«We offer tailor-made services based on the needs of each client»

Bozhana Stoianova Stoeva is co-founder and current Managing Director of Bird, a business, innovation, research, and development consultancy.

Bozhana Stoianova Stoeva is co-founder and current Managing Director of Bird, a business, innovation, research, and development consultancy. «We offer services tailored to the needs of each client,» he explains. We talked to her to know a little more about her history as an entrepreneur in Spain and how GBO has helped her create new alliances and professional contacts.

When is Bird created, and why? Who are you setting it up, and for what purpose?

Bird is the abbreviation behind which the whole name appears, «Business, Innovation, Research & Development». It came out through a game with the letters of our own names and the symbolism I was looking for. And the symbol had to be given a serious name in order to register the company.

It was created out of sheer necessity. One of us had been offered a large commission from the intergovernmental Regional Rural Development Standing Working Group (SWG-RRD), which brought together the governments of six Balkan countries and territories (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo) based in Skopje. It required knowledge in disparate areas, which was a team effort.

It was either accept the offer or lose the opportunity. This was complex advice linked to regional development and cross-border cooperation between the Balkan countries. A mechanism should be developed through which funds could be distributed for the development of rural tourism, handicrafts, local products, and the preservation of cultural and historical heritage.

Between the two of us, we complemented each other. We knew the Balkans. One moved through the twists and turns of rural development and had spent his professional life as a senior official of FAO and Swiss Cooperation. I mastered the rest of the subjects. In a few days, we’ll get organized. The contract was to be signed as soon as possible. On Christmas Eve, six years ago, we signed the charter.

The objective was defined by itself. Offer practical solutions and design strategies that work with real results. In many cases, it is a question of interpreting specific regulations and rules or bringing together elements that are as disparate as they are complementary so that they fit together and make one.

We had seen even the best projects and initiatives at the government and international level being scattered and spoiled by lack of involvement and support for small and medium enterprises in the later stages. We wanted to be more independent and more flexible to move on the ground between the big and the small, between theory and practice.

What does the company do and what kind of services does it provide?

We are a consulting firm, so we are dedicated to advising and consulting. The rest is revealed by the name of the company, business, innovation, research & development.

We offer tailor-made services according to the needs of each client. It can be a specific topic or a project from concept to implementation. A personalized and focused advice on concrete decisions even when the objectives and the ways seem incompatible. I would visualize it with a concrete example. For up to three years, the Galician Agency for Rural Development approached Bird with the need to raise more funds and give more visibility to an important issue, but one that was too technical and isolated from the rest of the activities in the rural world. It was about «land mobility and territory preservation». Then we sat down with them and made a graph of how in the rural world, everything depends on the land, and it was even easier in Galicia with the Camino de Santiago. If the land is not preserved and cultivated, if the forests are not cleaned, they will produce neither local products nor milk or beef. Neither trade nor tourism would work, and even less would the pilgrims manage to do the Way of Saint James. And from there, we developed a concept on how best to connect the elements of the rural world and the sea, which culminated in an international conference in cooperation with the FAO.

I would like to mention one of our projects through which services will be provided. Working in Santiago de Compostela and travelling around Galicia we noticed that the most beautiful and sustainable things in the rural world and on the coast are hidden. Magic is discovered by a few.

We decided to design a network that would provide services and unite consumers and producers along the Way of Saint James, around which a large industry of tourism, commerce and hospitality, crafts, art, local products, traditions and culture, habits and customs, history and present revolve. 

Each person will be able to choose the detours of the Way of Saint James by which to get lost and discover the invisible. A functional and transversal application in times of reality and surrealism. If you can’t get there, the trip is prepared first, you taste the delights from the sofa, order and send home the handmade products, and then you travel… In the surrealism of 2020 with all the restrictions on mobility, we saw it as even more useful. It is a way of linking cities with their rural and coastal environment and giving visibility to many family initiatives and small businesses.

We chose the Way of Saint James as a common point between three countries, Spain, Portugal and France, with the desire to make it applicable and extrapolate it to other countries and regions.

The application is being developed. The pilot phase will cover Galicia. It will be extended throughout the territory of Spain, Portugal and France. In a few more years, we would like to reach the even more distant detours, as a not so well known route, starting from the well-known Einsiedeln Abbey, Canton Schwyz, Switzerland and unveil its secrets.

Who are your typical customers?

Easier to say, multiple. It takes longer to list them. They follow each other and vary.  Public institutions, governmental and European agencies, state and private enterprises, family initiatives and small businesses, international consultancies, international and intergovernmental organizations, among which with specific mandates the FAO, the World Bank, UNDP, OECD, Open Society Institute, European Commission.

One of our current clients is ourselves with the project of «Por los desvíos del Camino Santiago». We are in the stoniest and discouraging stage when equity is scarce and investors have to be convinced to believe in us. I recognize that being a client of ours, I find it much harder to deal with complicated situations and discouragement.

And I’d like to share a pleasant experience. In the strange reality of 2020, being part of the Global Business Owners (GBO) network of companies has helped us a lot. I often evoke a phrase that our father has been repeating to my sister and me, showing us by his own example. Water is offered while you are thirsty. And that’s what describes the concept of being connected to GBO. It is supported in a more indirect or more direct way. But when you ask for water, if you don’t have it, at least you help to get to the source.

What sectors do you specialize in?

They vary and take turns. Politico-economic analysis, European policies and European funds, international cooperation, regional development and rural development, tourism, business, and strategic planning, project design, evaluation and implementation

Rural development is one of the sectors in which we have concentrated many efforts and business and personal interests over the last three years. We note that sustainable development is the focus of all the activities in which we specialize and where the real meaning of sustainability is best perceived. Sustainability is not always something big with a significant investment behind it, but a small business that employs several people and offers services in an isolated territory. Drop by drop, the bucket is filled; that is the sustainable development we are betting on.

Where would you like to see the company in the next few years?

In a year, perhaps in another interview with TargetOn, tell that our project «For the detours of the Camino de Santiago» is already visible and tangible. It would mean that we had secured the necessary investment beyond our own resources to take it forward. And it already attracts clients, travelers, and those curious to discover the exclusive and magical.

I look forward to being a sustainable company that customers trust, stay satisfied, and come back to us. Perhaps there will be days of ungodly rain when we will become disoriented, discouraged. The important thing is that we continue to dream and fly despite the rocky roads and obstacles to overcome.

And in the near and distant future, it would be gratifying if we maintained our style and class, standing out for the knowledge we offer, the support we give, and the solutions we find. I like a phrase with which Giorgio Armani describes elegance, «L’eleganza non e farsi notare, ma farsi ricordare».And it would apply perfectly to any field or business. The important thing is not to be noticed but to be remembered for the good you do and the courage to say no when circumstances dictate.

Read this entire interview in Spanish.