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In 2011, Mihail Kurdov, at age 23, started his cell phone repair service in a rented workshop, using his own resources, without outside financing. He replaces electronic parts (including displays, wiring, and chips), reprograms cell phones, and repairs housing. His services are priced right – the equivalent of $16 U.S., for instance to replace a display. You U.S. residents, try to match that!
Comrat, in the southern part of Moldova, where Mihail’s workshop is located, is a university city where cell phones — and potential customers — are numerous. (In fact, cell phones are numerous throughout Moldova, as many people have by-passed land lines.) Because Mihail comes from a poor family and has no collateral to expand his business, Moldova Mosaic was pleased to help him secure the needed equipment for his programming stations, and for instruments and tools. He has increasing demand for his services and he offers professional experience and repair services. He hopes eventually to open a shop in his office to sell phones as well as repair them.
Although there are stores in Moldova, especially in the cities, most Moldovans shop in the bazaars – open markets. Thirty-five year old Lilia Gandrabura has a men’s clothing shop (we would call it a small boutique) in Soroca’s central bazaar, fortuitously located at the intersection of two major aisles (though that also makes her rent very high, at about $59 USD per month). Soroca is a medium size town on the beautiful Dniester River in northern Moldova with many ancient ruins, including a major fort. Lilia’s shop for men is a bit unusual for Moldova, because her marketing strategy is to provide a full line of men’s clothing (suits, trousers, shirts, belts, etc.). Most shops specialize in just one item, so customers must move from shop to shop to find all they need. That is, they may purchase pants and a belt from separate merchants in the bazaar. On the other hand, Lilia expects to sell each customer at least two items. Dennis nearly bought a pair of pants! Also, Lilia, with the help of Moldova Mosaic, has “jazzed” up her shop by adding aluminum frame walls, with floor and ceiling, racks for her clothing, and a roll-down front enclosure which improves both security and appearance. All this is very unusual for shops in the bazaar; they are mostly fabric-enclosed, and not neatly arranged.
Lilia worked in Moscow for 3 years and has 6 years of experience as a seller in clothing stores. She rents a space in the bazaar and has no direct competitors in the same market. She travels regularly to Ukraine to buy the clothing she sells in her shop, and over the years has become expert at anticipating what customers will purchase. If an item does not sell, she will lower the price. That sounds like common sense to people in the U.S. and western Europe, but it is not necessarily usual in Moldova. Moldova Mosaic provided money for her to purchase racks and showcases for her merchandise.
Eleonora Ciuntu, age 36, has an unusual arrangement. In the summer of 2012, she opened a hair salon in the village of Curesnita, not far from the city of Soroca. She negotiated with the mayor for sponsorship, and serves as the only hair dresser for five nearby villages, which are also served by the same mayor (itself an unusual arrangement). The mayor, by contract, with no time limit, has provided a charming building across the street from the primaria (the mayor’s office), perhaps 50 meters from the banks of the Dneister River. Eleanora herself did the reparation work on the building to make it clean, well-maintained, brightly painted, and comfortable. Now the other villages want a hairdresser in their village – but they cannot find someone like Eleonora!
Eleonora provides hair dressing services for all comers – men, women, and children – and she provides a full range of services, from simple cuts, to spectacular styling of brides’ hair. Before receiving funds from Moldova Mosaic to put plumbing into her shop, she was hauling water in by bucket from a near-by well. (Drawing water from a well is not uncommon in Moldova, especially in villages, but to haul water for a hair salon is especially difficult.) Eleanora uses a sink to wash clients’ hair but with her new plumbing and electric hot water heater provided by Moldova Mosaic her customers will definitely be more comfortable. Her clientele comes from her local village, and also from neighboring villages in the region. Her profit the last few months has been about $200 a month, which in the Moldovan economy is pretty good. We visited her in June of 2013, and found her to be an energetic, delightful and conscientious entrepreneur. As we watched her work cutting the hair of a boy about 8 years old, it was apparent that she is skilled, and she has built a solid clientele. She will cut hair any time her clients want, because she is interested in providing good service. Her expansion plans include manicures and pedicures, styling for special celebrations such as graduations, and expansion of her wedding business. Her shop has additional rooms that will allow for other employees to provide services. Because of her business her family is now able to stay together and her husband does not have to seek work outside the country.
Eleanora’s husband, whose business is a vegetable garden, at first did not want her to open her shop, but now he comes in to get his hair cut – and he insists on paying her!