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Moscow Entrepreneur Crowdfunds Honey Business to Rescue Dying Ural Village

Screencap from the crowdfunding video for the local honey venture in a Russian village. Image from

Screencap from the crowdfunding video for the local honey venture in a Russian village. Image from

Guzel Sanzhapova, the creator of Cocco Bello, ushers in hope for social entrepreneurship projects in Russia with her growing business venture based in a small village—and relies on online crowdfunding to support her entrepreneurial ideas.

Cocco Bello makes whipped honey with berries and nuts. The honey comes from an apiary owned by Sanzhapova's father, located in Malyy Turysh—a decaying village in the burrows of Ural. The berries and nuts are gathered by local residents, most of them elderly women. For many of the locals this is the only source of stable work for miles around.

In a recent interview, Sanzhapova said that her decision to pursue her honey-making venture had to do with her personal history and connection to the village.

Приезжая на пасеку, всегда содрогалась от того, что деревушка медленно умирает, и очень хотелось помочь. Но как — понятия не имела, пока не попросила бабушек собирать ягодки для производства.

When I would come to visit [my father’s] apiary, I would constantly be consumed with the thought that the village was slowly dying, and I really wanted to help. But I had no idea how to help until I asked the local grandmothers to help collect the berries.

Guzel Sanzhapova. Image from

Guzel Sanzhapova. Image from

To purchase equipment necessary for the creation of whipped honey, Snazhapova initially turned to crowdfunding in 2014. The project, promoted on local website Boomstarter, greatly resonated with the online community, with Snazhapova collecting over one million rubles ($18,500) for the fruition of her project, including the initial honey-processing equipment and a more elaborate production and packaging line. Almost a thousand Internet users joined the crowdfunding efforts in 2014.

Первую компанию мы продвигали по друзьям в социальных сетях, по своим пабликам. Также устраивали дегустации на маркетах, рассказывали людям историю.

We promoted the first campaign through friends on social networks, through the communities we were in. We also staged tastings in markets, told people the story.

The population of Malyy Turysh is well under a hundred citizens, and there have been no new work opportunities for years. In each crowdfunding appeal, Sanzhapova makes a point of explaining how many new jobs will be created for villagers, and how local natural resources will be used in the production process.

Конечно, для поднятия даже такой крохотной деревни нужны совсем другие суммы. Но мы готовы идти маленькими шажочками к благополучию всех жителей без исключения.

Certainly, in order to revive even such a tiny village you need quite different amounts of money. But we're prepared to make baby steps to achieve the wellbeing of all the inhabitants.

On June 20, Sanzhapova successfully finished the third round of crowdfunding, collecting over a million rubles from over 800 funders for a second production line to make honey mousse with berries and spices, and boost the production of whipped honey and herbal teas that is already in the works. The entrepreneur says the latest round of funding will help employ 30-40 seasonal workers who will collect berries, and will help increase the number of full-time jobs in the enterprise to seven. Those who pitched into the crowdfunding round will be rewarded with whipped honey and herbal tea created by local residents.

Besides setting up a local business to generate profit for the village, Sanzhapova also helps improve the living conditions for the locals. In August, Cocco Bello plans to invite volunteers to patch up some of the infrastructure in Malyy Turysh: put a new coat of paint on water wells, restore fallen fences, and, in Sanzhapova's own words, “to show the villagers they are not alone.”

Эта история, конечно, интересует всех, в том числе прессу, потому что таких крайне мало. Ведь легко сказать, что всё плохо, а мы пытаемся изменить ситуацию. […] Мне интересно использовать этот общественный резонанс и помочь, рассказать, научить людей, которые могут сделать что-то похожее в своей деревне.

This story of course makes everyone interested, especially the press, because of its rarity. It is so easy to say that everything is bad, but we are trying to change the situation. […] I want to use this publicity to help, to inspire, to teach people who can do something similar in their own village.

One of the local residents employed by Cocco Bello. Image from

One of the local residents employed by Cocco Bello. Image from

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