The idea of setting up a company with a catchy name like “Mr. Bee” came to Javid Karimov back in 2015. At the time, he already had 15 years’ experience working at a bank and specializing in the business development sector. His choice was not accidental: his wife’s uncle was a beekeeper. After a difficult start that required overcoming a lot of obstacles along the way, Karimov found himself with a successful business that is now aiming to export its products abroad. All of this, he says, would have been impossible without support from the “Eastern Partnership: Ready to Trade” project as part of the EU4Business initiative and the International Trade Center (ITC).
Establishing reliable sales channels
Mr Bee’s strategy was to brand honey made by small local producers and sell it on bigger markets. Lack of experience caused the aspiring entrepreneur to make a few missteps.
“We had huge ambitions and couldn’t properly calculate our capacities at the beginning,” says Javid Karimov, founder of Mr Bee.
The main challenge for the company was to establish proper sales channels. Mr Bee’s first buyers were individuals and all the sales were physical. At this point, the company has established both corporate and individual sales segments with the latest shift being towards online sales. To successfully sell online, Mr Bee needed a modern website. This Karimov managed to set up in short order with support from the EU4Business initiative and ITC. But the support did not end there: participation in specialized workshops helped Mr Bee gain the necessary know-how for running a business online.
“Our website is pretty high-end: it accepts online purchases with payment cards and our couriers always have POS-terminals with them,” says the Mr Bee company founder. “The results have been great. We managed to raise sales through this website by 230%! And we even took a step further to let third-party producers sell through our website. This has transformed it into a kind of online marketplace.”
Proper management is the key
Karimov states that, over the five years of Mr Bee’s presence, he and his team have managed to make a giant leap forward. Participating in foreign exhibitions and workshops organized under the EU4Business initiative helped his company gain considerable meaningful experience in organizing sales, and finding potential clients and markets. Mr Bee’s customer base has doubled. Before the pandemic, the company was selling around 100 t per week. The entire managing process became more streamlined and efficient, says Karimov.
“We underwent a lot of changes, gained tons of experience, and, of course, we could achieve a lot,” he sums up. “But there’s still a lot of room for improvement.”
Selling Azeri honey abroad
One of these things, according to Karimov, is to set up exports abroad. Until recently, this was very challenging, he notes: because of the high manufacturing cost of honey in Azerbaijan, the local product struggled to gain a position in foreign markets. Still, the situation is changing. The first step for the company is to get the necessary certificates.
“We started working on getting ISO certification with the support of ITC and EU4Business,” Javid Karimov says. “The pandemic stopped our work, but we hope to get back on track as quickly as possible. After this task is done, we can concentrate on making our products competitive on foreign markets.”