“When they left the business to me, I don’t think my parents ever imagined that their little café would ever change. [...] however, they planted the seed of entrepreneurship in me. And some good common sense to find the right (financial) partner,” says Rizvan Garayev, who transformed the café he inherited in Baku into a chain of bakeries and restaurants, with the help of Access Bank, the European Fund for South East Europe (EFSE), and EU4Business.
“Though very small at just forty square metres, the café was always full,” Rizvan says. “And that’s largely due to the pastries my dad was making right next door.”
People came from all over Baku morning, noon and evening, and the café where his mother could always be counted on for the best cup of tea in the land, was the best place to catch up on the latest gossip whilst enjoying a scrumptious ‘shekerbura’ or two, or perhaps three.
These sweet pastries filled with almonds and many other good things, Rizvan learned to make at his father’s side in the bakery. On afternoons he would be in the café waiting on tables and learning the subtle mechanics of importance of being friendly and service oriented. “You can’t imagine the drama when we were out of honey-drenched ‘pakhlava’,” he recalls.
Taking the business to the next level
“By the time my father passed the reins on to me, I already had a few ideas for the business. And the first one was to see a bank about taking our bakery-café combination to the next level,” Rizvan remembers.
That was seven years and nine loan cycles with Access Bank ago. Today ‘Mahir Lahmachun’ is synonymous with excellent food in a friendly family atmosphere in prime locations in Kachmaz, Qusar, Khudat as well as in the larger city of Quba where Rizvan just opened a second restaurant.
“When I took over, we were eight people working in the business. Now we are twenty-two. And we are going to start producing packed sweets, too,” he beams.
European Fund for South East Europe
Part of the EU4Business initiative, the European Fund for South East Europe aims to foster economic development and prosperity through the sustainable provision of additional development finance, notably to micro and small enterprises (MSEs) and to private households, via qualified local financial institutions like Access Bank in Azerbaijan.
Under the EU4Business initiative, EFSE has disbursed more than 50,000 sub-loans to small businesses like Rizvan’s in Azerbaijan, with an average loan size of just over €4,000.