of art therapy to foster parents and guardians in Lahoisk district. “One of the participants at the master class was a 70-year-old man — he used to be a big boss somewhere, and now he has his own farm. He has raised three children of his own, and now has foster kids under his care. He says that sometimes he gets exhausted and wants to have some time off, but he is full of energy and new plans. People like him are one of the reasons I love working with the local community. These people do important deeds, and I love meeting them and being part of the process”.
Love and endless patience
“Dymki” estate also cooperates with other graduates of ours — the “Walk to Folk” team. Karina Sitnik regularly brings groups to the Lahoisk estate where they bake bread and make organic cosmetics — everyone loves the big kitchen where they all fit comfortably. “Thanks to the cooperation with “Walk to Folk”, we have managed to bring in locals to work with us. Karina called us right before one of the master classes and said that the groups would like to have draniki for lunch. National Belarusian cuisine is not really my strong point, and I had to make at least 50 pancakes. Then I started to ask around, and it turned out that one of our neighbours was a professional chef. I offered her the gig, and she was gladly accepted. At first she cooked a tasting set, we approved her menu, and then she made five dozen dranikis for our guests — all delicious and absolutely identical”.
While Hanna is developing the creative aspects of the business, Andrei Verbitsky is finishing up the construction of the house. He oversees production of furniture and original wooden souvenirs in the workshop. At the same time, the entrepreneur is looking for new development areas and thinking about ways to fill up space. Hanna says: “Here in Belarus we have a lot of useful activities and initiatives in local communities. It is very sad that almost nothing is said or written about it. I would like to believe that the mass media coverage of this work is going to change”. Hanna shares that they constantly meet people who are very fond of their local communities and show great diligence and patience to develop them, which is really inspiring.
Text by: Valeriya Nikalaichyk
|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 material 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 support from the European Union.