“New opportunities: through business diaspora to increased trade, investment and economic growth” is the motto of the organization’s Global Investment Summit “Macedonia 2025”, which will be held in Ohrid from 18 to 21 October, and the goal will be to strengthen cooperation among the business community in Macedonia and Diaspora.One of the participants in the project is Macedonian Vera Stavroff born in Bitola, whose parents once emigrated to Ohio, U.S..Today, she collaborates with “Alkaloid” and she promotes Macedonian products on the U.S. market.
Mr. Vasilevski: You are the President and CEO of HerbalScience Inc. What is the main focus of the company? What is your connection with Alkaloid AD Skopje? What are the experiences of selling a Macedonian product on the US market? Do you have plans of expanding your assortment or your presence on other American markets?Do you think that Macedonia could position itself as an eco-producer, producer of quality organic food that will be recognized and accepted in the developed markets? What should we do to reach such an image?
Mrs. Stavroff: I established HerbalScience to pursue a lifelong dream and passion for plants and science. Growing up around my Grandmother Zvezda, I was fascinated with medicinal plants and their healing powers. My grandmother like many other Macedonians discovered long ago that by blending different herbs and balancing their unique effects, they could actually awaken their body’s self correcting ability to improve overall health and well-being. HerbalScience with our partner Alkaloid AD, develops, manufacture and sell the most exquisite therapeutic teas around the world. All of our private label teas are 100% Certified Organic according to the USDA/NOP, EU and JAS (Japan) Standards. Our Good Nature Organic Teas are sold in 26 states in the USA as well as our website at www.goodnaturetea.com and several other health & wellness websites. Our plan is to expand and have our beautiful teas available for sale in all states and Canada. I strongly believe that we can position Macedonia as an eco-producer of the highest quality functional herbal teas. Macedonia and the South Eastern Mediterranean Region are blessed with therapeutic medicinal herbs. Plus, Macedonia has highly skilled, educated and experienced workforce in the pharmaceutical and botanical sector. Alkaloid AD was one of the first manufacturing facilities in the Balkan region to produce natural pharmaceutical products and medicinal teas. Alkaloid has been in business for more than 75 years and they possess a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience.
Mr. Vasilevski: What is your previous experience with Macedonia? Do you visit often and what is your overview of the Macedonian economy? What do you think we need for further progress catching up with the global economy? What kind of potential do you consider Macedonia has that is interesting for the global market? What are our strengths and where should we focus on?
Mrs. Stavroff: All of my experience with Macedonia is through our partnership with Alkaloid AD. I love coming back to Macedonia as often as I can. This year, my partners from Alkaloid came to the USA on three separate occasions. I think it’s very important for them to see the US Market, look at the competition and get inspiration for new products. In regard to the global economy, I think it is challenging everywhere and I think Macedonia is doing pretty well considering everything that is going on around the world. In terms of strengths, I think the health and pharmaceutical sector represent a massively untapped universal market and have huge potential.
Mr. Vasilevski: The media in Macedonia first heard about Vera Stavroff this year, as you joined Macedonia 2025 in May. What is the background of your involvement in Macedonia 2025? Why did you join the organization and what are your expectations?
Mrs. Stavroff: The first time I heard about Macedonia 2025 was in 2007, when Mike Zafirovski, the chairman of the Board of Directors spoke about the organization in Washington DC. I was very impressed with Mike’s presentation and loved what the organization represents. I joined the organization because I believe in Macedonia and the potential the Macedonian people have; and together I strongly believe that we can make a difference.
Mr. Vasilevski: You are a member of a committee that works on developing education in Macedonia. In particular, how do you think that you can contribute to developing education and do you work on any specific proposals or projects?
Mrs. Stavroff: I would like to contribute by promoting a prosperous climate and education for entrepreneurship by sharing my experience and knowledge on establishing a company and developing and marketing high quality products from Macedonia. We develop programs that offer further professional development of young individuals that stand-out as perspective entrepreneurs and business professionals. We offer executive courses and internships with mentorship from our board members. But also, we have an executive program which serves young professionals interested in developing their skills through academic and professional experiences outside of Macedonia.
One of the most significant education initiatives that we have established this year is the International Education Council. This initiative includes identifying prominent academic and scientific Diaspora members and mobilizing their potentials towards developing education in Macedonia. We know of remarkable scientists, professors and researchers from the Diaspora, who have the capacity and the knowledge to expand the international programs offered by the Macedonian education institutions, to help them develop strategic partnerships with foreign institutions, develop the capacity for research and development, etc. They are very enthusiastic to promote the Macedonian education, and it is our duty as an organization to create the platform for these remarkable individuals to join forces and contribute to their homeland.
Mr. Vasilevski: What does it mean becoming a member of Macedonia 2025. What is the mission and structure of the organization? How do you plan to achieve the organization’s goals and what kind of activities do you have? What are the benefits of the members?
Mrs. Stavroff: Being a Member of Macedonia 2025 is truly an honor. Not only because it is a gathering of successful and charismatic people but also an organization of joined forces for proceeding a noble mission and that is to work for a better perspective of our homeland. Our main activity is economic development, by promoting Macedonia’s key industries, helping business expand regionally and globally, as well as providing managers with mentorship to develop more innovative and competitive products and services. We are committed to research, innovation, competitiveness, and developing a business-friendly environment that attracts investment and encourages economic growth. Our board of directors communicates with potential investors and promotes Macedonia as an investment destination. For this purpose, This year we decided to unify our efforts, expertise and contacts in the corporate world and organize the Macedonia Global Investment Summit.
Mr. Vasilevski: Macedonia’s 2025 biggest project is the Macedonia Global Investment Summit. Could you please tell us about your expectations and the outcomes? How will this summit help Macedonian economy and companies? Do you plan of establishing some kind of on-going support of the linkage between Macedonia and its Diaspora in the terms of investments, joint ventures, exchange of ideas and projects?
Mrs. Stavroff: Macedonia 2025 organizes this Summit for the first time and our role models are the Irish, Israel and other Diasporas that have made a huge difference in helping out their homeland reach a higher level of development thru strategy and programs of incorporating the Diaspora in the domestic economy. The Macedonia Global Investment Summit will be a place for members of the Diaspora, foreign investors, and global business professionals, to come and explore the potential of Macedonia. The Summit will present investment, joint venture and export opportunities, provide participants an opportunity to listen to top professionals from around the world, discussing their experiences and why they believe in Macedonia’s future. In addition to the board members of Macedonia 2025 who will participate at the Summit, we have around 20 other interested investors and companies from the Diaspora, looking to expand their business in Macedonia. We are hoping to establish a platform of ongoing cooperation among the companies from Macedonia and our Diaspora, and to fully use the untapped potential of the Diaspora business professionals. We know of there are many Macedonian business professionals working as key decision makers in prominent international companies, who have a wide network of associates and experts. These individuals are aware of the potentials in the country and it is our perception that they are becoming more willing and open to look at their homeland as a potential investment destination.
Mr. Vasilevski: You have experience in selling a Macedonian brand on the US market. What would you advise to other Macedonian companies, how should they build a brand that will have good competitive values and be sold on the high-selective and high-income customer segments?
Mrs. Stavroff: Building a successful brand for any market including the US, takes time, passion and patience. One of the most important factors in building a Macedonian brand is the story…the Macedonian story. We need to narrate a unified image of the country, its people, our traditions, culture and lifestyle. We need to be creative and innovative, and jointly create a distinguished “Macedonia” brand that will be recognized around the world. Also, positing, high quality product, design & packaging for that particular market, along with integrity and proper pricing are all critical.