We had a chat with Julian to find out more about why he has chosen Bulgaria to launch a business for non-alcholic drinks and what made him fall in love with the country in the first place!
When did you first visit Bulgaria?
I first came to Bulgaria in 2006, before they entered the EU.
Why did you visit Bulgaria?
For a bargain: a bargain holiday break, drinking cheap beer and looking for cheap vacation property. I got two out of three—but I was royally ripped off, along with hundreds of British and Irish buyers, by a joker who had acquired a genuine estate agency franchise whose name is a trusted household name in Europe, North America and throughout the world. For a year or so, I was obsessed with the loss of what was then my life savings. Then I returned for a visit to Veliko Tarnovo after a recommendation from friends. I fell in love with the country all over again: the kindness and generosity of the people, the beauty of the landscape, the juiciest peaches I’ve ever tasted! And especially the music, particularly Bulgarian women’s choir music which literally haunts your entire being.
Do you speak Bulgarian?
No, I don’t but will be correcting that. In the past, I was a Turkish language interpreter for a NATO office in Istanbul. I once spoke very hopeful French. Bulgarian will be a serious challenge due to the Cyrillic alphabet, but I must respect the culture and people by at least trying.
Do you find it difficult to do business in Bulgaria? What are the challenges?
Living and working in the UK while trying to establish a business in another country has been the greatest challenge. Making assumptions about things being done the same as in America (where I was raised, just outside Boston, Massachusetts) or England (where I was born and have lived since 1997) has also been a study in pain and regret. Lesson learned and not forgotten! The third greatest challenge is the business idea itself: offering adult drinks with the delicious flavors of alcohol…but without the intoxicating effects of alcohol. In a country where even the women knock back rakia like it was water! Overcoming skepticism among both the Bulgarian commercial market and my friends is a constant challenge. Thankfully, we’re making headway, but it wasn’t easy.
Name 3 things you love about Bulgaria
I love the music. The traditional music, not the ‘chalga’ or ‘turbofolk’ music performed by rubber-lipped, half-naked glamour models. Songs like ‘Malka Moma’ or ‘Zaidi Zaidi Iasno Slanche’ are truly timeless and need no translation. This is the land of Orpheus, and any musician discovering Bulgarian music will be forever captivated by it. Kate Bush worships their women’s choir music, so I count myself in good company. I love the importance placed on taking time to be with friends and family, to enjoy unrushed meals and each other’s company. I love the pride, often disguised as cynicism, that Bulgarian have for their country and its rich history. I met my first Bulgarian friends in 1999, six students who had been working as seasonal agricultural laborers. All were in advanced degree programs, and all were committed to returning to Bulgaria. It was because of their genuine pride and love for their country why I became curious about Bulgaria. So, this is all their fault!
Tell us about FestivalDrinks.Club
We offer Non-Alcoholic wines, cocktail mixes and spirit flavor adult drinks, with 100% free shipping. Our website is due online shortly, and we are currently accepting orders on our Facebook page ‘Festival Drinks Dot Club‘. We have a competition to win a 60-bottle holiday party hamper for the December holidays. Entry details are on our Facebook page. You can follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/festival_drinks and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/festivaldrinks0.5 We have a YouTube channel called ‘Festivaldrinks Alcoholfree’.Our typical customer won’t be someone like me, a 100% non-drinker. We hear mostly from people who love to drink traditional alcoholic drinks but appreciate having a choice of tasty, non-intoxicating adult drinks, whenever they want. I love the socializing part of having drinks with friends and workmates more than just getting bombed. It takes at least 40 glasses of our wines to equal just 1 unit of alcohol, which is the amount our body burns in an hour, making it literally impossible to get drunk. All of our drinks contain from zero to 0.5% Alcohol By Volume (ABV), making them absolutely safe for driving, for nursing or pregnant mothers and with most medications. On average, they have 20 calories per 100 ml serving, so great for staying fit. We are offering attractive gift baskets and hamper options ranging from 3, 12, 30 & 60 bottles from our FestivalDrinks.Club range, all delivered safely in time for the December holidays. You can avoid the hassle of waiting in endless lines, going to the post office, gift-wrapping, finding parking, looking for a great gift idea, paying for shipping. I’ve really missed a great classic ‘G & T’. Now, I don’t have to!
Tell us about your charity work in Bulgaria?
Beacon, my company, is dedicated to directly supporting four community children’s charities in Bulgaria: the Sophia Children’s Charity, Priyateli VT, Zonta Club Burgas and Gavroche. Links to them can be found on our social media pages and also on the website. Our gift baskets campaign is designed to support our charity partners. Honestly, it’s still a shock to see Bulgarian children of all ages rummaging through filthy bins and fighting to eat garbage. Truly, heartbreaking. I never get over it, and I personally don’t intend to. We are pledged forever to help end child hunger and prostitution and trafficking in Bulgaria with support from kind, compassionate people all over the world. This means more to myself and my team than profits. I am fortunate and truly blessed to have an amazing team in Bulgaria working with our company, some of whom have had to learn American English while I still know only a dozen words of Bulgarian!