Entrepreneurship for me is a way of life. The philosophy I profess, the family traditions, the faith and emotions. I put my heart and a lot of soul into everything I do, especially doing business. Always different, but consistently full of values, morals, and ethics. Yes, old-fashioned, but business in its purest form. Definitely, the main goal was never profit in material terms, numbers, but freedom, opportunities, realized dreams.
For me, business is a very intimate process, of self-discovery, of deep personal expression... the question - what I am made of. Applied art, passion, creative process, attitude, dreams, free spirit. Because one of the biggest teachers in my life was the failure. The art of self-improvement, of adaptation, of transformation, of self-assertion, of endless discovery. Business is a pure form of imagination, ingenuity... And even after failure, and after another failure, ready for the next battles.
Entrepreneurship is an incredible opportunity, a blessing to do many of the things that give me pleasure, without constraints, conventions or soulless boundaries, not because I work, because I get paid, not because I get a paycheck at the end of the month or because someone told me to do it, but because I want to, because I think it’s the right thing to do, or I just enjoy it. Selfishly, but honestly, though, the road has always been lonely, and less traveled.
Together with President Stoyanov, one of the most successful Bulgarian politicians of all time. We are pictured here with our great friend Jacob Jeracey,one of the greatest public figures in the modern Bulgarian politics.
Together with President Parvanov, the man who secured Bulgaria's future in the EU and NATO. One of the most successful politicians in the Balkans.
Together with Professor Evgeny Sachev. An unrivalled specialist in cultural heritage and national security, writer and public figure. A very close friend, mentor and a person from whom I have learned a lot.
Together with Hristo Ivanov, we discuss what democracy means and why someone would return to Bulgaria and why so many young people leave Bulgaria.
Together with the great friend and person Ivan Granitski. Bulgarian politician and socialist. Former director of the National Television, publisher, writer and critic. One of my biggest fans.
I had spent a lot of time in Canada in my youth. University, different jobs, but at the heart of it all was education. As soon as I arrived in Montréal, I started working in a centre for immigrant children. To be honest, my best memories. During the time I was preparing for university, I did a certificate from the YMCA to be a personal trainer. Getting into Concordia University with History and Economics, I concurrently started working at the university’s gym. Helping and taking care of clients slightly differently for their health, enjoyment, and well-being. In between, I did an International Finance certificate at Concordia Continuing Education, as well as found out what Sustainable Development meant at the college at Concordia- Loyola International. Shortly before I graduated, I tried my hand as a history teacher at the Bulgarian Cultural Centre in Montreal- Zornitsa. But one of my most cherished experiences was as a personal assistant to one of the mayoral candidates of Montreal- Marie Jose Mastermonaco. Becoming part of the Liberal Party team helped me understand how the democratic process works in North America, what principles, morals and ethics mean.
My first work in Canada, helping imigrants
I ended up in London after completing my education in Canada. I needed to stay for a while for refreshment, but it turned out I needed to stay longer. Driven by my desire to help someone close to me, I created a business, literally from scratch. Starting with £20 in my pocket, in less than a year I ended up with a company with several employees, and in less than five years, I had not only generated several million, but was now providing services for over 500 very wealthy and influential families in London. I got my business certified with the British Butler Institute, one of the best companies in providing exclusive services. (1)(2)This business helped me to realise what I enjoyed, doing things to change the lives of others for the better. (3)This is how I created my first social business, Ezo. At its inception, it had helped, not always successfully, but learning on the go. It was a social and cultural hub, with an immense library of over 3000 titles, basically Law, History, Philosophy and Religions, but there was also a small Bulgarian library.
Project Ezo is the first Bulgarian business to win numerous international awards. One of the last remaining free libraries was called by the media. (4)The media also proclaimed it one of the 8 hidden gems of London, one of the best places to work, one of the best places in London, better than Starbucks, and One of the Last Places Left with a Soul in England. (5)(6)The place cared about the local community, provided free courses for baristas and cooks, looked after the homeless, had the function of bringing people together- the Mensa organisation I’m part of, the Bulgarian community, and people who love books and philological conversations.
Project Ezo was located on one of London's busiest stations, and The Road eventually became a key narative moment in my writings too.
Giving barista certificates in Ezo, London. one of many free courses.
Before I came to Bulgaria, I had taken an endless journey. In Asia, I met a person who had health problems, I embarked on a ride between continents to help. I came across some of the best specialists in Bulgaria, Germany, India, Malaysia, Thailand. In some of the best hospitals. Even that took me to Dharamsala, meeting the Dalai Lama’s personal physician. I did the impossible for him to get the best treatment in London. This trip changed a lot in my life, the price I paid was great, but during it I wrote my first two books... A real piligrimage... (7)
NHS workers received a professional coffee machine and equipment worth £2500 as a token of gratitude for dealing with the COVID crisis from the Art Angel Foundation and the first Bulgarian International Bestseller- If You Meet Buddha, Kill Him!
After the long travel, I was kept in Bulgaria by a story, which included domestic violence, human trafficking, drug trafficking, arson for hire, arson for hire...(8) My reaction was to help, to create an institution, to establish a social business, to create the Art Angel Foundation.
I couldn’t come to terms with what I encountered in my homeland after my long travels. My desire was other people like me who were moving back or just wanted to live in Bulgaria, not to be in the same situation, not to have the problems I had. I created a social and multi-cultural hub, aiming to bring together people of diverse backgrounds and understandings, similar to the one that had brought me many accolades in the UK. But it was not enough. I realised that violence had become a social norm in Bulgaria and I wanted to do more. Bulgaria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, precisely because in social and cultural issues. Simple fact, NGO sector relies 100% on external funding alone, with sustainability reduced to zero. I created the self sustainable Art Angel Foundation together with a person who had gone through the nightmare called domestic violence. Our first project was to intertwine business, abusers, and victims of violence in a project we named Redemption. The project turned out to be more than ambitious....
Heretical! Simple math. At the price of corruption - expensive bread, expensive coffee, not only the prisons in Bulgaria, but also the society in Bulgaria get a lot and at a cost of 0 from any budget and funding. This project is proof that a society can live without corruption. That business is an extremely potential tool designed to lift people out of poverty. We believe in business and its power!
Project Redemption is a social business at its true core. Not only self-sustaining, but with huge potential for sustainable growth. Successful practices from the UK, Norway and the USA were used as the basis for the project. But its biggest advantage was its uniqueness to be fully transparent, financially sound and effective. Implementing a project like this, in a post-Soviet space, I understood I could be a game-changer. I could involve a huge number of people in the project, starting with the best architectural company in Bulgaria, which designed the project. Several directors of Close. I had the Prison Officers Syndicate behind me, as well as the Prisoners Syndicate. I found the support of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria. Several former and current Ministers of Justice. As well as in the Ministry of Finance and Social Welfare. But definitely, reaching the realization, we faced the invisible wall called Corruption and Misuse of Public Funds. (64)(65)(66)
Bulgarian prisons are synonymous with rampant corruption, terrible conditions, and exploitation of prisoners. Everything that is done in Bulgaria in prisons begins and ends with abuses of funding. The primary beneficiary, the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, is literally being robbed by the Bulgarian prison administration. Although officials are torn by many scandals, abuse and corruption are growing. The overall abuse situation in Bulgaria is out of control, but the prisons are a benchmark for indiscriminate spending. Scandals are connected with literally everything concerning the penitentiary system in Bulgaria.
The Art Angel Foundation’s Prisons Project unleashes the dogs, demonstrating the dysfunction and corruption that plagues this sector and Bulgaria NGO sector. (35- 45)
If we talk about corruption in Bulgaria, we should start from the prisons, which are part of the Ministry of Justice. Their backyard, showing everything we are trying to hide behind the facade of democracy. Even just by asking a few questions, we can learn a lot. 2. 3. 4. How much does a social centre cost?
What the bureaucratic cumbersome machine decided to do was spend millions on monuments to socialism that will have huge added costs- salaries, utilities and maintenance. But these costs are never taken into account by the corrupt bureaucrat.
The project includes a bread bakery, a coffee bakery, a training center, and a social center. And all this can cost the Ministry of Justice, public and European funds- 0. Yes zero, because the project itself, can only be covered by the difference in the price of bread, through its own bakery.
According to Transparency International's 'Corruption Perceptions Index', which scores and ranks countries on how the country's public sector is perceived by experts and business executives, Bulgaria has the lowest score in the EU, below Romania and Hungary.
One photo that tells all! On the photo - the former Deputy Minister of Justice, the Director of the Prison in Pazardzhik and journalists in the background of the Prison in Pazardzhik. The photo and the overall condition of the prison speaks more than anything about the effective use of Euro Funding. In spite of the indescribable misery, millions of euros of funding are spent on projects costing tens of times less, or could be free. But there is only one motive, corruption and abuse. This is an illustration of Bulgarian reality. Unimaginable misery behind the "facade" institutions and officials, which are first in Europe in corruption.
Project Maria- A large-scale action against human trafficking. It all started with a Latvian citizen who broke free from the hands of traffickers, needing help and protection. Wide coverage and huge public engagement. (14)Project Maria exposed the disorder in our society related to foreign nationals in trouble in Bulgaria. Their inability to find support and protection. Institutions that are completely inadequate or simply cover up crimes. (15)The Maria Project has showed the weaknesses in our society and in demonstrating ways of dealing with the problems. Project Maria was also the reason for an international literary competition, with over 120 participants.(16)(17)(18)(19)(20)
A picture that speaks a lot. In the background you see a super luxurious community center, in a place with less than a thousand inhabitants, renovated with euro funds- over a million spent. In the foreground you see Maria, who is in trouble in a country where billions of euros are spent on insanity feeding corruption. And who sleeps and hides in the woods around the village for several days until she is found by Art Angel.
Project Angel Bulgaria was a collection of small, different and useful deeds. However, one must consider the fact that I had found myself back in a Post-Soviet country where everything began and ended with the state. Corruption, inflated procurement, subjective appointments, complete inefficiency... I managed to re-create an independent library that was self-sustaining, with 0 funding and 0 subsidies to cover its costs., a cultural hub that brought people of different ethnicities together through art and a friendly environment. Gave help to artists and retired teachers... all of this, even if not spectacular, showed that with personal initiative, we as active thieves can change the world. And to emphasize that a free society needs free citizens and independent businesses.
My primary goal in Bulgaria was to recreate my social business from London. Ezoligencia, the new hub in Pazardzhik, had all the hallmarks of Ezo in London. As I attempted to bring people of different ethnicity and religion together (9). As well as people of different sexualities who were the first group I worked with. In Bulgaria, Putin’s propaganda is behind homophobia. Which through pseudo-conservative rhetoric incites hostility towards Western societies, and in the long-term aims at the reluctance in society to be part of the EU and NATO. What Esoligencia did in a provincial town was heroic in the face of mass dislike of the different sexually.
Anti-vaccine is another problem related with conspiracy theories. In Bulgaria, they are the most successful in Europe and propaganda is pushed through them. In the summer of 2021, we launched a large-scale provocative campaign promoting vaccination. (23)(24)
Minorities were another focus of my work in Bulgaria. Racism and Hate Speech are enormous problems in Bulgarian society. The Roma minority still lives in ghettos that lack basic public services such as public transport. In Bulgaria, the attitude is a legacy of the long years of communist regime characterized by social engineering and lack of tolerance. The Foundation worked directly with minorities and promoted advertising campaigns against racism.
Immigrants are one of the most vulnerable groups in Bulgaria. Their conditions are like those of prisoners. Not only are they ignored by society, but they are also subjected to marauding until they fall into the hands of the immigration services.
One of my causes is the talented children in Bulgaria. Not because they don't get attention, on the contrary, I just look for the difficult characters. Maybe because I was like that in my childhood and I understood how difficult it is to be different in a post-Soviet society. I was the organizer of a literary and photographic competition. But I also managed to be the main sponsor in several sports tournaments. In rhythmic gymnastics - an international competition and two chess tournaments. I have been involved in sports myself; wrestling, aikido, boxing and chess. But what I was looking for was the difficult characters, the kids who didn't fit into the group or just didn't have the opportunity.
One of the activities of the Art Agel Foundation is publishing. The main focus is talent search and promotion. All profits from the sale of books benefit the foundation 100%. As a writer, Ilian, being the best selling Buglar author of all time, also puts everything earned from his books into the foundation's activities.
Trade Union Work
I am chair of the section of the Journalists’ Syndicate at Podkrepa in Pazardzhik, Bulgaria. As well, we are forming a section of the International Union of Bulgarian Journalists Podkrepa in London, UK. Membership of Podkrepa and trade union activity has always been a civilisational choice for me. The Podkrepa trade union is the Bulgarian equivalent of Polish Solidarity. These are the free people in Bulgaria who set the process of democratisation in Bulgaria and its integration into Western Europe. Support is the people who opposed the communist regime in Bulgaria. The beginning of the anti-totalitarian, right- wing and liberal ideology in Bulgaria.
Podkrepa was founded in 1989 as an anti-establishment labour movement by a group of dissidents, led by Konstantin Trenchev. Initially, the labour union took an anti-communist stance, aligning itself with other anti-communist labour unions, such as the Polish Solidarity and American AFL-CIO.
One of the foundations of any free society is freedom of speech. The ability to express ourselves freely, the ability of the media to be objective. Unfortunately, Bulgaria is one of the last...
My latest project is the Love Bulgaria Forum. It is dictated by the negative results of what I am doing in Bulgaria. It reveals how institutions in Bulgaria work and when someone is in trouble, how they react when someone is subjected to systemic harassment and threats. To what extent those of us who return or come to live in Bulgaria can feel safe, to what extent the police do their job and to what extent corruption and criminal elements have infiltrated the police. How easy is it to live and work in Bulgaria? How easy is it to do business in Bulgaria? How easy is it to start a family? And what are the freedom and happiness levels?...more (28- 34)
Our partners are our family. A maxim that has held true since my first business in London The Help. A business that has enabled me to provide a one to one service to over 600 successful families in London. But it has also taught me that trust and partnership are the keys to success in any endeavour.
References From Turkey